Those who love Garth Ennis’ Punisher series are in for a treat this week. Ennis is joined on Punisher: Soviet by Jacen Burrows as they bring Frank Castle back to the streets. He’s cold, he’s methodical, and he’s trying to find the person who took down Russian gangsters with tactical ease. The new six-issue series starts tomorrow, but is it good?
Reading this series brings me back to the classic Ennis Punisher tales. There are plenty of captions that read like journal entries as Frank attempts to figure things out. In the opening scene, he reviews the murder of Russian mobsters and he’s practically envious of how good their takedown was. This creates a sense of urgency and intrigue as he follows up with a lead and carries that forward. Call it a slow and methodical mystery complete with killing, and you get the idea of what this story is all about.
There is of course loads of violence, cursing, and gore — this is an Ennis Punisher story, after all. It’s not for the faint of heart and I suspect some folks might be surprised by the violence, but then again it is branded “Max Comics” on the cover so you should know what you’re getting yourself into. Burrows, with Guillermo Ortego on inks and Nolan Woodard on colors, does well to capture the slower-paced mystery Punisher is trying to solve. Classic Ennis Punisher stories tend to have Punisher thinking about a killer in his van as he stakes out a place, and you get plenty of that here. The art team handles the violence just as well as they handle the still scenes. By the end, you get the feeling Punisher isn’t a shark, but a snake. He lies in wait and when he does strike it’s lethal and precise.
Anyone wondering if Rosenberg’s run with Punisher is forgotten should breathe easy, as Frank’s international acts of violence weave into this narrative well. It’s worth noting the bigger and more superhero-style violence is not going to be found here, however. This is classic “War Journal” stuff, right down to the low-level mobsters and the cliffhanger. I was hoping for a bit more when it comes to the cliffhanger since we know very little at this point, but it does mean issue #2 will open up the new character and their purpose here.
I wouldn’t call this book boring, but I would say it’s a read for those who love to concentrate. From the ruminations of Frank in the captions to the slow boil that leads to a car chase, there are quieter scenes aplenty here. The pace can at times make the narrative feel monotonous and the cliffhanger doesn’t quite give you enough to know why it should matter, feeding into the uninteresting nature of the plot.
This is Garth Ennis Punisher to a T. Read this expecting the cold, concentrated Punisher we’ve come to expect from one of the greatest Punisher writers in existence.
Listen to the latest episode of our weekly Comics podcast