Page 45 Review by Stephen
Full contents below, but here are a few stories which stood out.
Written by Mike Benson, 'The Hunter' is one of the most tense and unnerving PUNISHER short stories I've ever read thanks in no small part to its artists, Laurence Campbell (line) and Lee Loughbridge (colour).
There's a sweaty, midnight intensity throughout, but the scenes set in the rain-slashed city were especially terrifying. The glaring yellow squares of high-rise window lights reflected on the streaming car window successfully erode the shadows in front of them so that the Punisher's face looming out of the darkness comes as a sudden shock to the system.
And Eddie is terrified. He helped torch a tenement full of squatters using a bag of live rats soaked in petrol, and one by one Frank Castle, implacable, unstoppable, has taken the others to task. No one will give Eddie refuge now, it would be suicide.
By the same artists, 'Girls In White Dresses', written by Gregg Hurwitz, had a real Garth Ennis bite to it.
Castle travels south across the border to a town whose women are being bundled into vans in the middle of the night then dumped days later, destroyed. What's been happening to them during their abduction? Castle finds himself cleverly played before finally putting the pieces together, only to discover he really doesn't like the full puzzle picture.
Goran Parlov's Punisher has always been a beefy delight (see PUNISHER MAX COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL 3 and VOL 4) and here he returns for Victor Gischler's 'Welcome To The Bayou'. He plays burlesque straighter than most and so, to my mind, far better. Here with the help once again of colourist Lee Loughbridge he renders a swamp that's as dangerous in the dark as the road that rides past it during the day is innocuous.
Beautiful, bright colours on the verge as Frank Castle, en route to New Orleans to deliver a heavily sedated package, is passed by a crowd of loud students in an open-topped sports car. Both parties end up pulling over at a remote patrol shack - they for beer, Frank for petrol - and it seems like they're already a little tipsy. Probably why they don't notice the ogling and the distinctly dodgy decor ("My guess: this place doesn't get a lot of repeat business"). Yep, there's something not quite right about that there pit stop which is why, when the students fail to overtake Castle again, he pulls over to wait for them.
"I decide to give it ten minutes.
"Then I give it ten more minutes.
What follows is a perfect blend of Garth Ennis' PREACHER and PUNISHER. In fact the locals during their hoe-down make Jesse's clan look restrained. Castle's beautifully succinct and, behind Parlov's sunshades, as impassive as ever but he's in for a rude awakening.
That, some dangling, and a great deal of wading.
Collects PUNISHER MAX ANNUAL 2007, PUNISHER: FORCE OF NATURE, PUNISHER: LITTLE BLACK BOOK, PUNISHER (2004) #61-65 and PUNISHER: FRANK CASTLE MAX #66-75.