Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Punisher, Volume 5: Streets of Laredo Review (Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon)


Streets of Laredo is a four-part Western-type story of The Punisher going to a small Texan town and raining righteous fury on the gun traffickers he finds there. Also included in this book are three one-shots (two drawn by Steve Dillon, yay!) that sees an injured Frank team up with Joan, an old friend from Welcome Back, Frank; Elektra and Punisher having the bloodiest courtship ever; and punching bag Detective Soap getting one more kick in the nards from (Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon)life. In short, this book is all kinds of awesome!

I enjoyed the one-shots more than the main story, partly for the Dillon art, partly for the variety. Seeing a bedridden Frank Home-Alone the hell out of a quaint country cottage against a horde of murderous Russian gangsters was enormous fun, especially with soft-spoken Joan delicately helping Frank mow them down by feeding bullets into his gun!

The Soap story… man, Ennis/Dillon love socking it to that guy, don’t they? Earlier in the series they had him (unknowingly) sleep with his mum and this time around they… I can’t, it’s too horrible to mention (and that last page is too funny to spoil in a review anyway)! Needless to say, Soap tells his comically unlucky life story and of course it only gets worse. Gotta love that dope!

The Elektra team-up story was fun too, even though I’m not a fan of Tom Mandrake’s art. Elektra’s been taking out Frank’s mob targets before he has a chance to off them himself – a woman after his own heart! It’s a deeply gory tale with an unexpectedly romantic end.

The main story, Streets of Laredo, is like the classic Western: small town in thrall to villainy, hero walks in and shoots up a storm/brings the justice, etc. Minor differences are the villain is a single mother and the hero, aside from Frank, is a gay Sheriff (some parts of Texas ain’t so backward after all), but otherwise it’s your standard Western and who doesn’t love one of those? 

The shootout is exciting, I liked the sheriff and the gun smuggling mum – I’m always surprised at how effortlessly Ennis introduces new characters and in the shortest amount of time endears them to the reader – and overall its terrific Punisher storytelling.

The only critique I’d make is with Cam Kennedy’s art. Generally I like his work, particularly on Judge Dredd, but his goons – the villain’s lackeys – all look alike. There’s this one character design that has long, straw-like hair with an overbite and wearing a wifebeater, and I’d swear this guy got killed multiple times in the story – but it turns out this was a different guy each time! A little bit more diversity would have gone a long way.

Otherwise, I can’t fault Ennis’ work on this volume. It’s a great recovery from the lacklustre Full Auto, and a real pleasure to read. The Punisher, Volume 5: Streets of Laredo is Ennis’ brand of fun, carnage-filled Punisher mayhem at its best!

The Punisher, Volume 5: Streets of Laredo

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