Comic Book Review: Punisher: War Journal #6

Punisher: War Journal has earned high marks from The Revolution. I have been impressed with the job that Matt Fraction has done on this young series. This title has been a consistently good read and has certainly exceeded my expectations. I am sure that Punisher: War Journal #6 is going to be another solid read. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Ariel Olivetti

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We start with out in the middle of a desert tied to a pole thinking how he is going to die out here. We then flashback to earlier with a 911 operator taking various emergency calls. One of them is from a coyote who just smuggled four Arab men across the border and that they were talking about an imminent attack on San Diego. That the Arab men left a bag if identification in his truck including passports. The coyote said he sealed it with black tape and three it over the wall along mile-marker 206.

We see police searching for the bag along the wall. Suddenly, there are a bunch of massive explosions from the Mexico side of the wall. We shift to the location of the explosions and see white men in white uniforms with swastikas on their chests. (What the hell? Oh you have to be kidding me! We are getting Nazi themed villains? It is 2007 right? I cannot fucking believe it.)

The Nazi soldiers absolutely lay waste to this small Mexican town, burning homes and killing families. A woman photographs all the carnage. The leader of the Nazi soldiers approaches the woman and tells her to tell the whole world what she has seen tonight and tell them that America is for Americans. (Huh? Of course America is for Americans. No matter where you are from, once you are a citizen you are an American.)

We shift to a SHIELD Helicarrier. Bridge tells Sitwell that he has intel on where the Punisher is currently located. Bridge says this will be the end of Punisher and the end of Bridge’s career.

We cut to Punisher and Stuart Clarke quickly loading up a van full of guns and scuba equipment. Suddenly, SHIELD troops swoop into the area. Punisher and Stuart take off in their van. The SHIELD troops pursue the van. Punisher takes out a couple of SHIELD troops. More SHIELD troops engage in the pursuit. They shoot the van which causes the van to fly off a bridge and into the water.

Bridge orders a SHIELD scuba team to search for bodies. We see Punisher and Stuart grabbing some of the scuba equipment in the fan and put it on and swim off. The SHIELD scuba team arrives on the scene. The Punisher takes out several of the SHIELD scuba team.

Punisher and Stuart then swim to shore. We then cut to the Punisher and Stuart in some diner out west. It must be near the border since Stuart buys a Mexican newspaper. Stuart shows it to Punisher. On the cover of the newspaper is a picture of the leader of the Nazi soldiers that slaughtered the Mexican border town. Punisher recognizes the man immediately. It is Hate-Monger. Punisher tells Stuart that they have to steal a car. That Punisher is going to Mexico to shoot Hate-Monger in the face.

We shift back to the present with Punisher tied to the pole in the desert. Hate-Monger holds a Captain America styled costume that Punisher had been wearing. Hate-Monger has some evil looking dogs with him. (Even the dogs are white!! HA! Do the dogs goose-step, too? You know, I never thought about it, but are white dogs racist?)

Hate-Monger says that because of Punisher’s little Captain America themed outfit and the Punisher’s border war that the Punisher is going to die out here and that Hate-Monger is going to pull the trigger. End of issue.

The Good: Punisher: War Journal #6 was certainly a fast paced issue. Fraction crammed tons of action into this issue. If you are an action freak, then this issue is definitely for you. Usually I am not a huge fan of issues that are nothing but one massive brawl-fest, however I don’t mind it on the Punisher.

Punisher is not a cerebral character. Punisher is a primal, instinctual force of nature. Punisher is unbridled violence. So, Punisher is the exception to my rule that you can’t lean heavily on massive brawls to carry a title. You definitely can with the Punisher since that is the very essence of his character.

I dig the combo of Stuart Clarke and the Punisher. These two completely opposite characters have great chemistry. They are such an odd couple. And Fraction gives Clarke plenty of funny lines. The scene with Clarke and Punisher trying to get away from the SHIELD troops in a van is a good example of that.

Punisher tells Clarke he has the situation in control and Clarke figures Punisher has some cool weapons hidden in the van. I love how incredulous Clarke was when he sees that Punisher’s big plan to take out the pursuing SHIELD troops was to throw a big box at them.

Fraction serves up plenty of good dialogue. I like Punisher’s blunt and no-nonsense dialogue. Punisher is a man of action and not words. Fraction captures this attitude perfectly.

Ariel Olivetti cranks out more excellent artwork on this issue. I love his painted style of art. Olivetti’s artwork gives Punisher: War Journal a pleasant and unique look. Olivetti does an incredible job bringing Fraction’s story to life.

The Bad: Punisher: War Journal #6 would have gotten 7 Night Girls out of 10. However, the Nazi Rule violation brings an automatic 2 point deduction dropping this issue to 5 Night Girls out of 10. Are you kidding me? It is 2007 right?

C’mon, Fraction, you are way too talented to get this damn lazy. I have been so impressed my Fraction’s writing and have praised his efforts on Punisher: War Journal and over on Iron Fist. And then Fraction goes and does this. Fraction trots out the lamest, most unoriginal literary tool in the world of comic books: The Nazi themed villain.

It smacks of a lack of creativity and is inexcusable. Hate-Monger is an incredibly lame character that didn’t need to make a comeback in the Marvel Universe. And if Fraction really felt the need to bring back Hate-Monger then put a twist on the character and make a new Hate-Monger, but this time make him a Nation of Islam member or a Hispanic who is a reconquistador and wants to take back the southwestern part of the United States. Honestly, pick a new themed villain that would actually challenge readers to think other than trotting out the same old tired and worn out Nazi themed villain.

Looking at the world of comic books, you would think that America was overrun with Nazis. You would also think that the only racists are blancos. Well, my hometown of Miami is only about 18% white. That leaves about 60% Hispanic and around 20% black. And believe me, there is plenty of racism in Miami and it isn’t coming from that small percentage of blancos.

And the racial makeup of Miami is probably how the rest of America’s major cities will look in another 50 to 75 years. So, if we really want to solve racism in America, we might want to stop viewing white people as the source of all racism.

This was certainly the weakest issue so far in Fraction’s run. This current story arc involving the Hate-Monger lacks any intrigue and seems to veer off the original mission of this title. I was under the impression that Punisher was going to take his one man war against super villains in New York.

This story arc seems to be a strange diversion. Maybe Fraction is going to have the Punisher on the run through out the entire country and randomly fighting villains along the way. Over the first six issues, Fraction has really struggled to create a clear direction for this title.

Issue #1 kicks off this title with the concept of the Punisher renewing his war on super villains. Then the story takes a detour for issues #2 and #3 as we dealt with the events of Civil War. We then get a one-shot issue for issue #4 with the Punisher renewing his war on the super villain community by taking out the bar full of C-list villains. Then we get another one-shot issue in issue #5 dealing with Captain America’s death. Now we get this story arc involving Hate-Monger and his Nazi troops.

Fraction just seems to be all over the place with this young title. Fraction really needs to settle down and start creating a long term plan for this title. Personally, I liked the concept of Punisher waging his war on super villains around New York while dodging SHIELD and Bridge at the same time.

Overall: Punisher: War Journal was a disappointing read. I expect more from Fraction than what he gave us with this issue. I still think that this title has plenty of potential and that Fraction will get it moving in a positive direction quickly. I guess I’ll just have to suffer through this Hate-Monger story arc before I start enjoying this title again.

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