Don’t get me wrong, I think Garth Ennis’ “Punisher” series for the adults-only MAX imprint at Marvel was fantastic, probably the best take on the character ever published. But of course, before Ennis started writing those “Punisher” issues, he was writing the character for the Marvel Knights imprint; first as a 12-issue mini-series, and then as an ongoing series. It’s that original mini-series that “Punisher: War Zone” is a direct sequel to, of course, as two deceased heroes return in a strange sort of way to the Punisher’s life.
Now while “Punisher: War Zone” might not be as gritty and realistic as Ennis’ more recent stories with the character, he’s certainly still able to get away with a lot of violence. With this issue hitting the halfway point for the mini-series, “Punisher: War Zone” #3 really brings all the characters together and starts cranking up the intensity. The Punisher stalking and killing a group of people in a cemetery is just as creepy and grim as anything that we’d have seen in the MAX series, but at the same time it didn’t feel quite as intense as the other book. It was a strong reminder that Ennis is able to accomplish a lot as a writer by slightly changing his narration style, to make a book fit the audience it’s targeting. Some other parts of the writing feel a little too silly (the sad sack character’s last name being Schitti is perhaps a little too low brow), but at least those pieces are few and far between.
Steve Dillon’s art probably wouldn’t have quite fit with the “Punisher” MAX series, but here it’s just right. Dillon balances the levels of cartoonish and realistic just so; Elite’s white badge mask looks ludicrous, but at the same time the look in Elite’s eyes that has so much madness and rage reflected out of them is just creepy. For all of the silly moments that pepper this book, I do have to say that the cemetery scene is certainly not for the squeamish. Dillon doesn’t have to get particular graphic to still make it gruesome; in some ways it’s what he doesn’t show that makes it that much worse.
Last but not least, Ennis pulls out the best of his cliffhangers yet; it’s a nice surprise twist that suddenly explains a lot of what’s been happening with the resurrection of Ma Gnucchi, even as it opens more questions. With “Punisher: War Zone” being a weekly mini-series, having each new issue make you want to read the next one is paramount, and he does a great job there. I don’t think I’d want a non-MAX “Punisher” title from Ennis and Dillon on an ongoing basis (I was too spoiled by the top notch work on that previous series), but as a special event this is suiting me just fine.
(Check out CBR Reviews’ previous reviews for https://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=user_review&id=550” target=”_blank”>issue #1 and https://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=user_review&id=588” target=”_blank”>issue #2!)