Garth EnnisSteve DillonPunisher
The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank
Medium: comic
Year: 2000
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Steve Dillon
Keywords: Punisher
Format: 12-issue limited series
Website category: Comics
Review date: 26 January 2022
I'm pretty sure I read somewhere, once, that Garth Ennis originally wrote the Punisher to take the piss out of him. (That might have been Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe in 1995, though.) He soon saw more in the character, though, and after this kept writing his adventures for nearly a decade. Also, importantly, this is Ennis and Dillon! How could I not want to read that? Until now, I'd never really seen the point of the Punisher and I'd never have read this book if it weren't for its creators, but what the hell. Hellblazer, Preacher and now Punisher. Trusting a favourite comics team, I bought this sight unseen and wasn't disappointed. I laughed my head off. It's hilarious. Ridiculously violent, obviously, but that's why it's funny. So many appalling ways of killing, so many gags.
Things not in this book:
(a) angst about the morality of it all. A gang boss tries it on the Punisher at the end, admittedly. The Punisher says "tell me something I don't know" and kicks her into a burning building, after in a previous chapter watching sadistically as bears ate her limbs. His tolerance for bleeding hearts is low. Similarly, I love Frank's look of disgust when Joan the Mouse says, "I thought it might be because you wanted to make the world safe for good people."
Frank hates criminals, so he kills them. A lot. Simple.
(b) superpowers or anything that couldn't exist in the real world. Well, Daredevil guest-stars in one episode, but he's hardly the Hulk. In contrast, the previous Punisher storyline had had him working for angels and using a glowing gun, or something. Ennis dismisses all that in one page and jumps straight into gangsters, drug dealers, serial killers, etc.
Instead, the series is full of gross comedy murder. Ennis isn't pretending that the Punisher isn't appalling. This is a protagonist who'll throw a dwarf (bound and gagged) off the Empire State Building. Some of his kills make gangsters vomit, but he's more likely to react to them with, "Let's just pause to savour the moment. Oh yes. One of the greats."
That said, though, he's not evil. He's just manichean. His relationships with his neighbours end up being nice.
It's brilliant. In an utterly Ennis way that needs you to share his sense of humour, yes, but it seems that I do. (Also, it's a mainstream Marvel book about one of its better-known "heroes", so you can rest assured that it has no bestiality, sexual depravity, etc.) After reading this, I ended up buying everything Ennis had ever written for the Punisher (as far as I know) and I also gave a copy of this to my brother for his birthday. There's always room for more Ennis and Dillon.