There are two absolute joys involved in this one-shot…
1. Garth Ennis writing a serious book
2. John Severin drawing the entire book.
The second is quite a rarity, as Severin, a comic book legend, does not do much comic work nowadays (which I presume explains why this book took awhile to be completed).
The first, though, has been seen with a bit more regularity in the pages of The Punisher (the MAX version), and it is such a delight to see, for when Ennis takes books seriously, he has such an enjoyable writing style.
The Tyger has Frank Castle ruminating on what has brought him to the point of becoming the Punisher, and his thoughts drift to his childhood in Brooklyn, New York, and one particular year, 1960, when he was ten years old.
The vast majority of the comic is set in 1960, with ten year old Frank (by the by, one cool point to anyone who can tell me if a previous Punisher issue ever addressed the matter of Frank’s childhood and his parents). However, while it is about a ten-year old, the story is still quite gripping. The title is derived from the famous Blake poem, which causes Frank to ruminate about the very idea of “the Tyger,” monsters who exist outside of society for the GOOD of society. What’s so impressive about this lesson is that, just like the later “lessons” Frank learned in Vietnam, it is all just subtle enough that, if it were not for the distinct and brutal tragedy visited upon Frank in that park years ago, it would not rise above his subconscious, but that tragedy DID occur, causing Frank to become a “Tyger” himself.
It is well-handled by Ennis. But as impressive as it is, I was more impressed by his characterization of young Frank Castle and his family. Even at ten, there were glimpses of the later man (and not just Severin’s spot-on depiction of what Frank would look like as a kid), especially his stoic nature – his manner of being quiet enough that he can listen and study people. There is a very clever scene where Frank pulls the ten-year old equivalent of working a stoolie – sooo clever.
As great as Ennis is, I don’t know how well this story would have worked without the art of Severin (Paul Mounts colors worked well, also). Severin has the gritty style that is just perfect for a story like this, but at the same time, he is not afraid at embracing the fragility of human emotion – which is so effective when you see Severin take a man as strong as Frank’s father and BREAK him – damn, that’s a huge aid to a writer. I hope we see some more work from Severin – it is a privilege to still see him working.
However great Severin is, I think Ennis was smart to go with the two all-black pages at the end – especially as it ties in to early in the comic. Beautiful work.
I would heartily recommend this comic without reservation.
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