Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Punisher, Volume 2: Border Crossing Review (Nathan Edmondson, Mitch Gerads)

When last we left Frank he was escaping the Howling Commandos with a bullet in his chest. He’s now south of the border and desperate for a doctor – and that’s when he’s captured by a drug cartel and handed over to the villainous Crossbones. Frank’s rambling quest to end the supply of drugs into LA takes him into the jungles of Central America, a Mexican prison, a covert ship, an unexpected crossover with Black Widow, and the murder of the current Fantastic Four movie cast (but not really)!

Boring - that pretty much sums up this series of The Punisher! I love the character but Nathan Edmondson’s treatment of him really isn’t winning me over. Frank’s just so blah in this book! I think this shows how The Punisher isn’t just some psycho with a skull t-shirt shooting criminals repeatedly. Garth Ennis can take Frank Castle and make him the most interesting person in the Marvel Universe; in the hands of a lesser writer, the same character is rendered sterile and lifeless. 

Edmondson tries, I’ll give him that. Frank teams up with a special ops guy as they fight their way out of the jungle, which sounds exciting but was just ok. The only thing that stood out to me was the sudden use of military acronyms, and, looking at the credits, someone called “bestselling author Kevin Maurer” co-wrote these two issues with Edmondson (a quick google shows that he’s written several books on modern warfare). Find out that CAS and ISR stand for Close Air Support and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, then wonder why you should care.

The other issues felt like lesser versions of stories already told. The Black Widow crossover was a lot like the night raid from the Winter Soldier movie when Cap and Black Widow storm a boat (the “was he wearing a parachute?” scene), but not as exciting. Also, Frank getting the hell out of the Mexican prison was a crappier version of Garth Ennis’ The Cell (check out The Punisher MAX: From First to Last, for that story). The Black Widow crossover was so pointless it may as well not have happened. 

Also, I’m not sold on Frank in LA - I’m not sure why the location is being emphasised for the character so much but it’s not jibing for me. Those last few pages too, when Frank goes to all that trouble for THAT, just felt stupid and out of character to me. Why is Frank so enamoured with LA all of a sudden - because he’s got himself a coyote?! 

I know Marvel have to legally claim otherwise but three of the four cast members of the latest Fantastic Four make a cameo in the final chapter. This issue got some attention when it came out because some people said Marvel was having Frank kill them, but that’s not true. They’re in a building near to an explosion but there’s no indication that they’re hurt in any way - and Frank’s definitely not responsible (the movie’s going to bomb without Frank planting any near the cast anyway!).

Mitch Gerads and Carmen Carnero’s art isn’t bad, it just doesn’t stand out. Much like Edmondson’s script, the art is just there. It doesn’t make you pay attention, there’s no eye-catching style, it’s got this generic look to it, and it’s workmanlike more than anything. It’ll do and nothing else. Phil Noto’s artwork on the Black Widow issue was nice though. 

The Punisher, Volume 2: Border Crossing is a very poor follow up to an average first book. I wish Edmondson’s Punisher series was as good as Ennis’ or Jason Aaron’s but it’s instead very far away from those quality writers’ books.

The Punisher, Volume 2: Border Crossing

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