Friday, 27 March 2009

Only A Mother Could Love: Marvel Knights - Punisher #1

At my favorite local comic shop when I go up to the counter with an armful of back issues to buy often the proprietor will comment on my "awful" taste in comics. He'll point out that I'm the only person he gets in the place that buys back issues of Power Man & Iron Fist, Thunderstrike, Deathstroke or even my beloved Guardians Of the Galaxy.

So in honour of my horrendous taste, I've decided to dedicate a regular post to talking about comics that only a mother, or the twisted freaks here at YouAreComic, could love.

Comics like the Marvel Knights Punisher revamp. You know, the one where they decided that the best way to shore up sales on the flagging Punisher franchise was to re-invent Frank Castle as a super-natural killing machine!

I can just picture how the meeting where that got decided went.

"Okay guys, we need to do something new and different with the Punisher, get those sales up."
"Well, we could kill him then re-incarnate him as a super-natural character like Morbius. Everybody likes Morbius."
"That's a great idea, we could give him some kooky glowing symbol on his forehead like Doctor Strange!"
"Yeah and a magic trenchcoat full of magic guns!"
"That's awesome, what else?"
"We could have him fight a giant, cybernetic Russian....with big fake boobs!"
"That's sick Ennis, get the hell out of my office."

Okay as premises go it's a pretty clunky one I know but hey, look how well the test pilot with the magic ring that makes giant, green boxing gloves does for himself. This is comic-books people you ain't a somebody until you've died and come back as a supernatural killing machine!

As far as Issue 1 goes. It's mostly setup but I kinda liked it. It takes the clunky dead Frank premise and spews out some interesting ideas. Like the idea that after his death the Punisher would pass into urban legend. Living on in the hopes of the most desperate and hopeless people in the city:
Hail Punny full of grace, lay my enemies to waste.

The alley where Frank 'died' becomes kind of a shrine and his symbol becomes a totem. Something the folks on the lowest rung of society can use to pray for a gun-toting saviour to come and blow away all their problems. It's a pretty cool concept that would've presented some interesting story options in the future.

The mystery behind Frank's return from the dead is also dangled tantilising in this issue. Even Frank doesn't quite know how he died, or, for that matter how he came back. Where did he get his mystical trenchcoat from which he can pull everything from mystical bunny rabbits to luminous flamethrowers? Where'd he get that funky little glowing symbol on his head? Is he dead? Alive? Undead? So many questions!

Although sometimes Frank looks more alive than others:
This proves nothing. Even dead men can't resist a crusty baguette.

I was a little dissapointed when we met the villain of the piece only to find that he looks kind of like a walking chicken goujon with face paint and bat wings. Not only that but it turns out his name is Oliver! What kind of demonic supervillan name is that? I bet Sattanish, Mephisto, Asmodeous and all the other cool kids from hell snicker at him behind his back. To make matters worse he obviously shops at the generic henchman store being that all his lackeys are just bald dudes with sunglasses and pig stickers. What's up with that?
I miss themed henchmen, remember Hee, Ho & Ha from the Batman TV show?

Aside from the fact that when he makes out with angels they burst into flames, Oliver is not a quality bad guy. Especially for a major Punisher revamp! Was Bushwhacker busy or something? Dude can turn into a freaking gun like Megatron for crying out loud.

Don't let Oliver get you down too much though. Writers Michael Golden & Tom Sniegoski saved one final twist to leave us hanging with.

No it's not the Daimon Hellstrom cameo. Although Daimon Hellstrom cameos are always appreciated. Ah Daimon, my love for you and your netharanium trident knows no bounds. He looks especially smug under the pencil of Bernie Wrightson which just adds to his awesomeness.

Anyway what was I saying, oh yes the final twist! Well it involves a dude named Gadriel.

See the half-dead angel that Oliver didn't make out with sends Frank to get the skinny about his re-incarnation from this posh, private-school-boy-looking dude, Gadriel. It turns out, as if you hadn't guessed already from his name, that he's an angel too. A little gentle persuasion later, he reveals his shocking link to Frank's past:
Gentle Persuasion Technique #1: The Brooklyn Handshake

As twists go that's pretty great. We're left hanging one page later with Gadriel staring down the barrel of Frank's luminous uzi wondering if he'll pull the trigger.

All in all once you get over the indignation of the whole 'dead Frank' angle it's a pretty enjoyable issue. It's one part hard-boiled Punisher action and one part supernatural engine of destruction wackiness. It got me coming back for the next issue.

It's not a decision I regret either because next issue Daimon Hellstrom graduates from cameo to fully fledged guest star!

Tridents and pentragrams ahoy people! Prepare thyself for awesome!
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