Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Any good Garth Ennis tale (and by extension that includes artist Steve Dillon) will involve topics like honor, truth and justice ... along with a healthy dose of bullets to the head and jaws blown off.  Such is the nature of the 2003 Punisher story arc called "Brotherhood."

Originally presented in the Marvel Knights imprint of The Punisher, the three issue story is about cops gone bad, coke deals gone bad, priests gone bad, domestic violence (already bad) and how the world views someone based on the actions of a few bad apples.  Frank Castle (Punisher) has vowed to never cross the line and kill a cop, but the two cops he runs into push him to the very edge.  Their addictions have mired them in a world of wife beating, gambling and stealing evidence.  When Castle enters the picture, the cops' world is already spiraling out of control and people are dying.

Before this was a Max title, The Punisher had to watch the language and nudity (nobody really worried about the violence), so this isn't as nasty as it could be.  It still makes its point without the use of words you'd normally find in this sort of tale.  That is the mark of a good group of storytellers, which as we know from Preacher, is exactly what Ennis and Dillon are.

Marvel's 2003 universe is far different from the one of the past few years, and this was its darkest title at the time.  Oddly enough, it was also its most realistic.  If you take the Punisher out of the equation, most of what the creators did was from real life, whether it be drug deals or IRA terrorism.  It was a far cry from the X-Men or Spider-Man, and for that I appreciated it.

"Brotherhood" will never be considered a classic tale.  With Ennis and Dillon, everything they do is grand, but to standout at this point it really needs to be spectacular.  It will, however, be a prime example of a strong tale that will never age.  Someone reading this ten years from now will recognize the themes and issues at hand, and they will in no way be alien to the reader.  Try saying that about some of the other stories we've witnessed as of late.  You can't.  And three issues was all it took.  Concise, but with about three times the dialogue of your average current comic, and well-paced.  It may not be a classic, but it should be studied.

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