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Monday, July 06, 2009

This Week's Suspended Animation - The Punisher: A Man Named Frank


The Punisher: A Man Named Frank, published by Marvel Comics in 1994, 48 pages, cover price $6.95.

Classic westerns are one of my favorite indulgences. Well-defined heroes and villains, as well as clear lines of right and wrong, black and white. That’s “classic”, in my book. That’s also an apt description of The Punisher: A Man Named Frank, from Marvel Comics.

The story isn’t much different from the modern-day origin of this hard-edged scourge of crime. A man loses his wife and children to outlaws and seeks revenge afterward. And, even though the reader is left with the assumption that his war on crime continues at tale’s end, perhaps the fact that we only see the guilty parties reap the whirlwind is why this Frank Castle seems a more sympathetic figure than his 21st Century counterpart. And, despite the lengths he goes to avenge his family, there is never any question that Frank is the hero of the story. That sympathy, as well as the dastardly and despicable nature of those vile villains, is why praise for entertaining characterization has to be laid on the shoulders of writer Chuck Dixon, a long-time comics mainstay.

In comics, however, a good story isn’t worth much without pretty pictures with which to tell it. That’s where John Buscema comes in. What can one say about Buscema’s art work? Plenty! John is a legend in the biz, and for good reason. His penchant for strong heroes, thoroughly unpleasant villains and grand action are evident by his expert ability to illustrate them in awe-inspiring fashion. His work grabs the reader and doesn’t let go without a fight. Of particular interest is the unbounded suffering and determination etched in Castle’s face early on, as he struggles to survive a harrowing fate. Very nearly epic.

The Punisher: A Man Named Frank is recommended for those who enjoy westerns, or just an uncomplicated, straightforward action tale. Find it at comics shops, conventions or online retailers and auctions.

Review by Mark Allen