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Stewart’s Slate : Review of Punisher – In the Blood

5 Jan

Punisher: In The Blood
5 part mini series (currently ongoing. issues 1 and 2 available now)

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Roland Boschi/Dan Brown

Review of First two Issues by Stewart Loud

Punisher: In The Blood picks up right where Franken-Castle left  (check review of frankencastle here !)  off with The Punisher returning to the streets of New York 100% human to once again take on the criminal underworld and in particular track down his old partner Microchip who after being resurrected by The Hood during the Dark Reign had worked with The Hood against The Punisher and played a part in the attempted resurrection of Franks family.

Frank’s still paired up with his most recent sidekick the young, talented computer hacker Henry, who uses information technology to track down leads and bad guys and point Frank in the direction the bullets need to be sprayed. This is a tried and tested formula and it’s one that works well. I don’t believe that Frank couldn’t find shit out without the help of a computer savvy assistant but it saves a lot of time for good story development and action if he’s just told where he needs to be next.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rick Remender writes great Punisher! Even though this story takes place within the main Marvel universe and features the Batman style Punisher cycle motorbike with a great big skull on the front (I love it! And why shouldn’t he have one? It’s just too cool not to!) and it does occasionally feature some of Marvels more colourful characters, it’s so dark and gritty and the Punisher’s dry inner monologue is so good that it almost feels like one of the MAX story lines from back before Garth Ennis left. The opening scene in the prison could be a scene straight from the acclaimed Punisher: The Cell, one shot. Without all the bad language of course.

Remender’s writing is backed up by some great artwork from Roland Boschi. The shadowy visuals often illustrated from interesting perspectives really make every scene look like something from a well directed movie and every page oozes atmosphere.

I don’t want to give to much away but there’s also a brilliant bit where one of the characters attempts to explain why the people who’ve worked with Frank over the years were compelled to do so even when they new it could cost them so dearly.

If you’re a fan of The Punisher then this is essential reading and if you’re not but you like good crime/vengeance stories then it’s still definitely worth a look. Weather the rest of the series is as good as the first 2 issues remains to be seen but I can’t fault what they’ve done so far.

SCORE (for #1 and #2) 9/10

Stewart’s Slate : Review of Complete Frankencastle

25 Dec

Fanken-Castle

Collects: Dark Reign: The List – Punisher, Punisher #11-#16, Franken-Castle #17-21,
              Dark Wolverine #88-#89

Writers: Rick Remender, Daniel Way, Marjourie Liu

Art: John Romita JR       Jefte Palo
      Tony Moore            Stephen Segovia
      Mike Hawthorne      Paco Diaz
      Dan Brereton          John Lucas
      Roland Boschi         Andrea Mutti
      Luca Malisan

Review by : Stewart Loud

I already did a review of Punisher #11-#16 a couple of months ago (which can be found here) so I’ll leave out any details of those issues and focus instead on the rest of the impressive amount of comics that this graphic novel collects.


This book brings together every part of the Franken-Castle storyline, from the untimely carving up Frank receives from Daken in The List to him seeking Daken out for some retribution or “punishment” in the pages of Dark Wolverine and his return to normality in Franken-Castle #21.

This isn’t the first time The Punisher has been killed and brought back to life and despite what a lot of other Punisher fans say I think it’s necessary to keep him as a believable character in the Marvel Universe. I don’t mean that having him as a half man half machine monster makes him more believable, because that would be ridiculous. I’m saying this: anyone who fought during the Vietnam war like Frank Castle did would have to be well into his 60’s by now and while the grizzled old veteran with aching joints and a bad attitude thing works very well in the MAX series, when he’s usually murdering simple street thugs using his cunning and military experience, it’s very difficult to accept that a 65 year old man who’s been shot, stabbed, blown up and set on fire more times than any other comic character I can think of (except perhaps Judge Dredd) would be able to take part in the high paced and often acrobatic battles he has with the bizarre range of villains that populate the Marvel Universe. SO.  The way I rationalise it is that, every time he dies and is mystically resurrected, he comes back revitalised, younger and at the peak of his athletic, crime fighting condition.

The second half of the book sees Frank, having finished helping the Legion Of Monsters with their own little war, setting about taking some revenge on the most recent people to have stumbled onto his shit list. Mainly Daken! I don’t think I can put in to words just how crap I think Daken is and how much bullshit it was that he could ever kill Frank, even on his worst day. The Punisher has gone up against Wolverine himself on more than a few occasions and not only survived but once left Wolverine minus his face and tentacles underneath a steam roller (The second Marvel Knights Punisher run Garth Ennis wrote) and once he just flat out killed him! (Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe) But none the less here we have him getting chopped in to about 15 different pieces by a “son of” character. Dakens character worked well in the brilliant Dark Avengers series as part of a team but as a stand alone character he’s just pointless. Ooh, he’s like wolverine but younger and more mean and he’s got a big tattoo. We’ve already had Son Of Hulk so what’s next? Son of Thor? Son of Iron Man? TRY HARDER MARVEL! Or don’t try at all. There’s already about a million characters in the Marvel Universe (at least 30% of them crap) and none of the writers seem to have the balls to kill any of them off permanently so why keep introducing new characters anyway? Frank said it best himself “Reputation coattail rider, dressed up like someone else… I built my reputation. Ground up. You? Snuck into the show on another mans back. You’re just a poser.”

Anyway. The second half of the book is more of what was in the first half really. Big over the top silly, fun, fighting action with the Punisher being able to take (and deal out) loads more punishment than usual due to his monstrous form. And to be fair he does give Daken the kicking of his life. He even gives Wolverine himself what’s coming to him when he tries to get involved so I was satisfied with the story. Lots of different artists keeps the visuals constantly changing and interesting. Ranging from the amazing detailed pencil work of Tony Moore (he’s becoming one of my favourite artists) to the lush painted sections by Dan Brereton.

If you’re a serious Punisher fan then you’ll enjoy it. It’s a really good fun read. And a big one at 13 comics! There’s an almost record breaking amount of different artists work in it too. I got my hardback copy for a bargain £17 from amazon.co.uk and it was worth every penny. Plus as much as I’ve enjoyed the change of direction for the Punisher it’s ace to see him returning to normality at the end with a brief bit of grass roots criminal killing!

SCORE 7/10

Quick Draw : A Short Reviews column

29 Nov

– by Stewart Loud

The Authority Book 3: Earth Inferno And Other Stories.(Collects #17-20, 2000 annual and Summer Special)

Writers: Mark Miller , Joe Casey ,Paul Jenkins ,Warren Ellis
Art: Chris Weston, Frank Quietely, Cully Hamme, Georges Jeanty

I only recently started reading this outstanding series after a friend recommended it to me and I can’t believe I’d overlooked such a gem for so long.This book continues its trend of the refreshingly original group of heroes that make up the Authority facing truly world shattering threats that always end up resulting in vast amounts of innocent civilians being wiped out in densely populated areas. The dialogue is witty and interesting, the fights are tense, the characters are engaging and the detailed artwork continues to do an effective job of illustrating the impressive scale of the disasters.
Only misses out on a higher score due to the last third of the book being taken up by an annual and a summer special containing a few simple filler stories that while being worth a read, don’t compare to the overall standard of the series so far.

SCORE 8/10

 


The Incredible Hercules: Assault On New Olympus.(Collects Incredible Hercules #138-141)

Writers: Greg Pak , Fred Van Lente
 Art: Rodney Buchemi

Hercules, Amadeus Cho, Zues (who has been reverted to a small child) and Herc’s sister Athena team up with The Avengers to take on the evil Hera and her army of Amazons, Titans and Gods at their New York headquarters to stop her from destroying the universe with her new secret weapon, Continuum! If this sounds stupid to you then you should probably avoid it. If not then give it a go. Lots of fun to read, plenty of humour, plenty of smiting and it gets surprisingly serious at the end.
Features Spiderman, Wolverine, Quick Silver, US Agent, Wasp (Hank Pym) and Spider Woman.

SCORE 7/10

 


Punisher Max: Tiny Ugly World(One Shot)

Writer: David Lapham
Art: Dalibor Talajic

Hot on the heels of the breathtakingly pointless Happy Ending and Hot Rods Of Death Punisher Max one shots comes a short story about a man who keeps his pickled penis in a jar after his mother cut it off as penance for the sexual relationship they had together when he was an adolescent. Frank himself only makes 2 brief appearances in this dreadful story that feels like it was written by a 14 year old who’d just read his first Garth Ennis comic. Seriously, sometimes it shames me to be a Punisher fan. I spend a great deal of time trying to convince people that comics are an intelligent and interesting form of story telling media, every bit as valid as books and films. This comic is not one of the examples I would use to convince them.

JUST BECAUSE IT’S VIOLENT AND WEIRD DOESN’T MEAN IT’S ENTERTAINING!

SCORE 3/10

 


Judge Dredd: Total War(Collects stories originally printed in 2000ad progs 1392-1399 and 1408-1422)

Writer: John Wagner
Art: Colin Macnei, Henry Flint,  Jason Bashill

Been a long time since I read Judge Dredd and after reading this book I’m gonna be reading a lot more! In this story the judges of Mega City One (a vast sprawling city of the future that occupies a large part of the east coast of America) face an ultimatum from the terrorist group Total War: either all the Judges leave the city and restore democracy and trial by jury or they nuke the city one block at a time until their demands are met. You won’t believe some of the things the Judges do as part of their standard operating procedure when trying to bring the terrorists to justice and and all the art is laid out in such a cinematic way you can imagine a lot of the scenes as something from a really well directed movie (the bit where the judges are looking through loads of CCTV footage to track a suspect especially).

The infringement of peoples civil liberties has never looked so cool.

SCORE 8/10

 

Halo graphic novel(collection of 4 short stories)

Writers: Lee Hammock, Jay Faerber, Brett Lewis

Art: Simon Bisley,Ed LeeAndrew Robinson,Tsutomi Nihiei,Moebius

4 short stories that attempt to add a bit more depth and history to the Halo franchise. Worth a read if you’re into the games but there’s not much here for you if you’re not. While the artwork is very good throughout, a lot of it’s confusing to look at making it difficult to tell what’s going on (I’m a big Simon Bisley fan but this isn’t his best work) and although the stories are interesting they’re not all told that well so after I bought this book hoping to answer a few questions about the Halo universe it just raised a bunch more.
Nice art gallery in the back though.

SCORE 6/10

 

Gears Of War graphic novel(Collects Hollow parts 1-6 and One Day)

Writer: Joshua Ortega
Art: Liam Sharp, Federico Dallocchio

Again, If like me you loved the Gears of war games then this is worth a look. The Character art and dialogue is true to the source material and it always feels like these are the games characters that you’re reading about. I was hoping that this book would explain a bit about the history of the conflict and E-day but that barely gets a mention. The story is set between the first and second game and follows Delta squad on a mission to investigate some “strange seismic activity”. Every bit as violent as the game with plenty of gun fights but I got the feeling that the writer had wanted to add a tactical edge to the action that the artist couldn’t be bothered to illustrate.
“Flank ’em Dom!” commands Marcus.
“On it!” shouts Dom as they both run at the enemy side by side, shooting from exactly the same direction.
I’m no military tactician but even I can tell you that’s not how you flank someone you pair of douche bags.

SCORE 6/10
 

Snap Reviews: The Punisher Vol. 3: Franken-Castle

17 Nov

The Punisher looks like Frankensteins monster! WTF?

Review of Punisher (8th series 2009) #11-#16 Franken-Castle
-Collected in The Punisher Vol 3 by Marvel Comics
 -Review By Stewart Loud

Now I’ve heard that this story arc has upset a lot of Punisher fans and I can totally understand why it would. To be fair it’s a really odd direction for Rick Remender to take The Punisher in after his outstanding run of Punisher comics during Marvels Dark Reign which I enjoyed every bit as much as Garth Ennis’ acclaimed Marvel Knights run. They did print a few messages on the letters page from fans moaning that the Punisher had been ruined by the changes and I have to admit that when I learned that Frank Castle was to be turned into a Frankenstein’s monster style abomination ,when I was already reeling from seeing my absolute favourite comic character get carved up by a B-list villain like Daken in The List, I was fully prepared to be upset by this story. But I’m a Punisher completionist and for better or worse I collect and read every comic with his name in the title. So read them I did! And do you know what? I’m really glad I did.

I don’t like the Punisher just because he kills criminals and has all his stories rooted in realism. I like him because of his uncompromising commitment to punish and kill evil people without being held back by all the moral red tape that prevents a lot of the other Marvel characters from killing serial murderers, rapists or whatever no matter how much they deserve it and that part of his character is very much alive in this storyline. Of course I like that he’s usually just an ordinary soldier with only his whit’s, training, experience and equipment to rely on ( I loved seeing him go up against the Hood and his followers in Remenders previous 10 issues. Frank just sees super powered villains as targets that need to be shot with a bigger gun!) but since The Punisher has been around for 35 years now this is not necessarily the way things have to stay all the time. In any case there’s still the Punisher Max for gritty realism and Frank isn’t gonna stay like this for ever anyway.

Any story concept ,no matter how strange it may seem, can be fun to read if it’s well written. Just as a great idea can be ruined by crappy writing. For example, in the 3rd series of the Punisher back in 1995 The Punisher became the head of a mob family which ,while sounding like an interesting idea, it really, really wasn’t. Then during the Purgatory mini series, Frank returns from the dead as some sort of angelic super soldier with infinite pocket space for holding weapons in a magic coat. Sounded ridiculous but it wasn’t bad at all. However, when they used the same story arc for a Wolverine/Punisher team up called revelations it was one of the biggest wastes of paper Marvel ever published.

Now I don’t want to give to much of what happens away (I hate reviews that do that) in case any of you decide to buy the comics but here goes. Frank Castle is resurrected by Morbius the living vampire who has stitched and bolted his remains back together along with a good measure of mechanical parts after the rooftop mullering he received from Daken son of Wolverine. Morbius, along with his comrades Manphibian and Jack Russel the werewolf (fantastic names) are part of the Legion Of Monsters who are attempting to defend the Earths largely peaceful monster population from a group of fanatical Japanese monster hunters led by a 150 year old lunatic called Robert Hellsgaard. Frank, having gone from being what many would call a metaphorical monster ,with a body count in the thousands after decades of punishing the wicked, to becoming an actual physical monster decides to make the Legion Of Monsters’ war his own as repayment for bringing him back from the dead. What ensues is one of the most violent storys the Punisher has ever been in! And not only violent but gory! As well as a lot of the characters and plot devices being straight out of a horror movie so are the fight scenes. For the most part the incredibly detailed artwork is done by Tony Moore. There seems to be so much going on in each panel that I can’t remember the last comic I read where I spent so much time examining every inch of the background and scenery. The fights are downright chaotic with limbs and heads flying in every direction which meant I spent even more time looking at these panels to try and keep track of how many villains The Punisher had dispatched! All the action is accompanied by The Punishers crisp, dry, trademark inner monologue that Remender does so brilliantly so that no matter how outlandish or surreal the situation gets you never forget who it is in the thick of it and who’s comic it is!
Tony Moore is also incredibly good at illustrating the emotion on the faces of the characters. Both human and the myriad of creatures that populate a lot of the pages. When you see a fish man learn of the death of his children you really can see the pain in his expression despite his inhuman appearance. I really did feel sorry for a lot of the monsters who were butchered by the extremists because of the obvious terror etched across their faces.

During this story you’re gonna see Frank in situations you probably never dreamed you’d see him in. Nazi zombies? any body who tells you they saw that one coming is a massive liar! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a total blast to read. If you really are a hard core Punisher fan then you’ll love this and if you’ve never read Punisher but you like horror and action then you’d probably love this too. I enjoyed all 6 issues from start to finish and I’ve already pre-ordered the graphic novel collecting these 6 comics, the following 5 Franken-castle issues and 2 tie in issues of Dark Wolverine. I should be getting that in early December so you can expect a review of that shortly afterwards

Rating: 7/10

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About the Reviewer:

Stewart Loud has agreed to voice some of the deranged ramblings that are his opinions and write some reviews for the Adventures Of M.
He lives in England and his passion for comics began at age 6 with Transformers and now has grown to encompass titles such as 2000ad, Preacher,Aliens and The Walking Dead to Avengers, The Authority, Transformers (still) and his all time favourite comic character The Punisher (can you not tell from the pic?)
He is an absolute Punisher nut and owns almost every Punisher title ever printed along with a good chunk of his appearances in other titles.
If anybody wants to ask him any questions or discuss anything they can find him on the Adventures Of M facebook page regularly updating his latest reads.