Review by Karl Verhoven
Welcome Back Frank proved so popular that a Punisher series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon duly followed. It’s the same blend of funny elements and dialogue intruding into what are well-plotted stories for a comically satisfying read.
Having intended the previous story as a standalone, Ennis was faced with immediate problem of having to restore some of his cast to their previous status. Incompetent police detective Joe Soap ended up in rather a surprising position, and that’s immediately rectified. A fall from grace is compounded in spectacular fashion as Soap drowns his sorrows in a bar. Also returned is the Russian, decapitation having proved only a temporary inconvenience, and he’s very much at home in a surprising new body. Despite the utterly unbelievable circumstances of his reappearance, there’s surely not a reader who isn’t glad to see him back. “You and I have much in common”, he tells the Punisher, “both always popping up when we are least expected. Shoot us! Stab us! Beat us! Behead us! But there we are, the proverbial bad pennies.” That segues into what’s possibly the most bizarre Spider-Man team-up of all time.
All that, though, is merely the appetiser. The Punisher has been targeted, and, it seems, by some people in very high places, people able to arrange for the New York police to turn a blind eye as paramilitary forces operate in the city. The trail leads to a remote island where someone is gathering the foremost mercenaries from around the globe. Can even the Punisher withstand an entire island full of men similar to himself?
Two other tales here head more in the direction that Ennis would later take the Punisher. There’s no humour about an ex-marine down on his luck and at the end of his tether, nor in a wordless tale written by Dillon about the remorseless Punisher on the hunt.
This doesn’t match Welcome Back Frank. The five chapter tale giving the book its title starts well, but doesn’t maintain the comedy, the thrills or the tension, although there is a fine finale. The two accompanying tales are makeweights.
Army of One is combined with the remainder of Ennis and Dillon’s work on this incarnation of the character as Punisher by Garth Ennis Omnibus, now long out of print and very expensive if you can find it.