Garth Ennis

war stories

War Stories 1 (September 2014)

War Stories #1

Garth Ennis is back with more war stories–this time appropriately titled War Stories–and he’s off to an excellent start. The first arc of the new series has him covering an American flier in Britain in a bomber; well, the flier doesn’t actually get into a mission yet, with Ennis instead concentrating on his experiences before his first mission.

Then the first mission takes an unexpected turn or two.

Ennis writes in first person from the protagonist, talking about all the things he’s seeing as he journeys across the United States and then to Britain. There’s muted culture shock, there’s character development, there’s attention to detail. It’s excellent writing and Ennis obviously takes it very seriously.

Matt Martin’s art works out too. He has good composition and attention to period detail. Those pluses make up for the occasionally loose physical traits on people. Great tone though.

It’s outstanding stuff.

A 

CREDITS

Castles in the Sky, Part One of Three; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Matt Martin; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

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The Punisher 5 (December 2001)

The Punisher #5

Good grief–Ennis end the comic with a big Dubya is an alcoholic moron joke right before 9/11. Did they change the reveal for the trade?

It’s a dumb joke too. Instead of giving the Punisher an actual enemy, it gives Ennis a scene. He has lots of scenes this issue, some better than others, some pointless like this one. The big finale with the Russian is sort of pointless because there’s a predetermined finish to it.

Or maybe Ennis is keeping the Russian around even longer, because it’s easier for him to do absurdist humor than to write the comic.

There are a couple okay moments in the issue, like when the Punisher stands off against the big villain. The villain’s a mercenary general who has a long speech. Ennis goes for a cheap finish.

It’s a tired finish but it works okay… just like the comic itself.

B- 

CREDITS

No Limits; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Saida Temofonte; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Punisher-Army-of-One

The Punisher 4 (October 2001)

The Punisher #4

Ennis has lost track of any real person–by real person, I mean the bartender from the first couple issues or maybe one of Soap’s cop antagonists–and he’s back to having a jolly old time. Lots and lots of pop culture references. Some day you’ll need footnotes to understand all the references and then further footnotes to explain why they’re funny.

Oh, Sixth Sense plot twist jokes. Let me wipe the tear from my eye.

Still, Ennis is taking Frank a little more serious this issue. He’s the protagonist for his scenes in the issue, not the subject, not the butt of wry jokes. And Ennis does give him some vaguely interesting things to do. Not inventive so much, but diverting.

The problem is the lack of content and the villain. The villain is lame and boring, which even Ennis seems to accept.

Dillon does well on the art.

B- 

CREDITS

Dirty Work; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Punisher-Army-of-One

The Punisher 3 (September 2001)

The Punisher #3

It’s the Punisher on an island of dumb mercenaries. Or the next issue will be–and Ennis even goes so far as to promise it’ll be a good one for the soft cliffhanger. Actually, this issue is mostly exposition.

There’s exposition at the beginning while Frank hangs some corrupt cop off a roof for information, then it’s Frank narrated exposition about Mr. Big, then it’s Frank’s pilot with a bunch of exposition; all the action comes at the end on the island.

The strange part about the comic is how engaged Ennis gets with the material. There are a few times where he almost seems like he wants to be serious. Then he remembers he can’t be too serious, but the intention is definitely present.

The result is a mediocre comic in a lot of ways, but also the best issue of this Punisher series so far. Ennis’s finally interested.

B 

CREDITS

American Ugly; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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The Punisher 2 (August 2001)

The Punisher #2

More funny stuff from Ennis. He’s got some cheap jokes but he sure does thoughtfully arrange them. He’s even for a bunch of Marvel puns in the comic–referencing Giant-Size Man-Thing and Marvel Team-Up, though he could have gone further with the pun about the latter.

But the comic itself? The Punisher and the new, improved Russian duking it out on the Empire State Building. Spider-Man shows up. Foreshadowing. There’s not much else to it. It’s an amusing read; if Ennis had any good observations about Marvel comics, it’d be better, but it’s amusing enough.

The many misadventures of Martin Soap continues as well. Ennis doesn’t try hard with Soap either. He doesn’t have to try hard.

The Spider-Man cameo is sort of wasted and it doesn’t help Dillon can’t draw the costumed figure well.

But it’s fine. Painfully unambitious and disinterested and totally fine.

B- 

CREDITS

Does Whatever a Spider Can; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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The Punisher 1 (August 2001)

The Punisher #1

Garth Ennis takes a rather strange approach to this issue–and presumably this Punisher series. He does it as a comedy. There are levels of mocking, with the Punisher getting the least and Soap getting the most. There are some actual criminals in there and their stupidity gets mocked, but they’re at least aware. Soap isn’t even aware.

Meanwhile, Steve Dillon does some pretty good art on the issue. He’s not drawing anything particularly fantastic, subject-wise, but he’s doing good work.

I just read the comic and I can’t remember much about it. The cliffhanger is a big one, but not as big as the reveal of the villain. Ennis is going for Preacher-level absurdity without any justification. It’s goofy, but he thinks it’ll be funny, so he’s using it. Not just logic be darned, but sense of reality be darned.

He’s not trying, but it’s still okay.

B- 

CREDITS

Well Come On Everybody and Let’s Get Together Tonight; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher (2000)

The Punisher 12 (March 2001)

The Punisher #12

Why is the only good scene in the issue–besides the apartment cast’s send-off, of course–when Soap meets the Punisher? The rest of the stuff with Soap is dumb, as are the other subplot resolutions, but there’s something about that scene. Maybe Ennis thinks of the reader as Soap, someone dumb enough to be amused even after a seagull tags you’re forehead.

Because The Punisher is pointless. There’s no story for Frank, not since the first or second issue. There’s no story for the mobsters or the cops. The story for the apartment cast would be more amusing than this comic but only because Ennis actually worked on them.

The series has had some very high points, but Ennis failed to follow through on anything. He introduced ideas, did some development, then forgot them.

Even Dillon seems to have given up a little, especially with his figure drawing.

D 

CREDITS

Go Frank Go; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Stuart Moore and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher (2000)

The Punisher 11 (February 2001)

The Punisher #11

Ennis continues with the goofy issues. The dialogue out of this one is hideous. Ennis is going for cheap one liners. It’s awful.

But, hey, the detectives might have something to do next issue. Maybe for a minute or two. Though Ennis could have given them something to do this issue; instead he reminds the reader of their presence, which he’s been doing for the last few issues. Promising they’ll eventually pay off.

Kind of like the other idiot vigilantes. It’s not good comic relief or anything else at this point. Ennis tries to rationalize the absurd way too much in this comic. He goes for humor in those rationalizations and it gets old fast.

The supporting cast all get their page time this issue and Ennis continues to protect them.
Like everything else, Ennis has no idea what to do with them but at least they are likable characters.

C 

CREDITS

Any Which Way You Can; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Stuart Moore and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Rover Red Charlie

Rover Red Charlie 6 (May 2014)

Rover Red Charlie #6

Garth Ennis just made me cry.

Jerk.

I’m not sure Red Rover Charlie has the most honest finish, but it has the finish the series needs. Ennis manages to reward the reader–which he definitely should, given the four dollar price tag per issue–and he does it with breaks. There are a whole lot of endings in this issue and Ennis keeps doing them through the rewarding ones to the somewhat profound ones.

There are actually quite a few profound moments in the comic, both about animals, humans, the idea of pets and then the idea of nature itself. It’s actually a rather lovely comic.

All the sentiments are difficult to balance out and it might be where Ennis has the most success. He’s very sure of himself and willing to risk going too far to make it work.

Some very nice art from DiPascale too.

Charlie’s an unexpectedly great series.

A 

CREDITS

The Angel With His Darker Draught; writer, Garth Ennis; artist and colorist, Michael DiPascale; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

The Punisher (2000)

The Punisher 10 (January 2001)

The Punisher #10

An issue long fight scene with the Punisher mostly getting his butt kicked. Ennis goes for light, edgy humor from the Russian. Nothing too far, but some of the jokes are still smart.

Then there are detectives Molly and Soap. They get a talking heads scene and then it’s off to the vigilantes teaming up. Unfortunately, Ennis doesn’t have anything for the detectives to talk about because they’re not doing anything anymore. They’re sitting around.

The vigilantes are not sitting around, they are driving around. Ennis goes for a lot of humor with them. It’s the worst he’s done with the Elite one and Mr. Payback. This issue brings them down to the level of the priest. It’s really too bad.

As for that big fight scene… it’s only the first round. There’s another round; hopefully Ennis will have mercy and cut to the best parts instead of plodding through.

C 

CREDITS

Glutton for Punishment; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher (2000)

The Punisher 9 (December 2000)

The Punisher #9

Enter the Russian and Ennis bringing in another weak villain, but one he can try to use for humor. Why use him for humor? Apparently there’s not enough comedy with the Punisher caring about his neighbors. The scenes with the neighbors are all soft, sensitive scenes. I thought Frank was going to tell the overweight guy to eat healthy.

The villain gives the mob story some freshness and then the detectives get some freshness and it feels like something might be happening. But it’s not really happening, it’s just Soap and Molly talking and Ennis trying to figure out the most rewarding moments. Rewarding to the reader, not to the story, which is the big problem.

Even the good scenes don’t hold up. Ennis has Frank too jaded, given though he’s clear about the series not being too jaded. They’re probably supposed to be black humor moments but they flop.

C 

CREDITS

From Russia with Love; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher (2000)

The Punisher 8 (November 2000)

The Punisher #8

It’s kind of a talking heads issue. There’s some action with Frank having to save Dave and he bonds a little with Joan. Ennis has problems working Frank into the humor. He’s the Punisher is the punch line to too many of Ennis’s jokes.

There’s also a lot with Soap and Molly. They don’t serve a purpose in the story at all, so Ennis just fills out with them. They’re another enjoyable part of Ennis’s big Punisher story, which ostensibly should have been about him getting Ma Gnucci.

She’s not a good villain though. So Ennis has to do really awful things around her to make her seem like a good villain. The secret of this series is its shallow depth. Ennis is just doing enough character work to make it seem substantial, but he’s really just trying to get done with his twelve issues.

And he’s doing relatively fine.

B- 

CREDITS

Desperate Measures; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Red-Team

Red Team 7 (March 2014)

Red Team #7

I think they must have wanted to sell it to cable. Ennis does a great season one finish. Not, you know, like a good narrative finish or something. But a good commercial one. You can just see it on the TV screen.

But Ennis has lost his characters. They’re secondary to his big action sequence and it’s not a good one. It doesn’t play well in a comic. Ennis goes with short lines of dialogue and they don’t resonate when being read in a row. There’s not enough content. It’s all flash.

Cermak does a little better with the action. Except his art seems much slicker than before. There’s not as much energy to the comic and it needs a bunch for this last issue.

Ennis peaked early on this book but the conclusion is far worse than one would have thought. The ending feels tacked on and wholly artificial.

C- 

CREDITS

The Rules (Reprise); writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Craig Cermak; colorist, Adriano Honorato Lucas; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Hannah Gorfinkel, Molly Mahan and Joe Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Punisher (2000)

The Punisher 7 (October 2000)

The Punisher #7

Should I call this a bridging issue or maybe I should call it a highway interchange issue because Ennis is bringing so much together. This subplot meets this other subplot and leads into the connection to the next subplot. It goes on and on.

It’s amusing. Ennis writes it well. The stupid priest thing has the detectives in it and they’re still funny. Whenever Ennis writes loser guys and their female partners who don’t want them romantically, it’s good. He should really do a series of just them.

Oh, yeah, Frank’s neighbors–who he mocks in his first person narration–once again get the kid glove treatment from Ennis. Dave and Joan are protected characters. Ennis coddles them; it’s a strange thing, since they’re the most obvious characters for him to coddle.

Still, it’s pretty good. Mr. Payback and the Elite are both funny. Ennis’s clearly exercising entertainment over ambition.

B 

CREDITS

Bring out Your Dead; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editor, Joe Quesada; publisher, Marvel Comics.