Garth Ennis. Steve Dillon. The Punisher. Do I really need to say anything else? No, really, do I? If those three elements get you excited, you’ll love “Punisher: War Zone” #1. If they don’t, you probably won’t. It’s as simple as that. Myself, I’ve been waiting for this with anticipation ever since it was announced all those months ago and it doesn’t disappoint.
This is Ennis doing the Punisher the way he began with Dillon for Marvel Knights, not the MAX style. Those two styles are rather different, mostly in the tone. Where the MAX book was serious with a few moments of comedy here and there, the Marvel Knights approach is comedy with a few moments of seriousness thrown in.
“War Zone” or, as the story itself is titled, “The Resurrection of Ma Gnucci,” is a pretty direct sequel to the “Welcome Back, Frank” story that began Ennis’ long run on the character. Several years ago, the Punisher single-handedly wiped out the entire Gnucci mob family, culminating with a limbless Ma Gnucci getting kicked back into her burning house by the Punisher. Seemed like the end of that crime family, but, no, word has it that there’s an Italian branch of the family and it’s making a move on various East Coast operations. So, the Punisher gets to deal with that.
Like his previous Punisher work with Dillon, Ennis is just having a laugh here. One of the best bits involves a page that begins with: “War Journal Entry #1: God how I hate poor people.” We learn that the son of snobbish vigilante the Elite is taking up his father’s quest to rid the world of “undesirable” people and plans to begin with the man who killed his father: the Punisher.
There are other callbacks to “Welcome Back, Frank” with the return of Molly Von Richtoffen and another zoo scene that tops the first one in both hilarity and cringe-inducing events.
The reunion of Ennis and Dillon is a big reason to pick up this book as these two long-time collaborators fall back into their old ways with nary a bump. These two guys work so well together that it’s unbelievable. Most of the issue relies on dialogue, but Dillon continues to have the amazing ability to not just make talking head scenes work, he makes you forget you’re reading a talking head scene. He also draws an ostrich burping incredibly well.
As I said at the beginning, if you know and like the work of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, particularly their “Punisher” stuff, this is for you. If not, the violence and zoo scene may do you in. But, me, I’m just looking forward to next week’s issue.
(Get your first look of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s return to the Punisher in CBR’s preview of this issue!)