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Sunday, December 21 2014 @ 11:10 AM CST

The Comics Corner - Week of 02/08/2011

Comic Reviews
Welcome to the Comics Corner! This week Severed comes to its bone-chilling conclusion, Batman spends some time in the pages of Batgirl and the Scarlet Spider swings into action, whether he likes it or not. All that plus the Comics Corner says goodbye to one its favorite series, PunisherMAX. So come inside and pay your respects at the Top of the Stack!


PunisherMAX #22

5 Stars

“I guess you got your eulogy after all.”

Goodbye, Frank.

From the very beginning Jason Aaron’s bold, new take on the Punisher defied reader expectations and mainstream comic conventions. PunisherMAX was so much more than the typical Punisher story featuring a completely re-worked cast of characters and continually escalating violence and mayhem. Aaron reworked the Punisher’s origins and pushed the man that was Frank Castle to his very limits – and beyond. Jason Aaron pushed Frank Castle and this series with such a captivating brutality that this was the only possible way for this story to end. A man can only take so much. And Aaron took great effort in continually reminding us that he was just a man. Before long the years, regrets and bullets will take their toll.

Frank Castle’s war on crime cost him his life.

For all the reasons this series was so remarkable the fact that it ends with the main character’s death still stands out among them. The life heroes lead would end in this fashion much more often, especially when taking the ‘subtle as a fire truck’ approach that was the Punisher’s calling card. The sheer escalation in violence and scope made it clear that there was no other option. Frank knew all along it would end this way, and somehow – even if we weren’t always aware of it – the readers did too. There was no happy ending to be found here.

The final issue is actually centered on Nick Fury – a recent addition to the cast – as he reacts to the death of Frank Castle and even helps tie up a few loose ends in the Punisher’s fatal war on the Kingpin. Their stories and ‘careers’ were as intertwined as any hero/villain combination in comics. The entire series revolved around Frank’s obsession with bringing down the new Kingpin of Crime. There were entertaining distractions along the way including a trip to prison, Elektra and most notably, Bullseye. But the tone and focus of the story, and Frank’s obsession, never strayed far from the Kingpin.

Fury spends the issue reflection on this relationship, and all of the Punisher’s choices, knowing that he’s lost a kindred spirit in Frank. He reflects on the life Frank lead and the life he wishes Frank had lead and starts to doubt whether Frank really accomplished anything. However Fury soon discovers that Frank’s actions were not in vain and that his mission and ideals will live on.

Working with writer Jason Aaron through this incredible series was artist Steve Dillon. Dillon had previously worked on Garth Ennis’ PunisherMAX series, bringing and instant recognizable quality to Aaron’s version of the character. Fans may be arguing Ennis’ run against Aaron’s for years but no one will argue Dillon’s impact on the character and his place in the character’s long, bloody history.

On a personal note it’s sad to see this series come to an end as it began at the same time I started writing this column. The Comics Corner has never known a Wednesday without the possibility of the violence and entertainment that only PunisherMAX could provide. There are many reasons to be upset that this series is ending but my personal – if delusional – connection to this series makes it even more upsetting. Rest in peace Frank, and take a bow Aaron and Dillon, you deserve it.

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Batgirl #6

3 Stars

“You were always meant to be Batgirl, Barbara.”

Batman swings into the pages of Batgirl this week, not only giving Barbara the pep talk she needed but also providing a boost to the series as well.

This series continues to impress me just enough for me to keep buying it. I want to like this series a lot more than I actually do and sometimes I think it’s nothing but foolish optimism that motivates me to keep reading. Despite all my complaining writer Gail Simone has kept Barbara interesting and compelling. She is simultaneously emotional and rational, strong but vulnerable. It’s a good thing that Simone has spent so much time in crafting Barbara into a compelling character because the rest of this series is a mess.

In six issues we’ve already been through two new villains complete with introductions, origins, mass murder and inevitable defeat at the hands of Batgirl. Barbara’s roommate shifts back and forth between interesting and annoying and the Batgirl-obsessed police officer subplot seems to have already been dismissed. With the exception of the mysterious – and so far pointless – arrival of Barbara’s mother Gail Simone has already resolved every plot point she’s introduced.

Whether it’s the pages of her own series, or patrolling the streets of Gotham, Batman won’t always be there to save her so hopefully Batgirl gets into the swing of things sooner rather than later.

Scarlet Spider #2

4 Stars

“This may take more than five minutes.”

Remember when Todd McFarlane first started working on Spider-Man, especially adjective-less Spider-Man?

No?

Well I do. And I was eight!

Even at that age I recognized how fresh and different McFarlane’s take on the character was. And fortunately at that age I rarely read all those annoying word balloons so I didn’t have to suffer through the story, I just got to enjoy the pretty pictures.

But thanks to the new Scarlet Spider series from Christopher Yost and artist Ryan Stegman, I get to have my cake and eat it too. This isn’t really Spider-Man but with the amount of effort being put forward by Yost and especially Stegman, you’d almost think it was.

The Scarlet Spider is actually Kaine, the flawed clone of Peter Parker from the infamous Clone Saga. During the events of Spider Island Kaine helped Spider-Man save New York City and was cured of his imperfections. Leaving New York to distance himself from Peter, Kaine settles in Houston and is soon thrust unwillingly into the role of a hero.

Kaine may have saved the day and been embraced by the city of Houston but this is not a responsibility that he wants.

Kaine does all he can to convince himself that he’s not a hero, even using a gun on a villain during a fight, but when you’re the clone of Peter Parker there are some things that you just can’t escape. Yost has convincingly turned Kaine into an intriguing character even for this long-time Spider-Man fan but with Stegman’s art this series has instantly become a must-buy.

Severed #5

4 Stars

“There is such a thing as pure evil.”

As a tale of horror and suspense Severed delivered the chills in every single issue and at the moment of its inevitable and dramatic conclusion delivered a shocking finale that did not disappoint despite the tremendous build-up.

We’ve known from the very beginning that Jack wasn’t escaping this ordeal without loosing an arm. Despite the inescapable confrontation we knew that Jack would survive this journey and that somehow he would be free of the clutches of this monster of a man. Despite that prior knowledge the final issue was still filled with plenty of surprises and more of the same terror that filled the first six issues.

However I can’t let go of the supernatural element revealed in the final chapter of this amazing horror story and what it’s done to my perception of the story as a whole. Maybe I should’ve seen it coming. And nothing involving this supernatural element takes anything away from the constant tension this series crafted so brilliantly but I think it does take something away from the horror element of the story. The concept of real monsters hiding among us is truly terrifying. To introduce a supernatural element might make it more horrific for the characters in the story but caused me to almost dismiss what was otherwise a brilliant and shocking series.

And perhaps it is still a brilliant series. I’ll have to go back and read the entire story at once, rather than issue by issue. And perhaps with that insight the story will change and everything will fit together. Whatever my feelings are on the supernatural reveal I know that Severed is still far and away the scariest comic series I have ever read.

  Agree? Disagree? Discuss this in our forum!

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