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Punishermax #4

Posted: Tuesday, February 9, 2010
By: Paul Brian McCoy

Jason Aaron
Steve Dillon
Marvel Comics/MAX
Editor's Note: Punishermax #4 arrives in stores tomorrow, February 10.

"Kingpin, Part 4"

This story is moving along like clockwork, but that's not necessarily a good thing. Particularly when things start happening not because of what the characters do, but because it's just that time.

In fact, after a very promising start, this "Kingpin" arc is beginning to feel a little hollow. The introductions of characters is well handled, but, as we see with this issue, getting them together and interacting just feels forced and more than a little absurd.

For example, the fight between Frank and The Mennonite this issue. There's no set-up or transition between The Mennonite saying he'll kill Frank and then starting to beat on him with a sledgehammer. Even the voice-over narration acknowledges that it was either "luck" or "God's will" that he found Frank at all. It's a plotting shortcut that immediately drew me out of the story.

Much like Frank's discovery of Fisk's home. There's no deduction or searching. Frank just knows where Fisk lives and that his family is there, too. These two "magical" convergences allow for the beginnings of the required "over-the-top" fight scene to occur.

And it is definitely over-the-top.

So much so, that I just don't buy it anymore. This, I think, falls more on the art than on the writing. I mean, we've seen Frank both inflict and take horrifying amounts of physical damage, particularly against Barracuda for example, but the artwork in those stories was overly stylized, which helped sell the insanity of it all.

Dillon's art is so tied to realism that when we see Frank's hand shattered by a sledgehammer blow, it really looks shattered. It looks like it can't be used. But then Frank uses it and the believability is shot.

Again, I'm not saying that this type of over-the-top violence can't work. It worked just fine when the art helps to create that sense of exaggeration. Here, it's just not working for me. The violence is brutal, yes. But it looks so realistic that when the characters keep fighting, all the emotional impact is gone.

I've really enjoyed the first three issues of this version of Punisher, but those three issues focused on character development and the excessive violence worked as part of defining who these characters are. With this issue it feels like narrative short-cuts are being made and it has gone from being a brutally honest exploration of the characters and their world to a cartoon version of the same.







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