"Widowmaker (part 6)"
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Lan Medina
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I’ve said quite a few times over the past few months that the one thing that makes The Punisher MAX enjoyable is the supporting cast that Garth Ennis brings to every story arc. The Frank Castle that Garth Ennis writes is the Punisher in his “realistic” form. The MAX version of the character doesn’t deal with super-villains or super-heroes and most definitely has nothing to do with Civil War. For that version of the Punisher, check out Matt Fraction’s fantastic Punisher: War Journal. But Ennis has an uncanny ability to create characters that mesh perfectly with Frank Castle, whether they are friends, enemies, similar or polar opposites. This arc has been dealing with a group of mob widows who are after the Punisher for the massacre of their husbands. But thrown into the mix is a Jenny Cesare, a new “Lady Punisher,” a former mob wife who was abused and exploited (see the very disturbing but excellent last issue). Ennis’ knack for creating a supporting cast is what continues to make this title great.
I will say that issue #48 slows down a little bit compared to last issue. Last issue was non-stop; it was well-written and the back story behind Jenny was so disturbing that it was hard to put the book down. This issue takes the focus off of the Jenny and the mob widows and focuses on the featured hero cop of the storyline, Detective Budiansky. I almost feel as though Budiansky has not been used enough throughout this arc. The concept of his character is interesting enough that his involvement in the storyline should have been played up a bit earlier. Granted, he’s piecing together the events of the shootout between the Punisher and the mob widows, so it does stand to reason that his introduction into the storyline would be gradual.
Budiansky knows the mob wives are trying to kill the Punisher and are responsible for the shootout that in turn led to the death of one of their own. They deny any involvement, and Budiansky knows they are lying. This generates a conflict between the widows that allows Ennis to keep the suspense flowing.
There are a few pages in between the Budiansky questioning that are especially enjoyable. I thought I’d never say that there’s a level of beauty in a Punisher book, but there absolutely is beauty in a moment the Punisher and his new female partner share. While I loved O’Brien and was genuinely disappointed when Ennis killed her off, I really want to see the Jenny Cesare developed further. Her scars are both physical and emotional, her sorrow is overwhelmed by hate and vengeance. She is Frank Castle’s equal, and she is the first person in a long time to get inside his head. I don’t necessarily think I want anything overly romantic to develop between these two characters, but the two match on a mental level. Jenny could possibly be a huge development point for Frank Castle as the two have been put into predicaments that make them seem made for each other. It’s an interesting scene that makes me hope that Jenny makes it through this story arc.
Back to the focus of this issue, the widows order the death of Budiansky. Within a few pages of the order, Ennis brings a very important facet to the surface: The widows, Jenny and The Punisher himself may not be the most dangerous characters of this story arc.
Budiansky’s wife is caught in the crossfire and takes a few shots to the mid-section. Budiansky unloads an entire clip on the gunman in what seems like a fit of rage. Part of me really wishes that Ennis has given readers a scene like this much earlier in the arc, aside from the school shooting. Budiansky is a good man and a good cop, but he is even more dangerous. Ennis has done a great job playing up the angle and back story of Budiansky, definitely giving him the short end of the stick. While that changes a bit in this issue, I still want to see more of his character. While Budiansky knows what he did was questionable and agrees to turn over his badge and gun, there’s still something deeper at work with this character.
The end of this issue is worth mentioning. Jenny wants to finish off the widows, but Frank isn’t in any condition to go back out and fight. It’s interesting and cool at the end of this issue when Jenny becomes the Lady Punisher by donning Frank’s bloodied skull shirt.
Overall, this is a solid issue and continuation of the story-arc. There are still many questions to be answered and the potential to explore these characters further, but Ennis has done a great job. Lan Medina’s artwork remains top notch and only adds to the value of this title.
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