Before I get started, a quick apology to the readers of these articles: this week was a really light week for me, as far as books are concerned. Even worse, next week looks to be about the same. So if reviews are a little light, it’s through no fault of my own. I mean, it was either go low on the reviews or intentionally read crappy books just to trash them and fill up space. Hmm…that’s not such a bad idea. Look for it next week.
The Punisher #19
Marvel Comics – Garth Ennis (w); Steve Dillon (a)
Would you look at that? An issue of The Punisher that I can think of no other way to describe other than to say that it has heart.
One thing, in my opinion, has lead to Ennis run on this character being so successful: simply put, he “gets” the character.
Ennis never takes the Castle too seriously. The big problem with this book in the early ’90s was that every writer who took over the reins felt the need to either a) have Frank do some “serious” (read: poorly written and terribly clichéd) soul-searching or b) attempt to write the book like it’s a Scorsese flick. Neither approach really works, because both of them lend more validity to the character than he’s deserving of. Frank Castle is an unabashed psychopath. That’s it. There’s really nothing deeper to him than that.
He kills people because he thinks they deserve it. Not because he’s a desperate soul crying out for attention and acceptance. Not because his mother didn’t love him enough. It’s not even about revenge for his family anymore. It’s because he’s insane and he genuinely enjoys what he does. There it is, plain and simple.
In any event, this issue returns to a character that has been absent since Ennis’ early issues, Joan, the withdrawn, frightened woman who developed a bit of a crush on Frank after his killing spree inspired her to summon the courage to move out of the city. The set-up to this issue is fairly pedestrian, as far as Punisher plots go: Castle busts a drug deal, which in turn goes sour on him. However, in his flight from the angry mobsters, he stumbles upon (quite literally) Joan’s secluded cabin. From there, it’s both amusing and bizarrely touching to see the interaction between the two of them as Castle defends both his own life and, in turn, Joan’s, since she refuses to abandon him. This all, of course, comes complete with Ennis’ trademark sense of humor.
It’s hard to explain what makes this such a good issue, I guess. I think the simple fact that it’s such a surprise to see a Punisher story like this is what made me enjoy it so much. There are lots of throwaway issues of this book, but this is definitely one to pick up.
Image Comics – Brian Michael Bendis (w); Michael Avon Oeming (a)
Just like I asked last time, is this seriously the best Bendis can do with this book?
This issue is better than the last, but only by virtue of the fact that the strong point of Powers has always been the dialogue, which doesn’t begin to come into play until the arc’s case starts being investigated. And since that’s what this issue revolves around, we’ve at least got Bendis’ flair for conversation to fall back on for entertainment.
Because, let me tell you, there’s precious little entertainment to be found in the story itself. This book has just begun to completely fall back on a formula, arc after arc. I’m not going to rant about it again, since I already did that last time. Suffice it to say that it’s more of the same and I’m even less impressed with this issue than I was with the last.
The really depressing part of the matter is that there is genuine potential in the groundwork that Bendis has laid out for this book. I find it hard to believe that there’s a Powers reader out there that isn’t waiting to see the arc that will finally explain why Detective Walker lost his powers. But what does he give us? Another tired riff on established characters and celebrity culture.
In the grander scheme of things, there’s only the slightest chance that the events of this arc will have any lasting impact on Walker and Pilgrim. Unless you’re an absolutely fanatic about Bendis’ books, you could certainly stand to pass this one by.
Homage Comics – Warren Ellis (w); Steve Rolston (p); Al Gordon (i)
MTEd, this one’s for you.
This issue, in my opinion, cleared up all complaints about this book.
The aforementioned Sequart.com message board poster, MTEd, had previously complained about Ellis not giving the audience a reason to care about the lead character of this book, Sarissa. This issue does exactly that, telling, through a series of flashbacks, the circumstances that have lead her to return to Sky Road to investigate the murder of her partner/lover, RJ. It’s a great progression of scenes, contrasting the idealistic Sarissa of the past with the shattered, emotionally vacant Sarissa of the present.
I, on the other hand, had laughed at another reviewers comment that for all the talk about mek being a subculture, it seemed awfully prevalent in the scenes. That, as well, is addressed by Ellis. Mek, it seems, was birthed by the street culture of an area known as Sky Road. And apparently, the majority of the scenes shown last issue were of that area, so it makes sense that nearly every character shown, even those in the background, displayed rather obvious mek enhancements. As well, Ellis’ characters point out how mainstream the phenomenon has become, having lost its original meaning in the rapid uptake in the public consciousness.
In any event, it’s a very solid, very character-driven issue that’s leading towards a conclusion that I honestly can’t wait for. I can’t recommend this issue highly enough.
Kissing Chaos: Nonstop Beauty #2
Oni Press – Arthur Dela Cruz (w/a)
Another issue of Nonstop Beauty, another issue of the same quality as the last. This one continues the love triangle amongst the artists/criminals, but also begins to delve into a much more interesting subplot, that mysterious figures are tracking Ashley because of her connection to Angela (her friend and protagonist of the previous Kissing Chaos mini-series). The basic fact of it is this: if you enjoyed last issue, or the first mini, you’re going to enjoy this one. If Dela Cruz’s sometimes muddy artwork and equally vague plotting turned you off, there’s nothing new for you to enjoy here; just more of the same.
I, for one, find that the good outweighs the bad and that the book is worth reading. However, if I were a man on a budget (which I am not), this would certainly be a book that I could live without.