4 out of 5
Whew, we’re gettin’ close to Ennis’ straight run of perfection on Punisher MAX. He had to take some room to level set on the first arc, and after clearing out the mob within those pages, arc two has him (and Frank Castle) doing something similar with the gangs. Ah, but it’s the Irish gangs, which feels like a funny corner of crime to jump to for the very-New York Castle, but it gives Ennis a chance to bang on about the uselessness of the IRA in the modern world.
A past acquaintance of Frank’s nips from o’er seas to NY following, as part o’ police work, a high-profile IRA target. Said target was responsible for a bomb going off at a bar while Frank was taking a nosh next door, so he’s interested in following up on his own terms; having the team-up to give him the lay of the lands and some backup firepower is a bonus.
This is, of course, a little funny considering that we just got done with Castle basically selling us on how he works alone, and, as mentioned, this all feels a little un-localized – it’s a solid arc, but more like something we’d come to after, perhaps, a few more defining hits.
Ennis admittedly gets his opinionating down to just a few spare moments, otherwise giving us more down and dirty Punisher work as the various Irish gangs square off in pursuit of some supposedly long lost treasure. There’s a vile badguy with his face half-bombed off (and subsequently re-patched on); there’s a gangster being chopped up and FedExed, bit by bit, to his wife; there are gunfights galore; and arting it all is the inimitable Leandro Fernandez, an amazing choice as followup to Lewis Larosa and proving that the computer grading on the coloring wasn’t necessary to maintain the title’s grit. The pacing, excusing the aside for political musings, is aces, introducing all the warring gang factions cleanly and balancing the Punisher team-up aspect so it feels like there’s a reason for them to be working together.