The end really is nigh; Garth Ennis will be leaving the Punisher Max title soon marking the end of the golden age for this character. What are all of us happy Punisher fans to do?
Over the last eight years, a quiet revolution of sorts has been happening at Marvel. To be honest, it probably hasn't been all that quiet. Ask any Joe Blow in the comic shop and they will know that Garth Ennis has been manning the helm for the skull-chested one for a while now. However, it wasn't a flashy run that featured crossovers and boring character reveals. During this time, fans have been treated to a rare array of comic book benchmarks. Ennis oversaw the reviving of a character from the brink 1990's Marvel-style extinction, returning the principles of the character to the heart of the title, the skewering of the superhero genre, and finally, and most importantly, the boiling down of the character to his essentials by removing him from the unrealistic trappings of the Marvel Universe.
In essence, Garth Ennis has defined the Punisher. Now, over the next fifteen months, we fans will find out what happens to the character in the post-Ennis era. With the announcement last weekend that not one, but three writers would be taking the helm, fans got a small glimpse of what is to come in the land of the bloody skull. Three writers, three five-issue arcs. Let's take a short gander at this trio of stories and what fans should expect.
Greg Hurtwitz - Girls in White Dresses
A small Mexican village has several of its young female residents disappearing. In desperation, they send a messenger from the village to find the Punisher to help them out.
This sounds promising. The writer himself describes the story as a good mix of Seven Samurai and traditional Punisher bloodiness. Maybe this will be better than the recent Hate Monger arc with the Punisher going south. Under Ennis, Punisher was always great when he left his NYC element. Let's see if Hurwitz can continue the trend.
Duane Swierczynski - Six Hours to Kill
Injected with a slow acting poison, Punisher only has six hours to hunt.
Poison? Could be interesting, but it brings back terrible nightmares of the Dolph Lundgren Punisher movie. Remember the female Yakuza boss who gave her rivals poison? It was voice activated poison. Well, I suppose it was voice activated poison because the guys did not die until the Yakuza chief pointed it out. But still, this could be cool if it doesn't turn into some type of strange beat-the-clock fiasco. Swierczynski has already made a great mark on the character with the excellent Fore of Nature one-shot.
Victor Gischler - Welcome to the Bayou
Punisher stops at the edge of the Bayou and finds something quite disturbing.
Described by the writer as being a mix of Deliverance and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this story could either turn into a farce or it could be really good. I immediately get all sorts of stereotyped imagery popping into my brain. Now, Ennis was guilty of this in spades, but he pulled it off wonderfully. This arc promises debauchery, violence, and a surprise or two. Could be a strong arc.
Beyond these three writers, nothing was revealed for the Punisher's future. Punisher fans are left to ask: What's next? We have been a spoiled bunch the last few years, enjoying one of those rare comic book moments. A consistent creator has steered the ship for several years, shaping the vision of a company-owned character. Now, the new three writers show a return to modern Marvel style creator change patterns. Will one of these three writers become the regular scribe? Or are they waiting for a better creator to become freed up from an exclusive contract? It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out.
For now, though, the future looks as bright as it can for a character known for his dark side.