Friday, August 26, 2011

Forgotten Books: The Punisher in "Welcome Back Frank"


OK, this one's only a comic book, but still (and this is the straight skinny from me to you,)…
it kicks ass.

The book is The Punisher: Welcome Back Frank (Marvel Comics, 2008), the graphic novel edition of a 12-part mini-series that originally appeared in 2000-01. The writer is Garth Ennis (that’s the important part) and the artists are a couple of other guys.

The Punisher is Marvel’s long-running rip-off of the even longer-running paperback hero The Executioner. You know, a one-man-war against the mob. The Punisher has accumulated a lot of comic book baggage over the years, but this mini-series pressed the reset button and put him back on track.

Make no mistake: This book is about killing. Bloody, brutal killing. The body count here is around 100, with our hero accounting for about 70, 30 by other hands, one suicide and one murdered dog (never fear, the dog killer is one of The Punisher's 70). But the tale is told with such finesse that it leaves you gasping for more. Sonehow, Garth Ennis weaves in a healthy dose of humor, a little heart, even a touch of pathos.

The overall effect is Jeez, I can’t believe this is happening in a comic! That lady above, for example, is Ma Gnucci, New York crime boss and the focus of The Punisher’s latest vendetta. After he kills her brother and two sons, she’s pissed enough to lead her street soldiers after him personally. They corner him in a zoo, but he turns the tables and lures them into the polar bear habitat, and Ma emerges with a few pieces missing. Later, when he tosses a firebomb into her house, she flops out the window onto the street and bites him on the ankle, so he boots her back into the burning building. I’d like to see Spider-Man or Superman do that!

Tune into pattinase for more (and on average less gruesome) Forgotten Books. 

11 comments:

Deka Black said...

0_0 Ok. This redeem the character from making him an angel. Yes, an angel. A exterminator one, but an angel.

George said...

I enjoyed THE PUNISHER movie, but it didn't make enough money for a sequel. I'll be on the lookout for WELCOME BACK FRANK.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, I'm gonna get this. I've been looking for something good in the graphic novel arena

John said...

That gives graphic novel a very literal meaning, doesn't it? Someone should do a graphic novel of Titus Andronicus. It's perfect for this kind of comic book art. And it would show the young uns that Shakespeare could be just a bloody and merciless as any slasher movie or torture porn flick.

Gerard said...

I recommend Anthony Neil Smith's PSYCHOSOMATIC for those of you who enjoy quadruple amputation.

Oscar said...

As a sad note for the comic book lovers, a chain of four comic book stores went out of business this week in Phoenix. The owner blamed it on the economic difficulties in general.

Chris said...

I have the big hardcover Punisher Omnibus that has the entire Garth Ennis run in it. Not for the squeamish, but it's a lot of fun.

There have actually been three Punisher movies. One way back when with Dolph Lundgren, then the one a few years back with Travolta as the villain, then the sequel of that one that probably ruined any chance of another one being made. The middle version is the one I still enjoy quite a bit.

darwination said...

Garth Ennis' work on The Punisher is a guilty pleasure. It runs from black comedy (as in this run) to downright bleak. I think his best Punisher stories are in his Punisher MAX run, brutal comics. The arc with which he ended his stint on that particular comic was fantastic.

As far as the movies go, I like the old Lundgren version best. The Travolta movie was OK and borrows characters from the comedic Ennis books, while Punisher War Zone holds the tone of the MAX books in terms of deadpan brutality (though it's probably my least favorite of the movies).

Jason Aaron's current run on the reboot of PunisherMAX has taken up where Ennis left off (and shares the artist, Steve Dillon, from this volume you've reviewed) and has taken a fresh angle on the character (hard to do). Aaron's Scalped, by the by, is bar-none the finest crime comic (and best comic period) being published today.

Chris said...

I too have enjoyed Aaron's Punisher stuff, and wholeheartedly agree re: Scalped. Absolutely fantastic.

Evan Lewis said...

Ain't seen Scalped.
Will.
Thanks for the tip, guys.

Richard R. said...

I prefer Rosen's Uncle Scrooge.