The Punisher: Man Of Stone (#37 – 42, Marvel MAX, 2004) – Garth Ennis

3 out of 5

Man Of Stone is something of an aside for Garth’s Pun MAX run – setting it somewhat alongside the Russian arc, to which it’s essentially of a sequel – but as it’s a story generated completely off of internal loose ends, it doesn’t quite feel as motivated as other arcs.

Frank Castle hears of a blanket price-on-his-head from Russian sources, and ties it back to his secret op therebouts several issues ago.  An “accidental” spotting of the notorious  ‘Man Of Stone’ Russian general on camera – spread to all news outlets – confirms it, and has Frank getting back into contact, directly or indirectly, with familiar MAX faces: O’Brien, Yorkie, Rawlins.

The logic that has Frank traveling out to Afghanistan as the ‘smartest play’ feels a little janky, and too much of the conflict comes across as “movie” smart; that is: it’s all controlled and planned, according to Frank, but if you look past the excitement of the explosions and blood, it seems like there might’ve been a better way.

Of course, these criticisms are easy when Garth Ennis has set the bar so high on his series, keeping it relatively grounded such that these issues just read a bit Hollywood in comparison.  It’s still quality; it’s still Frank-as-scripted-by-Garth; it’s still Leandro Fernandez with Dan Brown’s colors.  …Although to that last point, Leandro is inking himself her, and it admittedly loses something; he’s logically very true to his line, and we can see that his previous inkers may have added a bit of grit by scratching up the page.

Man Of Stone continues the non New York-vibe of Barracuda, and seems kinda besides the point of the black portrait of The Punisher Garth has heretofore been painting, but it’s also a smart way to resolve several loose ends as we pass into the latter half of Garth’s MAX run.