Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

06 July 2006

Wolverine / Punisher, v. 1

Collects: Wolverine / Punisher #1-5 (2004)

Released: September 2004 (Marvel)

This one’s simple, even by Punisher standards: Wolverine and Punisher find a fabled jungle city where criminals hide from the Punisher. Death and small arms fire (not in that order) ensue.

But that’s overly simplistic. Wolverine / Punisher is a book that illustrates writer Peter Milligan’s oddball style. The jungle town is called Erewhon (“nowhere” spelled backwards — almost), which is taken from Samuel Butler’s satire of Victorian England as a utopia. The criminals aren’t exactly hardcases, like mobsters or gangbangers; they’re violently insane and choose names for themselves like “Napoleon,” “the Atheist,” “the Demon,” and “the Lady.” Erewhon was founded by Nazis, and it’s certainly hinted that Adolph was the founding Nazi. Milligan points out that to the Punisher, Wolverine is a “limp-wristed liberal” even though everyone else sees him as considerably less than enlightened.

This is more of a Punisher story than a Wolverine story, with the Punisher killing and killing and killing while Wolverine has trouble with a small group of thugs and fails in the only two tasks he attempts to achieve. Although the Punisher does get put in some jeopardy, he spends most of his time in workmanlike carnage while Wolverine gets to be a punching bag.

Which is the main problem. The villains put their plan into motion to lure the Punisher to Erewhon, and it works, except that it draws in Wolverine as well. For the most part, it’s the Punisher vs. the residents of Erewon after that, with Wolverine being drawn into a side plot and occupied chiefly by the Atheist. Milligan goes to great lengths to keep Wolverine out of the Punisher’s story, even having a crossbow bolt shot through Wolverine’s unbreakable adamantium skull. A great deal of the action is attributed to a deus ex bookkeeper named Books, who does as more to move the story along than Wolverine.

Lee Weeks’s pencils are an asset, depicting the carnage well, with sort of a Romita Jr. feel that manages to get across the bloodbath without descending into cartoonishness. His jungle is hot and claustrophobic, and the villains look tired and middle-aged — just as you’d expect criminals harried into fleeing into the godforsaken jungle to look.

This is a light book — well, as light as a Punisher story gets. If you like Milligan’s sense of humor, fine; otherwise, this probably isn’t for you. It certainly doesn’t measure up to his best Marvel work, such as X-Statix.

Grade: B-

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