Writers: Garth Ennis
Pencils: Jacen Burrows
Inks: Guillermo Ortego
Colors: Nolan Woodard
Lettering: Rob Steen
Cover: Paolo Rivera
Release Date: March 11th, 2020
Reviewer: Steve Baum
Frank and Valery have a hostage and are on the run. Just the wife of a Russian crime boss madman, no big deal right? Oh, and she’s being traced, and they’re out-manned, out-gunned, out-vehicled… if it’s something you can have, our duo is ‘out-it’. Maybe it’s a big deal after all?
“You’re going to review me, aren’t you?”
“Just keep reading.”
“Stupid question. You’re Weird Science Marvel Comics, what else are you going to do.”
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. If you have no idea what the hell that opening was about, then I guess you haven’t read this issue yet, huh. SHAME! We open our fifth installment in a less than stellar situation if you happen to be the wife (fourth wife?) of a Russian bad guy. Being told that your hubby wants another person dead more than they want you alive has to sting a bit. Just apparently not as much as having a tracer gouged out of your thigh. At least Frank offers her his coat!
After some informative banter, Frank’s hostage (affectionately known as blondie here on out, as I don’t think we’ve gotten her name and blondie is easier to type than Pronchenko’s wife) DIVES OFF A CLIFF. Like, a BIG one. Not one that you survive. At least she had the decency to leave Frank’s jacket for him.
We cut back to our antagonists, and a routine bad-guy briefing is interrupted by an out-of-nowhere drop of the HARD C-WORD. Yeah, that one. A first I’m sure for Marvel Max, nowhere near a first for Ennis (if you’ve read “The Boys”). Moving on. Some jerkoff who looks like Sugar Ray (the singer, not the boxer) basically says he doesn’t give a shit about his wife. Well, that’s great pal because she’s dead. “Painted on the rocks” as Frank so eloquently put it. Although Frank was unable to confirm her death, and this is comics… even if he DID confirm her death, again… comics.
As our duo makes through the woods, less one hostage, Valery hints at leaving Pronchenko alive, to which Frank mutters “it’d be a first”. Yup. Valery complains about the power structure and how the people who run the country got there; cant’ say I blame him for the most part. After the “three assholes” cocaine and coffee break is interrupted by the minor inconvenience of a hail of bullets riddling their security personnel, Punisher, and Russian Punisher tie them up and get to work on a plan. Unfortunately, THEIR plan is also interrupted by – you guessed it – a hail of bullets. This is the Punisher, remember? After a mad dash from pinned under the vehicle to some big ass gun, Valery does his best ‘Johnny from Angels with Filthy Souls’ impression (the movie Kevin watches in Home Alone) and lights up the chopper. After some sweet action, and for a split second, and ONLY a split second, we think maybe Valery will make it. Well, he’s got a helicopter blade sliced literally halfway through his body. Looks like “our duo” are about to become “our uno”. Valery dies slumped over the blade like a badass. Frank never changes his facial expression. We end the issue with Frank standing over his comrade’s body, a downed enemy copter, and three assholes tied up in a trunk bed – status unknown.
I’ve praised the art in this series consistently (save Frank’s guyliner, but honestly I think it’s growing on me). The colors over the beginning panels progressively fade from a darker night sky to what is actually a pretty sunrise, adorned nicely by Frank’s insanely bulging biceps. My kind of sunrise AMIRITE!? The art and coloring are cookie-cutters in the best way; average during dialogue scenes, and awesome during action scenes. The contrasting colors during the finale chopper battle – the night sky against the desert ground, Valery’s blood soaking the dull chopper blade – were exquisite. You watch the life drain from him panel-by-panel.
After five issues of ‘final thoughts’, anybody can predict what will be written next. The art and coloring in this series have yet to let us down. The dialogue sounds accurate without being corny or over the top for military jargon. Frank’s dialogue sounds like Frank. Final thought? This is a great series.