There’s an inherent flaw to the Punisher operating in the Marvel universe that this issue highlights particularly well: he will only ever kill the d-list nobody villains that, two months later, no one will remember. You know how I know this? In this issue, the Punisher goes up against 16 villains that the Scourge of the Underworld killed and the Hood has resurrected — and I don’t recognize a single one of them. Now, maybe my knowledge of Marvel history isn’t as extensive as it should be or maybe these are a bunch of losers and not really that much of a threat.
It’s a recent fad for every low-level superperson to suddenly seem a giant threat, but this group is such a gathering of losers that they don’t even know who the Avengers are anymore! At no point does the Punisher seem in any sort of danger, which is obviously the goal of bringing back 16 villains sent to kill him. What should be overwhelming for him elicits only the response of ‘Well, you know, a lame Punisher wannabe killed these dorks once already...’
That said, it is entertaining to see the Punisher beat up on a bunch of random villains secure in the knowledge that not everyone is going to walk away. When a classic Avengers team shows up to stop him, things just get better. If you’re a fan of the bearded Thor or red-and-white Iron Man armor, you’re in for a treat. The highlight of this issue is definitely the Punisher versus old school Avengers.
Normally, I’m a fan of Tan Eng Huat’s art, but it just seems out of place here. His quirky, not-quite-right style fit well on “Ghost Rider” and could work on “The Punisher,” but not when he spends the entire issue taking on lame supervillains and a classic Avengers team. Where Huat’s illustrations are usually wonderfully off-beat and a little disturbing, they just look wrong here. The art is well done, just out of place and doesn’t mesh with the writing.
His art, though, is very dynamic and full of energy. When the Punisher takes down an unnamed villain, the scene is quick, the action energetic, and the drawing conveys that all very well. While Huat’s actual figure and facial work doesn’t fit in with the story here as well as it could, the amount of liveliness in his art is hard to ignore and keeps things moving well.
Ultimately, this issue of “The Punisher” highlights why Frank Castle doesn’t really work in the Marvel universe as much anymore: the only villains he gets to kill are losers, which makes killing them meaningless and the Punisher a bit of a joke. We’re supposed to think that the Punisher is a force to be reckoned with and these nobodies are the cream of the crop when it comes to dead supervillains that the Hood can resurrect? Call me when the Punisher goes up against someone whose name I’ll remember in two weeks.