Review by Frank Plowright
The loose theme of this collection of Punisher stories is the art of Laurence Campbell, which its difficult to view as any kind of selling point. Alex Maleev’s Daredevil is an obvious inspiration. It’s gloomy and scratchy, monumentally static and all the computer tinkering with detail can’t disguise the shaky foundations. Considering the manner in which he lays the stories out, it’s difficult to imagine Campbell’s unaware of this, as full figure shots and anything involving movement are few and far between.
These stories originated in one-shot publications issued while Garth Ennis was writing the Punisher’s ongoing slaughter, and with four different writers they’re a contrasting selection. Interestingly, the stronger pieces feature the Punisher leading the plot, while he barely features in the other pair. ‘Butterfly’ by Valerie D’Orazio concentrates on a hit woman, who she is and why she is. Her turning point is deciding to write a book about her career as a form of exegesis and the complications that causes numerous people who’d rather their activities remain concealed. Mike Benson contributes ‘The Hunted’ in which low-level enforcer Eddie Gands’ options for survival diminish almost by the page after surviving the shootout that accounted for the remainder of his gang.
In ‘Naked Kill’ the Punisher learns snuff films are made on the eighth floor of a seemingly impenetrable building in which no metal objects are allowed, and access to the higher floors is by hand scan and retina print only. “I’ll have to improvise”, snarls the Punisher in Jonathan Maberry’s inventive story. The best of the bunch closes the collection. Rob Williams sends the Punisher to the UK’s SAS base of Hereford to deal with some rogue soldiers soiling the name of Britain’s elite force. What ranks it slightly above Maberry’s decent effort is an opening sequence that causes the Punisher to question himself and leads to a nasty finale.
This is published under Marvel’s Max imprint, so there’s plenty of potty-mouths and graphic depiction of violence. If preferable, the four stories here are incorporated into the sixth volume of Punisher Max: The Complete Collection.