Frank Castle aka the Punisher is at war with the criminal element. He blames criminals in general for his family being gunned down. Now armed with his military training, vast arsenal, and determination, he takes the battle to those who he deems worthy of being punished. No prisoners will be taken.
Five women have three things in common: 1) They're all widows. 2) They're husbands were killed by the Punisher. 3) They all want revenge. These women concoct a plan to do what Nicky Cavella, Barracuda, Zahkarov, Rawlings, and many others failed to do, kill the Punisher. They begin by reading Police and FBI reports to learn how these men all failed, and their master plan is to avoid all of these mistakes to put together a one shot deal to bury the Punisher. The one thing they learned for a fact, if you screw up against the Punisher the first time, you will never get a second chance. -summary
Of all the stories during Garth Ennis' Punisher Max run, I can honestly say that this particular story piqued my interest the absolute most coming in. Ennis explored this territory in a way once before in Welcome Back, Frank, which saw mafia wife Ma' Gnucci seeking vengeance against the Punisher for him killing her sons. Although it was a very entertaining story, it was nothing more than a vehicle to deliver some action. I hoped Ennis realized the potential he had in introducing the widows of the Punisher's victims. Unfortunately, once again he resorts to a pure action story despite having all of the tools to examine something far deeper. He could have really put the reader in a position to debate whether the Punisher is correct in what he's doing, but since he decided to use four mafia wives, and a fifth woman who was married to a drug dealer. He doesn't leave much of a blurry line at all. I mean, why should anyone sympathize with mafia wives? There's a strong possibility their hands are just as dirty as their murderous husbands. In any case, Ennis puts together a fun story where the Punisher finds himself being the hunted against enemies he never saw coming. This eighth volume collects the story Widowmaker taking place in Punisher MAX issues 43 - 49.
The story and the plot are very entertaining from start to finish I will give it that. The five widows do not see a justice seeking hero in any way, shape, or form. They see a murderous butcher who can care less about the families he destroys by killing their men. These women lead by Annabella Gorrini of the defunct Cesare family (in which the Punisher destroyed with extreme prejudice) begin trading their horror stories on the news they received of their husbands violent deaths, with one actually witnessing the entire ordeal. They realize they are now on their own since the other struggling families no longer consider them relevant. Therefore, they have to get some weapons, and figure out how to trick the Punisher into their death trap which is next to impossible. I think Ennis built them up very well as a serious threat, for the simple fact they spend countless hours studying everything about the Punisher until they learn his one weakness, and finally come up with a plan on how to exploit it. Soon another character appears with their own agenda, a detective by the name of Budiansky gets mixed up in all of this, and the Punisher is off icing a kiddie porn production ring.
It's really amazing how Ennis brings all of these characters and sub plots together. The Punisher pretty much becomes a side character in his own story and it feels just fine. The dialog and interactions among the wives is actually pretty fun to read, and it's even better watching them try to overcome their own issues as a group. I've read this story at least three times and it never bores me. The characters are developed, however they do have their flaws. Ennis can be so brilliant at times with his characters, but I don't think I'll ever get use to how he handles the women. Some of them in this story follow the basic stereotypical cliches; the beautiful blond blows everyone for just about any reason, and the ghetto black girl is completely thuggish with a razor under the tongue. While he does try and make the blond bimbo pretty useful, he completely misses with the latter. Another character by the name of Jenny Cesare is terribly scarred mentally, and while her anger is understood, I found her to be quite unreal towards the end.
Lan Medina is the man behind the illustrations this time; I never had a problem with his work before and I don't now. The action panels are just as entertaining, plus they do have their disturbing moments I choose not to spoil. One moment will catch you completely off guard and I choose not to spoil this. The colors are fitting for the personality of certain story segments. It's usually dark with a death-like feel when the Punisher is in the area and it works really well with the combat. The character designs are done well for the women, when Medina really wants to make them sexy, he can pull it off. For some reason though, he seems to go out of his way to make the black girl the only ugly one in the group. Perhaps there is just no ghetto love in him.
The ending is wrapped up well enough, and even though I do not like some of the characterization in regards to the women, Ennis succeeds in other areas of characterization which creates this somewhat mixed feel. His choice of dialog really works out though, I was able to picture these interactions taking place in front of me and laughing my ass off most of the time. Overall, this is a solid volume that doesn't exactly require reading the previous volumes. I still recommend you do though because most of the earlier ones are too good.
Pros: -Interesting story, cool dialog, artwork
Cons: -Somewhat annoying stereotypes, women could've been used better
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