Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Punisher: Welcome Back Frank (v3 #1-12)

Writers: Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

Covers to #1-12, by Tim Bradstreet
Variant covers to #1 and #2 by Jerry Ordway, Steve Dillon and Dan Jurgens (#1), and Jimmy Palmiotti (#2)
-        Part of the Marvel Knights line, this is not the first time the Punisher has been a part of the Marvel Knights imprint. In 1998, he appeared in a limited series by Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski. Ennis makes fleeting reference to it in this series, but overall their Knights work is a footnote in the Punisher canon. The Punisher would also become a part of the eponymous series, Marvel Knights, launched only two months after this story and lasting for 15 issues. This 12 issue maxi-series would be followed by a second run of The Punisher by Ennis, which continued a few elements from this series.

-        Ennis' more famous work is perhaps Punisher MAX, a 'grim and gritty' version of the Punisher of ambiguous canon, released under Marvel's MAX imprint from for 60 issues from 2004-2008, before switching writers several times. Indeed, this was Castle's only series for that period, bar Fraction's run on War Journal from 2007-2009.

-        Dillon had also collaborated with Ennis on the creator-owned Vertigo series Preacher from 1995-2000, which told the tale of Jesse Carter, a possessed Texan preacher. The pair had also collaborated on a number of Hellblazer issues in the 90s for Vertigo (printed in the Tainted Love collection); Ennis was the first successor to the ongoing from the original writer, Jamie Delano, excluding fill-in writers. Hellblazer Special #1, entitled Confessional, originates their archetype of a Catholic priest who abuses his clergy from the confession booth, including incidents of sexual abuse and murder.

-        This story was one of the influences on the 2004 Punisher film, which starred Thomas Jane as Castle. Director Jonathan Hensleigh said:
"I was very heavily influenced by Garth Ennis', Welcome Back, Frank. That's where I took the tenement apartment, the characters of Spacker Dave, Joan the Mouse, Mr. Bumpo and the Russian. The Russian is appearing in probably the most elaborate and costly of our set pieces."
On the comedic tone of the series, he responded:
"Dead on-same tone. That’s what I liked so much about it-it was violent, tense and real, but it had a kind of jaunty, light-on-its-feet, droll tone."

Collected in:
  • The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank TPB (Marvel Comics, July 1st 2001), with the 1995 non-canon one-shot Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, Ennis' first work on the character.
  • The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank TPB (Panini Comics, Oct 10th 2001)
  • The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank HC (Marvel Comics, Aug 20th 2008)
  • The Punisher by Garth Ennis Omnibus (Marvel Comics, Dec 10th 2008), with the second series and Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe.
  • The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank TPB (Marvel Comics, Apr 13th 2011)
  • The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank Part 1 HC (Hachette Publishing, Nov 14th 2012)
  • The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank Part 2 HC (Hachette Publishing, Aug 7th 2013)
  • #1, #7, #11 and #12 are available as part of Marvel Unlimited. 


Continuity Notes

-        The Punisher summarises the events of the previous Marvel Knights series, which was written by Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoshi and saw the Punisher cast as "a supernatural avenging angel". Ennis juxtaposes this internal monologue with the descent of one of the Punisher's victims from the top of a skyscraper:
     "I caught a glimpse of heaven once.
     The angels showed me. The idea was I'd kill for them. Clean up their mistakes on earth. Tried it. Didn't like it. Told them where to stick it.
     So they brought me up to heaven, to see what I'd be missing. A wife. A son. A daughter. All finally at peace. I hadn't seen them since they bled out in my arms.
     Then I was cast down.
     Back to a world of killers. Rapists. Psychos. Perverts. A brand new evil every minute, spewed out as fast as men can give them up. A world where pitching a criminal dwarf off a skyscraper to tell his fellow scum you're back is a sane and rational act. The angels thought it would be hell for me.
     But they were wrong."
-        The Twin Towers is a part of the New York skyline. Clearly, this series occurs before the events of September 2001. The sequel War Zone would state that this original story occurs in 2000.

-        Castle's (ironically named) accident-prone neighour Nathanial Bumpo would be portrayed by John Pinette in the 2004 film. Spacker Dave was played by 23-year old Ben Foster, who would go on to play Angel in ­X-Men: The Last Stand. Apartment tenant and friend of Castle, Joan, was portrayed by Rebecca Romijin, another alumni of the X-Men movie universe, the older Mystique of the present day.


     Continuity Notes

-        Joe refers to the events of #1 as "last night."

-        Richthofen's partner Detective Martin Soap would be portrayed by Dash Mihok in the 2008 film Punisher: War Zone.

-        Castle's target is sniper Tall Joe Small, a veteran of the Gulf War. "[He[ capped fifty guns in Desert Storm. Trouble with that war was--it wasn't Vietnam." Castle's 'war' is an interesting question. More recent writers have avoided locking down a conflict, but in Ennis' world, Frank Castle remains a Vietnam vet. He would expand on those origins in Vietnam in 1970 in the 2003 MAX series Punisher: Born; later he would make clear that Frank was born in 1950. Perhaps he doesn't have the appearance or the physique of a 50 year old man; certainly, he is simply not a 64 year old in the most recent comics, but through whatever explanation, he remains an aged veteran who has experienced a lot. (The Punisher movies similarly avoided tying him to the Vietnam War: the 1989 film cast him as an ex-cop, whilst the 2004 film updated Castle to a member of Delta Force which, ironically, in light of this statement, also served in the Gulf.)


      Continuity Notes

-        The first five pages occur immediately after #2, whilst the remainder of the issue picks up on the events the following morning.

-        Father Redono and Mrs Pearce probably have the worst rapport ever, but the constant misunderstanding between the young Catholic priest and the elderly cleaner locks down a placement for this series. Pearce mistakes a victim of Redono for a Thanksgiving turkey (!), and says that he is months early - placing this story around Spring/Summer. (The sequel, War Zone, would occur in the Summer.) She mistakes the day for Tuesday, cleaning day: but Redono makes clear to her it is actually Friday. Given the (for the most part) daily structure for this series, this locks down #1 and #2 as Wednesday and Thursday. The idea of an amoral Christian is something Ennis and Dillon also explored in Preacher.

-        As we see on the cover, Daredevil faces off against Punisher in this issue: the only element of the wider Marvel Universe (even within the Knights imprint - Bendis' run was a part of Knights at this time), to appear in this series.


     Continuity Notes

-        The NYPD discover the hanged body of Buddy Plug in his office, having been assigned last issue to read over the dossier on Castle's atrocities. Given the frantic nature of the office, it's likely the body was discovered within hours of the last issue. Certainly, this issue occurs through the night (New York City Zoo is closed), a time of day the series fittingly seems to focus on.

-        Ma Gnucci is seemingly killed (she is actually hospitalised and reduced to a limbless body) after being fed to a pack of polar bears by the Punisher.


     Continuity Notes

-        We open ten days after last issue, per Ma Gnucci's dialogue.

-        The Punisher has been taking some downtime since last issue: "Most exciting thing to happen all week. Took some time out to heal. Not getting any younger."

-        Mrs Pearse says that she is at the church for "eight o'clock on Monday evenin'" cleaning (in #3 she thought cleaning day was Tuesday), but Redono clarifies that it is Thursday lunchtime. That issue dictates it should be a Monday - but given Pearse's (atrocious) memory, we cannot take any of the dates within the church with that much reliability.


     Continuity Notes

-        A member of Gnucci's mob recalls walking home and seeing the Punisher just after the fight with Gnucci in #4, past midnight, "staggerin' up the street" and leaving "a big traila blood." He reaffirms this was "ten days ago," placing #6 (or at least the first two pages of it) on the same day as last issue.

-        The media reports the killings of Elite and Mr Payback last issue as "last night": a woman's pet dog by Elite, and the Wall Street "massacre" of the Worldwide Investment Corporation's board of directors.

     Pop Culture

-        Richthofen and Soap pass the time searching for the Punisher by playing a movie based game. Molly: "It's a game. I give you the title of a movie, you have to come up with another one beginning with the last letter of mine. And so on." Their list includes Jaws (Richthofen), the infamous 1975 Spielberg film which adapted Peter Benchley's novel and told the story of a seaside attack by a shark, The Spanish Prisoner (Richthofen), a 1997 romance/suspense film directed by David Mamet (Soap: "Good movie.), and Raiders of the Last Ark, another Spielberg film which launched the Indiana Jones franchise.


     Continuity Notes

-        This issue picks up right after last issue.

-        Ma Gnucci summarises that the Punisher "killed eighty of my soldiers in the last two weeks. I've barely enough left to guard the house here."


-        Professional wrestler Kevin Nash played Ma Gnucci's hired 'hunk of meat' The Russian in the 2004 film.

    Pop Culture

-        Soap and Richthofen continue their film list in the bar:
     Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, a 1974 Clint Eastwood film (Richthofen); True Romance, a 1993 Tarantino film (Soap); Enter the Dragon (Richthofen), the final Bruce Lee film completed in his lifetime (his actual final film, the ironically named Game of Death, was completed with new footage posthumously); Near Dark (Soap), a 1987 cult vampire film ("Not your type, huh?"); The Killer (Soap), a 1989 Hong Kong film by John Woo; Reservoir Dogs (Soap), the 1992 Tarantino film (Richthofen: "Obvious." Soap: "Still a heck of a movie."); The Searchers, a 1956 John Wayne movie (Richthofen); Silent Running, an environmental based 1972 sci-fi film starring Bruce Dern (Soap); GoodFellas, (Richthofen) the 1990 crime film by Scorcese (Soap: "I guess that about sums it up."); Sahara (Soap), a 1943 Bogart film; Angel Heart (Richthofen), a 1987 psychological horror film, and To Kill a Mockingbird, the acclaimed 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee's novel.


     Continuity Notes

-        Ma Gnucci says it's been "three weeks" since she called The Russian, and she has heard no response.

-        Mr. Bumpo returns home to his apartment after his "minor stroke" in recent issues.

-        Richthofen walks Soap through the history of The Russian:
Richthofen: "Anyway, he first shows up in Afghanistan, where he seems to have spent most of the eighties..."
Soap: "What was he, Soviet Special Forces or something?"
Richthofen: "No, he was on vacation. He liked it there. He goes everywhere there's trouble. He thrives on it. The Lebanon, Iraq, Rwanda, East Timor...month or two in Chechnya, lot of stuff in the Balkans...periodic visits to Belfast, where he's supposed to have eaten a man for a bet... That's not counting ordinary criminal activity, which brings in the rest of the globe. He's worked for everyone from the Yakuza to Vegas P.D. -- and the mob, obviously... Sometimes he does it for money, sometimes just for fun. Pretty much everybody wants to kill him. And now... now he's our problem."


    Continuity Notes

-        This issue occurs immediately after last issue.


    Continuity Notes

-        This issue occurs immediately after last issue, and then follows on into the next morning. Richthofen notes "it's nearly six a.m." on page 14. "Let's hope it's Punisher day."

    Pop Culture

-        The game continues: The Dawn Patrol (Richthofen), a 1938 remake of the 1930 World War One movie, starring (as she points out) Errol Flynn and David Niven; and Local Hero (Soap), a 1983 British film about an oil company.


    Continuity Notes

-        The Punisher kills Ma Gnucci and the entirety of the Vigilante Squad in the closing scene. She will supposedly return in the sequel, War Zone.

-        This story occurs over a period of 36 days, uncommon for a story of this length (a year's worth of comics real time would generally equate to 3 months Marvel Time):

  •     #1 - day one, Wednesday
  •     #2 - day two, Thursday
  •     #3 - day three, Friday
  •     #4 - day three, Friday
  •     #5 - day thirteen, Monday
  •      #6 - day fourteen, Tuesday
  •      #7 - day fourteen, Tuesday
  •      #8 - day fourteen, Tuesday
  •     #9 - day thirty-five
  •     #10 - day thirty-five
  •      #11 - day thirty-six
  •      #12

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