Garth EnnisJacen BurrowsPunisher
The Punisher: Soviet
Medium: comic
Year: 2019
Writer: Garth Ennis
Penciller: Jacen Burrows
Inker: Guillermo Ortego
Keywords: Punisher
Format: 6-part limited series
Website category: Comics
Review date: 3 July 2023
punisher soviet
Garth Ennis returns to the Punisher (again). It's not exciting, mind you. It's a revenge tale, harking back to bad things from when the Soviets were in Afghanistan. (Very, very bad. Even if you're a Soviet special forces soldier, don't mess with the mujahideen.)
Even the final revenge isn't cathartic. Instead, you'll put down the book unsettled and unsure how you feel about it.
The story begins with the Punisher discovering a rival. This unknown chap is very good. Everyone probably thinks his victims are probably just the Punisher again, but they're not. Eventually, our anti-hero meets this other chap, who's a quiet, sensible-looking bloke of maybe sixty years old. He'd probably make a good grandad, but he has stories to tell about Afghanistan. (He's talking about the 1980s, but obviously his stories have modern echoes.) These get more gross than you can imagine... and at the end of issue #6, Ennis gives a reading list for anyone who'd like to know more. A non-fiction reading list. This is basically Ennis wanting to tell another war story, which is ultimately where many of his Punisher stories came from. "They called them puppets."
What unfolds thereafter is very Punisher, except with a twist for the finale. Grandad doesn't want to kill his enemy. He'll whack all the hired soldiers, but the big man himself he wants left alive. The Punisher's final interpretation of this might be the most disturbing thing to date in a Marvel comic, including Ennis's previous work for them.
It's hard work, emotionally. It's not fun and it won't leave you laughing. But it's very Ennis (in a more mature mode than usual) and very MAX.