Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Punisher MAX : Mother Russia - All-American Men of War

This was TCSmith's pick for "You Decide" way back in January, and I never got around to it, but just yesterday, I sat down and read the entire "Mother Russia" arc on The Punisher, so I figured that this would satisfy TC's pick of "The Punisher MAX."

I was reading The Punisher regularly, but I will admit, an issue or two into Mother Russia, I just got annoyed with it, and said that I was going to wait until the whole thing was over - and the choice really helped me, I believe. The lettering is hard to read, and the coloring on the book is basically black - just black, so it is not the most accessible comic to read....but once you get past that, this was a very good storyline.

I titled the entry "All-American Men of War" for two reasons.

1. Because this story arc really demonstrates Ennis' affinity (some might go as far as to say his obsession) with war stories.

2. Because the fact that it is AMERICANs doing the fighting here is very important to the story.

It's weird, The Punisher MAX has now had basically three storylines, and two of the three involve the government asking Frank to do work for them....weird.

The plot of this issue is that Nick Fury makes a deal with the Army and the Air Force to procure a virus trapped in a little girl from Russia. Fury delivers them Frank Castle as the operative, and in return, he gets total control of S.H.I.E.L.D. As the mission continues, we see the Army and Air Force Generals playing their own little game of deceit, while Frank and a Special Forces partner he gets stuck with, do the mission. Meanwhile, there is a Russian legend who is watching everything, Columbo style (in that he picks up on every little clue that is put out there).

The art from Dougie Braithwaite and Bill Reinhold is good (although...Dougie? What's up with that? I mean, it could be worse, he could start calling himself Nekros like Bud LaRosa...hehe. weird is THAT?). The story is well-executed, and every issue manages to stand on its own, but also work towards a satisfying story when read together.

In addition, some of the ideas used were really, really clever/cool.

On the downside, like I mentioned earlier, the coloring is basically like a shroud being thrown over the artwork...and the lettering is white on black, which is weird, considering the coloring scheme of the book. Also, some of the events are a bit too obvious/cliche....but they are standard action movie cliches, which this storyline really feels like.

One of the most surprising aspects of the book is how well Ennis develops the OTHER characters. This is very important when the main character has basically NO personality, as is the case with Frank Castle. In the entire storyline, I think Frank demonstrates personality, like, three times (and two of them are bookends, with Frank having sentimentality for an old Russian veteran). So this storyline would be dead if Ennis did not turn characters that would otherwise be ciphers into real characters.

On top of that, he has his MAX Fury back, who Ennis clearly loves to write. Fury is funny, but he really does not play a major role in the story arc, more of a deus ex machina to get Frank to agree to the mission plus a scene every issue where Ennis demonstrates how much he loves Fury, by giving Fury a cool scene, like attacking a General with a belt in front of all the other Generals.

This was a good arc...anyone else picking up The Punisher MAX?


Blogger TCSmith said...

Hey Brian, thanks for checking this out. This is a straight-out, visceral, action-packed book, but it’s creative at the same time. It always keeps me guessing. And for something like this, I think there’s plenty of characterization. The way Ennis writes, Frank Castle, we get just enough of a glimpse of his character, that it always has a huge impact on the story. I think if we went too deep into his character, we wouldn’t like what we see. Here’s this madman on a mission to kill everybody, who’s come to terms that there’s no way he can redeem himself. Yet there are these moments of heart, of selflessness, and of virtue that we see come from Frank, and makes him seem heroic in some twisted way. That’s the brilliance of Ennis.
Of course, this is all interlaced between crazy twists, and ultraviolence, and that’s another reason I love it. As crazy as the action can get, though, it never feels forced or just there to shock like the pre- MAX Punisher. I was never a fan of the Punisher, and I never thought I’d dig it so much, but Ennis is that good. And I’ll admit, I wasn’t as crazy about the 2nd storyline in the series, but when it’s on, it’s my favorite book. Cully Hamner was actually supposed to draw that arc, but it didn’t work out. Ah, what could have been.
As for Mother Russia, Braithwaite is such a solid storyteller, and I thought the colors worked just fine. I’m especially looking forward to the one-shot coming out with Lewis Larosa( the guy from the first arc) on art.
And one more thing to add: you guys were talking about continuity? Ennis has essentially rewritten Frank’s story, but has stayed absolutely true to the character. He hasn’t thrown continuity out, but I don’t think he’s stuck real close to it either. Add to that, that it’s in the MAX line, which purposefully distances itself from the rest of the Marvel universe. I think this book is an argument for a writer that does his job well cause he’s not so restricted to continuity.
In the end, I just want to be entertained, and the book does it for me.

3/11/2005 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Wow...Cully Hamner would have been SOOOO much better for the second arc!

The second arc definitely was missing out a lot compared to the first and third arcs.

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