In the early 2000’s, writer Garth Ennis took over a floundering Punisher property from Marvel and completely revived the character with a back to basics approach that blended the writers own singular sensibilities. Ennis is a creator with a gift for finding satire, humanism and horror within stories of ultra-violence in equal measure and he had some classic arcs on the title like Born, Slavers, Barracuda or Welcome Back Frank. Since he left the title in 2008, Marvel has used different comics writers to reconfigure the character to varying degrees of success. Rick Remender made Frank Castle a Frankenstein monster, Jason Aaron did a cover of Frank Miller’s Daredevil on the Max imprint, Greg Rucka had him join up with a female version of the character and then fight the Avengers, Daniel Way & Charles Soule teamed him with the Thunderbolts while Nathan Edmondson relocated him to Los Angles. That’s to say nothing for some of the miniseries featuring the character like Space Punisher or his turn with the Howling Commandos during Secret Wars. Most of these Punisher series were well liked among readers with critical acclaim but none had the staying power of Ennis whose shadow’s loomed large over the title since his departure. Coming back again after a scene stealing turn in the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, writer Becky Cloonan teams with frequent Ennis collaborator Steve Dillon and colorist Frank Martin for a streamlined back to basics approach to The Punisher that stands out for it’s graphic violence but has little else to distinguish it from it’s predecessors.
In The Punisher #1, the DEA is staking out a gang about to offload a large shipment of narcotics that give the users super strength. The Punisher kills the gang save for two surviving members, one is a former marine that’s worked with Castle and the other like’s to cut peoples faces off. Cloonan has shown over the last few years that she is more qualified as a comics writer in addition to being an illustrator and for her part, the debut of her Punisher does have some stylistic flourishes unique to her own sensibilities while introducing a premise that is intriguing on a visceral level. Artist Steve Dillon has the same dynamic and raw visual narrative here that he brought to his past time on The Punisher while colorist Frank Martin continues to be the industry standard with a muted brightness to his colors that’s reminiscent of his East of West work. There’s nothing wrong with the issue per say and it’s creative talent has earned the benefit of the doubt for future installments. At the same time, there is very little here that hasn’t been done before with the character in the series debut.
When Ennis took over the title in April of 2000, The Punisher was in need of a back to basics approach. I suppose that’s debatable if that’s the case now and while the way Cloonan, Dillon & Martin approach that concept in their debut on the book mostly works; it does little to transcend it’s premise. Punisher fans should love this while readers interested in the creative teams take on the book will be left waiting for future installments of the series to distinguish itself.
In the reboot of Thunderbolts, Jim Zub writes a fun opening chapter that’s packed with layers of story and personality while the 90’s throwback art of illustrator Jon Malin & colorist Matt Yackey match the exuberance of the writing with a dynamic visual narrative.
Thunderbolts spins out of the Avengers Stand Off crossover event but it gives the reader everything they need to know about the back story without having to read any of the material leading up to the series debut. Instead, Zub let’s his cast overflow with personality on a couple high stakes missions that are equal parts hilarious and thrilling. Zub’s greatest strength as a writer is personality; from the teenage gods of Wayward to the goofy dragon of Figment, his work is always bursting with engaging and dynamic casts similar to early Marvel Bendis yet, with more wonder and less cynicism. In Thunderbolts, it’s expanded cast is filled with distinct and endearing personality throughout. Often humorous in their dialogue but with a plot that is always moving and vibrant, Zub’s iteration of the Thunderbolts is instantly endearing. Artist Jon Malin pencil work is straight out of the Rob Liefeld Extreme school of design and narration where he got his start in mainstream comics but it works suprisingly well here. Sure the anatomy is a not off and the lines are sharp but it’s also incredibly expressive with strong visual narration. Colorist Matt Yackey provides an ecletic pallete of color schemes that sells the shifting premise of the plot and its many environments.
Thunderbolts is far superior to what was even the highest of expectations as the creative team has an instant synergy which plays to each others strengths. Say what you will about Marvel Comics; they are releasing way too many titles, they are inundated with events and they’ve lost some of their strongest talent over the last year to Image Comics. But they’ve mastered the art of the first issues and assembling the right team for the right properties as Thunderbolts continues that trend. If you have any interst in this book, check it out as it’s about as good a debut for this series from these creators as could possibly be expected.
Valiant’s new four issue limited series Dead Drop opens with a bang, immediately plunging the reader into the action. Artist Adam Gorham renders a stunning image of X-O Manowar diving towards the island of Manhattan. Soon, Aric is on the ground, only to discover that a false tip has turned the NYPD against him. However, there is precious little time to sort out the matter. Or at least that is what Neville, the British government’s liaison with Aric’s Unity team, keeps insisting over the comm. A band of black market ne’er-do-wells have gotten their hands on an alien virus which, if unleashed, could cause catastrophic causalities. To make matters more complicated for Aric, there is the suggestion that it may be connected to the Vine. Problem is Neville is rather tightlipped on that last point, preferring to continually iterate how vital it is that Aric keep moving. Still there remains the lingering doubt that Neville does not have all his cards on the table. (Of course, does he ever?) Continue reading Advance Review Dead Drop #1→