Review by Frank Plowright
The Marvel Noir run of titles re-imagined familiar Marvel characters in a stylised and atmospheric 1930s, and this larger volume collects what was previously released as Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without A Face and Punisher: Noir, none of them poor.
Both the first Spider-Man tale and the Punisher re-work toy with reader expectation when it comes to familiarly named characters, and in both cases there’s a fair amount of set-up before the true character emerges. Not that this is bad thing as artists Carmine di Giandomenico (Spider-Man) and Paul Azaceta (Punisher), excel at providing the grimy and dimly-lit world in which the characters come to operate.
Spider-Man first has to deal with a crimelord named the Goblin, employing several henchmen based on the ‘real’ Spider-Man’s earlier villains, with some requiring little alteration, fitting as easily into the 1930s as they did in Steve Ditko’s 1960s. This Peter Parker, though, is a different character, starting as irritatingly righteous, and other familiar faces appear: journalists Jonah Jameson and Ben Urich, and Felicia Hardy, here the glamorous proprietor of the Black Cat nightclub.
The cast members who survive the first Spider-Man Noir story are re-visited in Eyes without a Face, by the same writing team of David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky. This diverges slightly from the Noir theme by introducing the bizarre and cruel scientific experimentation carried out by one Otto Octavius, whose wheelchair and zealousness can’t help bring to mind Dr Strangelove. It’s a story that has its moments, but is overly gruesome and straying from the classic noir elements weakens it.
Frank Tieri writes the Punisher segment, delivering a shocker to end every chapter, which is commendable. He involves several characters who’ll be familiar to those who’ve read Garth Ennis’ Punisher books, along with possibly the Punisher’s only recurring villain, Jigsaw. Tieri’s plot is inventive, depicting just how far the Punisher will go to obtain information, and playing throughout with reader expectation. Finely paced opening pages have the Punisher preparing to head out as he listens to the title sequence from a radio show about a vigilante killer of criminals, echoing the Shadow.
None of these stories are essential reading, but all offer a decent dose of well-drawn entertainment.