I don't know if anyone was paying attention to our rotating crew of reviewers on "Punisher War Zone," but for the first time in CBR review-section history, each of the six reviewers took a turn evaluating the quality of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Frank Castle miniseries. And we all liked our respective issues quite a bit.
I think that's a testament to the consistently high quality of this six-issue, near-weekly series.
I don't think "Punisher War Zone" ends quite as strongly as it began, but it's still a very good finish and a tried-and-true product of the Ennis/Dillon team. I spent a whole "When Words Collide" column talking about my late-to-the-party, but exuberant, adoration of the first Ennis/Dillon "Punisher" collaboration, and this new mini was an explicit callback to the plot, characters, and tone of "Welcome Back Frank." If it lacks a certain shock of the new, and it does, then at least it's a refreshingly dark comedy of violence and failed revenge, much more tongue-in-cheek than Ennis's "Punisher MAX." It's sadistic fun of a particular, Frank Castle, variety.
The finale to "The Resurrection of Ma Gnucci" opens with an extensive fight scene, and though it lacks Ennis's signature verbal wit, it doesn't lack for comedy, as Lieutenant Molly von Richthofen ends up wearing nothing but her undies, guns blazing in her hand. The tightly-wound, conservative von Richthofen finds herself in a lascivious-looking team-up with the Punisher, and the visual gags are followed by a scandalous newspaper article titled "Sexy Lesbian Lieutenant in Punisher Team-Up Carnage!" The resulting awkwardness, and violent retaliation, is classic Ennis.
Ennis also wraps up the Ma Gnucci/Elite plotline with a vicious climax, but rather than give away those particular grisly details, I'd just like to commend Steve Dillon for another job well done. A cursory glance at his work might not allow you to fully appreciate the depths of his talent, and it may even seem like he's drawing comics the same was he has for the past couple of decades. But his work in recent years has gained a greater sense of dimensionality, moving beyond the flat planes he emphasized for so long, and giving his comic book worlds a visual depth. He also tells a story with perfect clarity and grace, and his art on this comic -- as bloody as the subject matter can be -- is a wonderful cure for the chaotic muddiness that taints so many mainstream comics these days.
"Punisher War Zone" #6 is a cynically gleeful comic, and it makes no apologies for it.