The Punisher: Barracuda (#31 – 36, Marvel MAX, 2004) – Garth Ennis

4 out of 5

From drek-filled NYC streets to sunny Florida; from the gritty art of Leandro Fernandez / Dan Brown to Goran Parlov’s / Guilia Brusco’s wonderfully buoyant and bright world and peoples, and Parlov’s grizzled hulk of a Punisher.

It’s a change.  And it’s maybe kind of a sidestep to “classic” Garth Ennis mode, with more crass, ribald humor than our other MAX entries, and a kind of black and white morality that allows Pun to wipe out a whole bunch of corporate criminals without blinking, but it’s a wisely timed shift, a breather from the bleakness of what we’ve recently read through.  All propped up on who would become a major fixture of mayhem for Garth Ennis’ books – and making his mark, picked up by writers after him – the nigh-unstoppable killer-for-hire, Barracuda.

You can tell that Garth ended up having fun with the character, as Frank is almost an incidental player in the arc: it starts with Barracuda, and most of the conversations we witness are with Barracuda, expressing much muthafuckin’ delight over the nonsense always happening around him.  Frank gets involved when he slaughters some dealers and hears of Wall Streeters planning a big, horrid, to-do;  his decision to get involved prompts the head business honcho to sic ‘cuda upon him, and the aftermath involves hilarious violence between the two brawlers, and lots of people becoming shark food.

Barracuda, as a story, relies wholly on rich people being despicable, and, on its own, would be a sort of predictable Garth tale, potentially supplanted into or from any one of his other various books – Preacher, MK Punisher, etc.  But the inclusion of Barracuda ups it a notch, and spins the story such that, as a rarity, The Punisher gets to be very much out of his element.