Current Reviews


Punisher War Journal #12

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
By: Jon Judy

ďWorld War FrankĒ

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Ariel Olivetti

Publisher: Marvel Comics

I once complimented Paul Jenkins at the Mid-Ohio Con aboutÖ

What? Yes, this is a Punisher War Journal review, why do you ask? Oh, well Iím trying to make a point about War Journal #12 by starting with an anecdote that this issue reminds me of. Yeah, I know, I tend to overdo that sort of thing, but I really think it applies here, so bear with me. At least Iím not whining about being ditched by my former best friend, which is how I got started last time.

So anyway, I complimented Jenkins onÖ

What? Oh, no, Ericka still isnít talking to me. To make matters worse, now she isnít returning my wifeís emails and she has blocked my step-daughter on instant messenger, all because she blames me forÖ I donít know, something. Like itís their faults. So, yeah, I got this whole guilt trip thing going on, because I cost them a friendship again. I canít help but feel Iím being punished for past transgressions.

So, anyway, I complimented Jenkins onÖ

What? Oh, yeah, that whole punishment thing would have made a good segue into a review of War Journal, but I really think I should go with this Jenkins thing.

So, anyway, I complimented Jenkins on a story he did in Spectacular Spider-Man Ė or Peter Parker, Spider-Man or whatever it was Ė during Marvelís ĎNuff Said month, a moronic promotional gimmick in which a monthís worth of Marvelís comics were dialogue-less. I thought the idea was crap-tastic, but Jenkinsí contribution was a real fun read.

ďThanks,Ē he said. ďWhen they told me I had to do a dialogue-free issue, I wasnít thrilled, but I wanted to do the best story I could within that gimmick rather than just phone it in.Ē

Hmm. That was years ago, so that dialogue from Jenkins is re-created from memory, and Iím sure it isnít quite right. But, wow, so realistic, so life-like. It pops off the page. Thatís good writing. Damn, Iím good.

Anyway, point being that when one has to play in one of the Big Twoís sandboxes, the quality of an occasional issue must be sacrificed to the crossover/promotional gods, but itís always nice when a writer tries to give the regular reader something that functions well on its own and that fits well within the titleís regular storylines.

And that brings us up to the present and Marvelís crossover du jour, World War Hulk.

What? No, this isnít a Frontline review. Yeah, I know that would be cool because I was talking about Jenkins and he writes Frontline, but thatís not what this is.

And, really, will you just stop with the interruptions already, imaginary reader? God, Iím trying to review a comic book here! If you want to talk back, hit the forums. See that link below this review? Whatís it say? Oh, yeah, thatís right, have your say in the Line of Fire Message Board! God!

So, anyway, War Journal #12 is a World War Hulk crossover, something I imagine was imposed upon writer Fraction because, letís face it, Frank Castle and the Hulk arenít exactly a pair that lend themselves to some obvious story. Thatís been what has made Ennisí run on Punisher so good Ė after some initial missteps, he seems to have recognized that Punisher just doesnít belong in the Marvel U, at least not if he is to be used to his fullest.

So, no doubt, Faction found himself with a real challenge on his hands: How do you tell a story about the Punisher that makes sense within the World War Hulk storyline? Whatís Frank going to do, shoot up the Hulk? Duke it out in an arena with Mr. Fantastic? Lay the smack down on some aliens?

Well, yes to that last one. Frank gets embroiled in the evacuation of New York, fighting off some space bugs who are terrorizing some of the stragglers. Itís probably the best you could ask for in this storyline Ė after all, Frank has often played guardian angel in the characterís history, and there is just nothing for him to do in the main storyline. So, handicapped from that perspective, this was a pretty good issue.

But if we remove that qualification Ė how good a story was this considering how hard it would be to write the Punisher into World War Hulk? Ė this just wasnít a very good comic.

First, letís talk about the story. I wonít go into spoilers here, but letís just say you can look up my review of Jonah Hex from last week, plug in Punisher everywhere that review says Hex, insert Clarke where ever it says El Diablo, and substitute aliens for demons, and youíve got the exact same story. In other words, itís strictly by-the-numbers. Furthermore, the ongoing sub-plot with Gates is not advanced at all in this issue in order to make room for the Hulk-y goodness, so although Iíve liked Fractionís writing thus far, this issue becomes a serious disappointment.

And then there is Olivettiís art, which Iíve never developed a taste for. First off, other than the characters, it looks too realistic Ė everything is too three-dimensional, has too much weight. Iíve always thought that art that is too realistic detracts from a comic Ė especially a superhero comic Ė by drawing attention to the artifice of the whole thing. It takes me out of the experience and reminds me Iím reading a comic, and, even worse, itís about something as ludicrous as people who dress up in underoos and fly around. The whole thing is silly enough Ė I donít need realistic art to remind me how unrealistic it is. Itís why Iíve never enjoyed Alex Rossí art, except on covers and the like.

But beyond that the characters look so darn abstract, so that this realistic looking world is populated by three-dimensional cartoons. I keep expecting to see Frank blow away Wallace and Grommit.

If youíre digging World War Hulk, you can easily pass this one by. It really has nothing to do with the central storyline. And if youíve been digging War Journal but youíre not slavishly devoted to it, you too can easily miss this. ItísÖwell itís not bad. Thatís the best I can say for it.

So there it is. Told you I was going to review Punisher War Journal #12. Eventually.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!