The Punisher (#21 – 25) – Mike Baron

5 out of 5

Holy crow… a fantastic Punisher story; some of Baron’s best writing; kickass comic book moments that have you cackling with glee as you goggle over Erik Larsen’s kinetic explosions and actionry…  Punisher #21 – 25 makes a somewhat complex interweaving of stories seemed quite simple, floating us from a boxing fight fixer to warring ninja tribes in Japan to corporate intrigue seamlessly, all delivered with the delightful Baron off-handedness that works to either make Frank terse or jocular as befits the scene.  Roped into this are Carl Potts’ Shadowmasters ninjas, crossing over from War Journal, who make for much more logical associates than the amateurs Frank just sort of bumped into in the underwhelming Kingpin arc; they take their fight – along with leaders of their Yakamoto clan – to the rival Eternal Sun clan and beyond, with tons of tense bow-and-arrow- / knife- / gun- / martial arts-play, grittily detailed by Larsen, rolled out judiciously between the set-up conversations and amusing camaraderie had amongst our hero crew.  Baron gives Frank an interesting counterpart in Kathryn Yakamoto and an equally interesting – as her motives seem to extend past the usual one-dimensional villain stuff – quarry in a woman named Iris Green.

A perfect run of issues: an evolving, well-delivered plot; a sane, logical Punisher; and wicked, exciting action.