Punisher MAX #67

A comic review article by: Dan Hill

A timer counts down. The protagonist has a few hours to save himself before the poison coursing through his veins claims his life. It's a tried and tested plot device in the thriller genre, giving us such works as D.O.A and the OTT Crank. In this current arc of the Punisher MAX series, writer Duane Swierczynski has taken this formula and applied it to Frank Castle himself. A group of people wish to take out a high profile businessman in Philadelphia. To achieve their aims they've made the fatal mistake of abducting Castle, injecting him with a toxin and giving him their target. If he complies, he gets the antidote. Simple. But of course this is a MAX book and it's Frank Castle. Mayhem ensues.

Normally in these kind of situations we watch the protagonist rush through a number of obstacles as he attempts to save himself before it's too late. Swierczynski, however, deviates from this norm. The twist though doesn't feel forced. Instead it emerges organically from Castle's character and mindset. Rather than become someone's tool, Frank decides to use the time he has left to take as many of Philadelphia's criminal element with him, and so the carnage begins.

Swierczynski has a track record of writing in the crime genre through his novel work, and it certainly shows here. He has a good handle on Castle as a character and the internal monologue throughout the issue rings true. Swierczynski also injects elements of black humour into the story, an element that always served Ennis' run well. All I’ll say is it involves a head being ran over. Trust me, it's funny.

Swierczynski also begins to focus a little more in this issue on the group that hatched the plan to snatch Castle in the first place. Then there's Walter. Walter seems to be employed as a sort of bodyguard by Deirdre, the female of the doomed group. Through brief (four panels at most) we see snatches of a specific period in Walter's life. Walter seems to share something with Frank Castle. He was in Vietnam too. At some point though Lt. Walter Rose was kidnapped and submitted to brutal torture at the hands of the Vietcong. His reactions to such flashbacks renders him almost child like in his fragility. However, the way in which Swierczynski and Lacombe present him suggest that something dark is brewing in there. That he could snap at any moment. Maybe it's me just reading too much into it, but the character seems like a container of repressed emotion just ready to explode given the right situation. It also makes him incredibly creepy. Strangely, it was this character that has me itching for the next issue. I really want to see him interact with the Punisher. Given that they share certain portions of their past, I think the encounter is going to be an interesting one to read.

Staying on Lacombe, his art is solid throughout. It's a nice mixture of photo realism and traditional comic book art. In places it reminded me a lot of Steve Epting's work on Captain America but with a more grimy feel to it. A large part of this I would imagine has to do with the colours of Val Staples. The man is largely overlooked for his stellar work on Criminal and he does an amazing job here too. Here the violence is often shown bathed in an almost neon red, something he used recently in Incognito too. It's an effective device and really complements the violent energy going on in the panels.

There's a great Steven Grant quote about the Punisher:
Heidegger, who took Kierkegaard's philosophy further, comes even closer to describing The Punisher: since we can never hope to understand why we're here, if there's even anything to understand, the individual should choose a goal and pursue it wholeheartedly, despite the certainty of death and the meaninglessness of action. That's sure the Punisher as I conceived him: a man who knows he's going to die and who knows in the big picture his actions will count for nothing, but who pursues his course because this is what he has chosen to do.This issue, and the story arc as a whole, sharpens that notion to a fine point. And then stabs you through the eye with it. Overall, this was a great read. Swierczynski gets the balance of violence, black humour and characterization just right. Ennis would be proud.

Community Discussion