“Widowmaker: Part Four”
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Lan Medina
Mob widows. A derelict house. An arsenal of assault weapons. Blood. Guts. In the middle of all of this chaos, Frank Castle a.k.a. the Punisher. While the Punisher MAX series does what it can to stay away from a “too formulaic” feel, it still manages to be a predictable book. There is the set-up, the Punisher getting hurt and then of course the counter attack. What really makes this title worthwhile is not the formula or seeing the Punisher as he was always meant to be; what really keeps me coming back issue after issue are the twists and developments that Garth Ennis manages to throw into the storylines. That and the fact that this is Garth Ennis in his element.
The mob widows have got Frank Castle in their crosshairs. With just a squeeze of the trigger, the Punisher dies. This is the moment that the women have plotted and waited for, a great setup, and it looks like doom for Frank. This is something Frank Castle could sniff out from a mile away, and he does sense the setup. But Frank can’t figure out the angle; he doesn’t know who is setting him up or why. I’m curious as to whether or not Ennis intentionally had Frank think a little too long about his predicament, or if it was just general curiosity and confusion on Frank’s part. Is it Frank’s age, the idea that he’s just getting to that natural point where it takes him a few seconds to process information? Doubtful, but an interesting query nonetheless.
As Ennis often does, he incapacitates Frank Castle, a bullet straight through the upper chest/shoulder region. While this is fully acceptable by Ennis’ standards, it would be a welcome change to see Frank not being so vulnerable all the time. The level of beatings that he has taken, not to mention a couple of tours in Vietnam, would leave even the toughest of men a brain damaged elderly folk. But this is the Punisher we are talking about; he’s nuked an entire island. Of course, having Frank beaten to a pulp in just about every story arc is a fair way to keep him out of the picture so that Ennis can focus on the supporting cast.
With Frank out for the count, the mysterious femme fatale, or Lady Punisher I call her, finally makes her move on the mob widows, gutting one of them and unleashing a barrage of firepower on the house. One of the mob widows recognizes her and later on, when it is revealed exactly who the Lady Punisher is, the story takes off to a whole new level. It is one of those moments where you know exactly what is going on, but you still shake your head at the utter madness and the implications that these developments have.
Ennis does, however, a fantastic job of taking Frank out of the picture for the bulk of this issue in order to focus in on the mob wives and on the “hero cop” Detective Budiansky. Budiansky knows who the women are and senses the gaps in their stories. Budiansky is looked down upon in the police department since he shot and killed a teenager who was shooting up his school. Since then, Budiansky has been under a great deal of scrutiny for his actions, and many of his superiors no longer treat him like a cop. However, this issue shows that Budiansky is indeed a great cop and a man who tries to gather as much information as he can before he make any conclusions. He is also intelligent and puts his common sense to good use by connecting the dots of the mob wives. Budiansky has the potential to be a decent Punisher ally. Unfortunately, many supporting characters of Ennis’ arcs don’t often make it to the end.
Lan Medina’s artwork maintains the same consistency that has really stood out amongst many artists lately. He also does a fantastic job with facial expressions. This issue’s biggest expression was surprise, but Ennis and Medina do a great job making their characters show the same emotions that the reader feels.
There are some pretty decent twists in this issue, and so far this is definitely the best issue of this arc. I hope Ennis has something fresh in store for the tail end of this arc, something that will really stand out rather than the Punisher coming out and wreaking havoc.
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