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Punisher War Zone #2 (of 6)

Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2008
By: Matthew J. Brady

Garth Ennis
Steve Dillon
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Punisher War Zone #2 (of 6) arrives in stores tomorrow, December 17.

"The Resurrection of Ma Gnucci, Part Two"

Garth Ennis does the obvious right away in this second issue of his latest (last?) Punisher mini-series, which is refreshing. The first issue ended with the revelation that Ma Gnucci, the big villain of Ennis's landmark "Welcome Back, Frank" storyline, seemed to still be alive. So what does Frank do immediately? Why, kill her again, of course. It makes for a nice opening, and a stomach-churningly entertaining bit of violence. It also gives Ennis the opportunity to reiterate why his version of the character works so well: given the opportunity to spare a bunch of gangsters and have them turn themselves in to the authorities, he chooses instead to kill them all, thinking of "the store owners whose legs [they] broke," and "the wives and kids [they] widowed and orphaned." In Ennis' hands, Frank Castle isn't a man consumed by vengeance, but a cold, calculating machine determined to bring an end to criminals who deserve it.

And he does so in gruesome fashion, abetted excellently by Steve Dillon's work. Even after years of bringing nasty Ennis moments to life, Dillon can make the violence shocking and gross, showing blood splattering from open wounds, pieces of people's heads missing, and ugly, charred corpses in realistic enough of a fashion to be disturbing while still retaining a somewhat cartoony style. It helps the work walk that line between enjoyable and off-putting, an aspect at which Ennis excels.

But while the violence works really well, the other parts of the issue don't quite reach that level. The mystery about Ma Gnucci remains pretty compelling, but two other plotlines might or might not be going anywhere interesting. Lieutenant Von Richtofen, the lesbian cop who was investigating the Gnucci family, continues dealing with her romantic troubles, which doesn't seem to have any point other than slightly humorous moments of jealous violence. And the son of the killer Elite continues to plot revenge against the Punisher. The storyline about the Punisher copycats was probably the weakest part of "Welcome Back, Frank", so hopefully Ennis is leading to something worthwhile here, rather than an anticlimax.

But overall, this is turning out to be a good return to Ennis and Dillon's old stomping grounds. If they manage to bring it all together to tell a good story, this could end up being a really good sequel. We'll have to see how it goes.







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