Publisher: Image Comics
Story: Ed Brubaker
Artwork: Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser
Release Date: 3rd August, 2016
Ok, so let’s just go through a quick checklist before we get started;
Pulp Kings, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips on a new series? Check
Original, genre-swapping theme? Check
Now that’s out of the way and it’s looking like we’re on to a winner straight out of the gate, let’s dive in, shall we?
First thing’s first, I totally forgot this book was even a thing. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it on our weekly review list! The basic premise is that our lead character is a “Punisher” of sorts, only killing those that deserve it, and we’re told as much in the very first page. However, where we go from there is somewhere totally different from what we would normally expect from this acclaimed creative duo.
In the past, we’ve seen Brubaker and Phillips take on crime, mystery, superheroes and thrillers, but what we have here is something that seems to combine most of these in a fictional biography of sorts. There are hints of Shane Black to the story, with a little Warren Ellis and Jason Aaron thrown in for good measure, with a lead who is so utterly down on his luck with the world against him, then something happens to flip everything on its head.
Narratively speaking, we start the story in the middle and work backwards. More often than not, this can seem like a cheap trick by writers to mask the fact they don’t know how to start a book. In Brubaker’s hands however, it’s much more reminiscent of Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill, in that we’re introduced to the character the story is actually about before learning just how he got there.
Phillips excels once again on art duties, as he always has done in the past. With such a distinctive style and hand, the pages just seem to flow effortlessly. The most notable thing of late is the use of blank space to put the narrative in, even though the panels on the page tell the story just fine. Once again, unusual panel layouts are used to draw the eye towards certain things, with unusual splashes denoting a quickened pace and much more of a sense of emotion. Speaking of emotion, that seems to be a central key to the story this time round. This is a man who is so low, with his best friend dating his room mate, while secretly toying with him, he’s suicidal.
Ultimately, as good as this first issue undoubtedly is, the big twist fell slightly flat for me, as the execution seemed a little forced? I’m in love with the actual idea itself, and I’m keeping it as vague as I can so you can make your own mind up about it. I just feel it could have perhaps been implemented better.
That said, this is a very promising and solid first issue of a series that’s bound to be a runaway hit for the iconic duo. The biggest praise I can give it is I’m going to go out tomorrow and buy a physical copy, because I’m certain that it’ll be even more glorious in print.
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