The Punisher #20 and #21
"Brotherhood Part 1" and "Brotherhood Part 2"
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist Steve Dillon
Review by Abner Senires

What name strikes terror to criminals everywhere?

Well, "Keyser Soze" is correct, too. But I'm talking about the Man in Black.

Frank Castle.

The Punisher.

Following a trip across the pond and a short visit to the countryside, Frank's back in the Big Apple for this latest yarn. This time out, he's looking into a pair of cops who seem to have gotten themselves into a bit of a pickle. Detective Andy Seifert is trading coke for cash with a crew of crooked cops. His partner, Mike Pearce, tangles with demon rum and domestic difficulties. It makes for a messy combination and Frank's right in the thick of it.

As usual, Ennis and Dillon pull off the tale with their usual flair. Though not as over the top as Preacher, the duo nevertheless get down and dirty. And often violent.

In chronicling Frank's exploits, Ennis pairs edgy urban noir with a bit of black comedy. Where else can you find a creative use of a cell phone and a passing truck, (I'll admit it doesn't quite compare with the ingenious application of a flamethrower or tactical maneuvers involving polar bears from earlier issues but it works here). And in classic Punisher-style Frank takes out four approaching thugs using just a handgun without batting an eye--without looking--all the while interrogating a bad guy.

Like a good wine with a good meal, Dillon's visuals complement Ennis's writing. Jean "Moebius" Giraud meets Brian Bolland with John Woo sensibilities. Sure, there might be gore, violence, and mayhem in spades, but it serves a purpose and Dillon's style--lean, spare, and often cinematic--gets to the point in a few quick strokes.

(And of course we have to give kudos to the fabulous covers by the inimitable Tim Bradstreet. Dark and gritty, he captures the iconic look that is the Punisher. )

Two problems.

In #20, on page 7, Frank talks to Detective Soap about the two cops. At the bottom of the page, the dialogue is obviously Soap's but the panel shows Frank, not Soap. What happened here?

Then on pages 17-22 of the same issue, we find events that are supposed to be taking place at night. Yet all the exterior colors show daylight! In one panel on page 21, Pearce says: "Hey, it's one-thirty in the morning." But if you look at the previous panel, the sky above the exterior of the house is blue. Looks like somebody had a brainfart.

Then again, I could just be nit-picking.

In any case, "Brotherhood" is a good solid tale. A change of pace compared to, say, #16's tussle with Wolverine and a mob of little people. The next ish wraps up the story arc. Can't wait to see how Frank handles things.

If you're looking to catch up on Frank's previous fun and games (as told by Messrs. Ennis and Dillon), pick up the Punisher trade paperbacks starting with Welcome Back, Frank, followed by Army Of One, and Business as Usual. (For more of these storytelling masters and the unbridled mayhem they are capable of wreaking, pick up the Preacher trades...but that's another column for another time).

Thanks to Ennis and Dillon, I've finally gotten the bad taste of Dolph Lundgren's film version of the Punisher out of my mouth.

p.s. Speaking of film versions, word has it that a new Punisher movie is due to start production in May. Helmed by Jonathan Hensleigh (the screenwriter of Con Air and Armageddon), the film is slated for a 2004 release.