Monday, 17 October 2016

The Punisher, Volume 1: On the Road Review (Becky Cloonan, Steve Dillon)

A new drug is about to hit the market turning its users into killing machines – time for Frank Castle to shoot alla the mobsters trying to sell it!

Becky Cloonan teams up with Frank’s greatest artist, Steve Dillon, for her first Punisher story, On the Road. Dammit Cloontang, why’d it have to suck!? 

Frank Castle vs The Mob is the template Punisher story. It’s been done I don’t know how many times over the decades, but my issue isn’t originality, it’s execution. It’s possible to do entertaining versions of this story – just look at Garth Ennis and Jason Aaron’s books - but Cloonan’s treatment is uninspired to say the least. 

There’s a trying-too-hard-to-be-scary mobster called Face who, yes, likes to hack off people’s faces, and a pair of DEA agents whose presence is utterly superfluous. Meanwhile Frank mows down mobsters left and right wherever he goes which gets repetitive fast. There’s also a pointless extended flashback to a young Frank learning that war is hell. It’s such a poorly-constructed story. 

Dillon’s art is great and his involvement was the only reason I picked up this series. As usual, expect a lot of very graphic violence, blood and gore but there are no fun cheeky moments he gets to draw like he did with Ennis, Aaron and Daniel Way’s Punisher stories – Cloonan’s script is in dire need of a personality. 

Becky Cloonan’s a good writer – I highly recommend her By Chance or Providence trilogy and her ongoing Image title, Southern Cross – but when she works for the Big 2 her comics suddenly stink. Gotham Academy is pants and so’s her Punisher which makes me inclined to blame the idioterseditors, at least in part. Even if you’re a Steve Dillon fan like me, I still wouldn’t recommend this one - Cloonan’s Punisher is nothing special with a very banal narrative that feels like it’s just ticking off items on a Punisher story list.

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