Friday, 13 February 2015

The Punisher, Volume 4: Full Auto Review (Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon)


Wow, I didn’t think it was possible but Full Auto is the first Garth Ennis/Punisher book that I didn’t love. That’s not to say it’s bad but a couple of the stories here are just too blah for me to say it was good. Plus Steve Dillon disappears for the last three issues, replaced by Tom Mandrake. Ennis Punisher without Dillon just doesn’t feel right. 

The three part Brotherhood storyline was the best one here. Even Frank Castle has rules and not killing cops is one of them. So when he’s faced with two crooked detectives, he decides to indirectly screw up their corrupt plans than shoot them in the face. One of them has a weakness for cards and is so heavily in debt to the mob that he’s swiping parcels of drugs from crime scenes to reduce his debt; meanwhile his partner is an alcoholic wifebeater. 

Once again it’s amazing how Ennis puts Frank in the background (who hangs about menacingly and swoops in to periodically mete out death), introduces two new characters and still manages to fully engage the reader’s attention. I never wanted to see more of Frank than we do in the story because I wanted to see how the two detectives’ fates played out. And though it’s compelling, it’s also grim reading, especially the way Ennis/Dillon unflinchingly show the drunk beating his wife to bring home the brutality of domestic violence and how pathetic the detective is for stooping so low. 

The one-shot story of a mob guy fascinated with the search for a giant squid in the New York harbour was one of Ennis’ jokey Punisher stories but this one was very average. It’s not very funny and you can see the ending coming a mile off. 

Steve Dillon steps aside for Tom Mandrake who illustrates Ennis’ tale of a sicko living in the underground tunnels of New York, hiring homeless people to abduct their own for his bizarre plan. This is the low point. The story’s not very interesting, the villain’s motives are stupid (though they kinda make sense in Ennis’ twisted way), and Frank is stuck with a temporary sidekick who acts as a tedious mouthpiece for every critic of The Punisher. The story drags on for three issues and was totally boring. I’m almost glad Dillon didn’t illustrate this as it would’ve been even more disappointing. 

Garth Ennis is THE greatest Punisher writer and, while this one is worth checking out for the Dillon-drawn stories, I’d recommend reading any other Punisher book with Ennis’ name on instead. Here it is if you’re wondering: the worst Punisher volume Garth Ennis ever produced (which is still better than many other writers’ efforts on the character) - Full Auto!

The Punisher, Volume 4: Full Auto

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