The Punisher still has Russian gangster Konstantin Pronchenko's wife as a bargaining chip after last issue's events. After telling Frank and his ally Vassily Stepanovich everything they wanted to know and more, she suddenly isn't so sure of her odds of survival...
And that's that.
The lethal duo set about finding Pronchenko's army of mercenaries, and just as the herd thins out a bit, they arrive at the main encampment and make some friends...
Punisher and Stepanovich make short work of the mercs, and come up with a bonus prize: three of Pronchynko's son's! But that doesn't mean they're out of the woods yet...
To say that Punisher: Soviet feels stalled out at this point would be a gross understatement. After dawdling all of last issue on a flat exposition dump from Konstantin Pronchenko’s wife, this issue she’s dispatched in the first four pages, a “character” whose only contribution to the story was fulfilled. Girl dead, time for more shootin’!
That may sound dismissive of the fact that yes, this is a Punisher story, so of course lots of violence should be expected, but by this penultimate issue of Soviet, writer Garth Ennis really does feel like he’s spinning his wheels, paying lip service to story beats he’s written time and again. There’s the author’s penchant for happy accidents leading to explosive repercussions on full display when Frank and Stepanovich happen upon Pronchenko’s men just after the bulk of them head out, leading to the capture of their prey’s nitwit sons. Egotistical idiots are another Ennis specialty when it comes to Punisher cannon fodder; by now we’ve seen this sort of thing played out so many times that readers familiar with the author’s oeuvre will be bored to tears seeing this played out again. And speaking of things playing out again: just two issues ago, Frank blew a helicopter out of the sky, and now in this issue, he’s doing it again. What’s with all the helicopters falling? Did Ennis see the trainwreck that was Suicide Squad and think, “Yeah, THAT’S the ticket!” It’s unoriginal not only on its own terms, but also for the author himself, pulling the same action beat twice in two issues of a six-issue miniseries. Again – it just makes me think Ennis is out of ideas for this story. Maybe it should have been four issues instead of six?
There is some forward progress on the plot by the end of the issue, though, as a key supporting player meets an unexpected demise. That puts the ball squarely in Punisher’s court to eliminate Pronchenko, which will of course occur. But, what of it? Pronchenko has barely registered any page time throughout this story, popping up only in flashbacks that only serve to exposit what a bad dude he is. He’s a cipher, a MacGuffin; worse than a dimestore, one-dimensional mustache-twirling supervillain because he’s barely even established as an antagonist. Why should readers care about Punisher eliminating him when the bare minimum has been done to make them care about him at all? To that end, then, why should they even care about this story when the stakes are so non-existent?
Jacen Burrows’ art is about as flat and lifeless as it comes, an unfortunate reflection of the story he’s been tasked to draw. All his faces are etched in stone, body motion is stiff, and blocking is perfunctory at best. And since the issue occurs in the middle of a forest, he doesn’t even get to draw any interesting set pieces. That’s not his fault, but it would have been nice if he’d chosen to at least give the scenes some sense of atmosphere. As it is, they more closely resemble stage sets than anything of substance. Oddly enough, an apt metaphor for this miniseries as a whole.
Punisher: Soviet #5 continues to drag its feet toward the finish line, as the creators seem to be completely out of ideas for how to bring this story home in a satisfying manner.
Punisher: Soviet #5 (of 6): Houston, We Have a Problem
Writing - 5/105/10
Storyline - 4/104/10
Art - 5/105/10
Color - 5/105/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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