Novelist Jonathan Maberry seems to be the latest writer from another medium to be Marvel's 'go to' guy. He has a Wolverine story in "Wolverine Anniversary" and a new gig on "Black Panther," but "Punisher MAX: Naked Kill" is nothing but cheap violence that reads like a third-rate copy of Garth Ennis's "The Slavers."
After killing all but one of a group that distributes torture porn, Frank Castle is led to the building where the porn is made by the sole survivor. Not only that, but, in the next day or two, those responsible will slaughter all of the women they've brought over from Russia to make this month's movies. The building itself has some of the top security available, so Castle has no guns, knives, or weapons of any kind, and also doesn't have access to the top two floors.
The comic follows him as he improvises, while also eluding security, mixed with shots of the pornographers going about their business. None of Castle's improvisations are particularly original or impressive as he uses cleaning and office supplies in ways you'd expect, while the pornographers act in a typical unsavory manner with rape and torture and deflowering of virgins. It reads very much like someone who hears the words 'Punisher' and 'explicit content,' and never moves past the most obvious creative choices.
That wouldn't be so bad, but the idea of so-called business people kidnapping foreign girls for sexual purposes and Castle killing them was handled with much more skill and intelligence during Ennis' run on the book. This reads like that story as filtered through a 15-year old boy who didn't actually understand the point of that story's head.
However, one very good thing that "Naked Kill" has going for it is Lawrence Campbell's art. Take a look at the preview pages and tell me that his dark, evocative art is not utterly gorgeous. His use of shadows is rough and heavy throughout the book, and he also chooses a lot of thoughtful angles. Rarely does he go for the obvious shot, but creates compositions that cause the eye to linger. Combined with Lee Loughridge's colors, the art is almost worth the price of this one-shot. It's a shame that this art team wasn't given a better script to work with.
If cheap, gratuitous violence with hints of equally cheap sex is your thing, then "Naked Kill" is definitely your book of the week. If not, well, the art alone makes this book worth checking out.