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Punisher War Zone #1

Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2008
By: Matthew J. Brady

Garth Ennis
Steve Dillon
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Punisher War Zone #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, December 10.

"The Resurrection of Ma Gnucci, Part One"

While Garth Ennis has received a lot of acclaim for his recently-finished run on the mature-readers version of the Punisher's series, Marvel apparently wonders what it would be like if he never left the Marvel Knights imprint. So, in what seems to be a tie-in with the new movie of the same title, this miniseries hearkens back to Ennis' beginnings on the character, the well-regarded "Welcome Back, Frank" story that brought Frank Castle back from his late-90s oblivion and made him interesting and enjoyable again. That was a great ride of a story, full of over-the-top violence and gross-out humor. But the good thing about it was that it was short and sweet, ending without wearing out its welcome. Maybe people have forgotten the series that followed, which saw Ennis beat all the fun out of the idea, creating a tedious series of comically violent stories that did their best to humiliate as many of Marvel's regular superhero characters as possible. Actually, it wasn't terrible, but Ennis' take on the character definitely saw diminishing returns, and he apparently felt the same way, deciding to revamp the character yet again with a darker, more serious approach.

But given the release of another movie, why not try the old comic-violence thing again? This new miniseries keeps going as if the "Welcome Back, Frank" series never ended, with Frank continuing his war on the New York mafia and other supporting characters getting mixed up in the proceedings. For one, there's the son of a Punisher copycat that called himself Elite, who has decided to take up his father's quest to rid their neighborhood of unsavory elements, starting with revenge on the Punisher himself. There's also a lesbian cop who terrorizes her bisexual lover's male dates. And the Punisher himself gains a new sidekick, a disgraced gangster who he sends to discover whether the Gnucci family, the main villains of "Welcome Back, Frank", are making a resurgence. That seems unlikely, since Frank killed them all rather graphically, but as the ads and interviews promoting this series have touted, Ma Gnucci, the limbless torso of a boss that Frank watched burn to death, is somehow still alive. How she survived remains to be seen, but it will probably be outrageous.

It's hard to tell how well this will all work as a story from this first issue, since it's all setup. Ennis is putting the pieces in place for a violent story, but he only barely gets started here. It's hard to say how good the series will be from this point, but Ennis can usually be counted on to deliver some enjoyable violence and good jokes. Dillon's art certainly helps; the two of them have done some really good work together, and that trend seems to continue here, with a standout image being a panel of a gangster's head vaporizing from a shotgun blast. The verdict is still out as to whether the series will be more like "Welcome Back, Frank" or the stuff that followed (a scene involving a monkey and some mutilated genitalia seems to indicate the latter), but I remain ever-hopeful. And since this is a weekly series, we won't have to wait too long to see.






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