Punisher: Soviet Part 1 - Murder Ballads
Some one is ruthlessly killing their way through the Russian mob... the trouble is, it's NOT Frank Castle!
Who is the mystery individual behind the rash of mass murder? And is he or she on the same side as the Punisher?
Uber-Punisher scribe and all-around industry legend Garth Ennis returns to the dirty, gritty world of the Punisher! That alone would be reason enough to celebrate (particularly with the miniseries falling under Marvel’s occasional-imprint MAX), but this time he’s bringing longtime artistic collaborator Jacen Burrows with him.
So, why does the end result feel like so much less than the sum of its parts?
Part of it is the antiseptic, clinical approach to the proceedings. The Punisher is following a trail of corpses, each of them from the Russian mob. Each of them have been killed in an expert, soldierly manner – as recounted by Ennis, methodically laying out the facts of each kill scene with a CSI-like clarity. Frank also narrates the backstory of his ultimate target, accepts information from a government agent (who he works for is never explained, nor is he even given a name, so “anonymous G-man” will have to suffice), walks readers through his steps of pursuit, easily dispatches far too many armed goons in one fell swoop… et cetera… et cetera… et cetera. Everything here is plodding in its exacting detail to a fault.
The other problem with the story is that it doesn’t necessarily feel like a Punisher-specific story, more like an inventory story that Ennis happened to slot Frank Castle into. Although Punisher is the ostensible lead in this issue, all signs point to the story about to take a turn toward focusing on his quarry rather than himself. It’s not necessarily a bad yarn per se – just not up to Ennis’s usual standards.
But the art is similarly middling. Jacen Burrows is a fine artist when given exciting enough material to work with, although a bit sparse in his linework – but the general lack of emotion in his faces makes everyone look like a woodcut rather than a living, breathing person. Nolan Woodard’s colors don’t do anything to enhance it – it’s flat, dull, lifeless. The art, then, complements the story in all the wrong ways – highlighting its lack of engaging hooks.
As a longtime Punisher fan - and an even longer Garth Ennis fan - I really wanted to like this comic more than I did. But at the end, everything is far too safe to feel like anything more than the creators going through the motions. With five issues to go, hopefully the team can get the ship turned around. If not, it's going to be one heck of a letdown.
Punisher: Soviet #1 (of 6): From Russia With Love
Writing - 6/106/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 5/105/10
Color - 4/104/10
Cover Art - 6.5/106.5/10
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