Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Punisher, Volume 6: Confederacy of Dunces Review (Garth Ennis, John McCrea)


“When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” - Jonathan Swift

So we come to the end of Garth Ennis’ Marvel Knights: The Punisher series - but not the end of his run on the character. After this comes The Punisher: Born and the entire MAX series, with associated spin-offs, all of which are somehow even better! But first we gotta wrap up this one. 

Throughout Marvel Knights, Frank’s been making a fool of Marvel’s most popular characters - he used Spidey as a human shield against a raging transgender Russian cyborg; messed with Daredevil’s radar; and, among many humiliations, literally steamrolled Wolverine! Now the three superheroes (or dunces as Ennis is implying because he continues to write them as dimwits) are uniting against Frank to take care of him once and for all! 

Ennis has a very clear contempt for the superhero and it’s so funny to read him putting down fan favourites. It helps that he’s also in silly mode for most of this book. Among my favourite moments in the series has been Ennis ripping the piss out of every Marvel superhero he chucks in, so Confederacy is a good time as it’s basically nothing but that all the way through. Wolverine especially is written as this blithering, ‘roided-out idiot. The best part of the book is when the three confront Frank and Wolverine launches into another angry rant:

Logan: “Ya just reached the end o’yer highway o’hate, Castle! Gonna send ya back ta drivin’ school so ya kin learn yer lessons th’ hard way! Gonna teach ya ‘bout the traffic on Wolverine Street!”

and Frank mutters: “If ever there was a man who needed an off-switch...” - I was laughing so much I had to put my iPad down. (The only way to read most of the Ennis Marvel Knights Punisher books is digitally via Comixology because, for some reason, Marvel have decided not to keep these amazing comics in print! You’re leaving money on the table, Marvel!)

Confederacy is also a really exciting story with Frank dreaming up imaginative ways to neutralise the two heaviest hitters, Wolverine and Spider-Man, long enough for him to have a one-on-one crack at Daredevil. He’s so effective that you actually believe Frank could have a shot at taking down these chuckleheads if he had to (and has done in the non-canon, The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, also written by Ennis and also terrific fun). 

That scene when the three first confront Frank who immediately surrenders his weapon and walks into the diner for a cheeseburger? That was unexpected. And who could guess where the story goes from there? Certainly not with another famous Marvel superhero getting enormously constipated, but then it’s Ennis and crudeness should be expected! 

We also get the conclusion of Soap’s story and for a moment I thought he was going to break - a punching bag can only take so many hits, especially when it’s girl scouts doling them out! - and he almost does, but makes it through in one piece and, happily, gets his best possible ending. Soap lived happily ever after (the eejit)!

I’m not a huge fan of John McCrea’s art which is fine here but I would’ve preferred Steve Dillon to have drawn it. I feel like there should be a law where any Punisher story written by Ennis has to be drawn by Dillon! McCrea’s Daredevil looks a little too cartoon-y but his snarling Wolverine was good. 

The Punisher: Confederacy of Dunces is a really excellent Punisher book and a fine way to end the run. It’s also no surprise Ennis went from this superhero-smackdown story to making it a regular fixture in The Boys a couple years later! If you enjoy seeing Frank take out superheroes, or liked The Boys, give this one a look. If you’re a fan of Ennis’ Punisher, you won’t need any encouragement from me to pick this one up (or download it as the case currently is)! 

When Ennis and Frank get together, truly genius comics appear!

The Punisher, Volume 6: Confederacy of Dunces

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