The Punisher (#14 – 18, 1989) – Mike Baron

3 out of 5

Pun takes on The Kingpin.

This five issue run works in moments, but doesn’t fit together as a whole.  Whilce Portacio’s pencils also start to falter, here, a little too loose for the character work needed for the ensemble cast.  Scott Williams takes over with finishes after a couple of issues, which helps to tighten it up, but it’s still Wilce’s layouts, which work better with widescreen action and not as much of the dialoguing and ground war stuff that occurs a lot here, so something that should feel like an epic never syncs that way visually.  Letterer Ken Bruzenak also shows a weakness at handling the various interacting characters, with balloon reading order very frequently lost during conversations.

But those moments are great: when Frank goes undercover as a a high school teacher, setting him on the trail of drugs that leads up to ‘Pin; when Frank and his gathered crew of cronies plan and execute some roundabout ways to bilk KP out of his finances; one-on-one squabbles between the good guys and the assassins dispatched their way…  All of these elements swirl around, keeping the five issues afloat with fun, and grimly over-the-top interactions, it just never comes makes for a satisfying, whole story, and paints an inconsistent picture of Frank.  The high school bit is abandoned too quickly, and so doesn’t connect well enough to what follows; Frank teams up with some help to take down the ‘pin, which is logical, but it also comes about rather hastily.  And there’s a frankly insane bit late in the run where Castle suddenly doesn’t care about blowing up innocent folks if he can get to the Kingpin, which I don’t recall ever having been part of his personality.  Rather than use this as some sort of plotpoint, Pun just shrugs it off a panel later when someone convinces him to do something else.

The showdown is rather an average one, from a comic book perspective – nothing changes; status quo restored – which makes it all the more odd that it was allotted five issues and given quite a bit of buildup.