Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Entropy Week: Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher # 1!

Marvel Universe Vs. The Punisher # 1
Marvel Comics

Script: Jonathan Maeberry
Pencils: Goran Parlov
23 pages for $3.99

Welcome to entropy week, kids! I sat down and read my comics this week, and I enjoyed most of them to some degree, but couldn't help but notice a sudden desire to drink a tall glass of blowfish toxin and just end the suffering of it all.

Now granted, part of the problem is my personal taste and my personal collecting habits. I'm a card carrying cynic, and I buy comics with a darker tone, and so I chain-read Crossed, Nancy in Hell, and Marvel Universe Vs. The Punisher. So part of it is me.

But part of it isn't. I'm not really being controversial here. We're jaded. We don't believe in anything any more, and the racks are choked with our disillusionment. Ever notice that "Brightest Day" is filled with just as many horrible atrocities as "Blackest Night?" If Aquaman summoning uncontrollable zombie sea creatures is bright, there's a problem.

Have you noticed that the "Heroic Age" over at Marvel is nothing more than a banner at the top of the books designed to increase sales, signifying nothing? We wouldn't know what to do with heroism any more. It would come off as lame at best, but really just insincere.

What we understand in the 21st century is cynicism, two-faced political rhetoric, souls as commodities, everything as commodities, and pain. That's what we can buy. And that's what we're sold.

So here we have Marvel Universe Vs. The Punisher, and just to be clear, I enjoyed this book and don't have a problem with it. But it's a downer. A mysterious virus has caused the population to become rabid, violent bastards. You know, just like 28 Days Later, Marvel Zombies, Crossed, and 15 different things you've seen in the past two weeks. The idea is so played at this point that Reed Richards knows that you know all this, and has to describe how this virus is different.

Do you see what I mean, though? There's so much of this trope floating around right now, Marvel is forced to sell you on the concept that their latest concoction is ever so slightly different. The real story here isn't copyright infringement, it's the idea that collectively, as a group, we've decided that the end feels nigh. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. And it feels like the shit's coming down, man.

The book itself is passable or better. I've never heard of Jonathan Maeberry before, but he's producing professional grade work. The hook is strong. The world is collapsing, and Frank Castle is trying to pick up the pieces. Again, I don't know if Maeberry is a newbie or not, but the classic rookie mistake is to overwrite - try flashbacks, dip into purple prose to demonstrate chops. Maeberry understands that less is more, particularly with a book like this.

I really appreciated the opening scene with Deadpool, actually. Frank puts a couple of rounds in him, chops him up into pieces and scatters them. It's the 33rd time he's had to kill Deadpool. The first layer of the joke is that it fits with the character, because Wade's regenerative. I think the second layer is a shot at Pool's overexposure. No matter how many times he's beaten into the ground....there he is again! Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but I doubt it. I think Maeberry's got a little subversive streak in him, and I enjoyed it.

This is not particularly deep, nor was it designed to be. The objective appears to be a "tortured soul against the world", and it excels at that. If you liked "Road Warrior" or Marvel Zombies, you're bound to enjoy this. There's no reason in the world why this should cost $3.99 an issue, by the way. Just sayin'.

There's a definite dearth of hope in this comic, which is understandable. It's apocalyptic, for crying out loud. In 2010 we expect our governments or big business to create some crap that will destroy everything. We expect that we've bitten off more than we can chew, and the virus won't be stopped. We expect to lose now.

Is that sad, or is that what we need to make change? It felt sad to me today. It makes me want to read some Straczynski Superman or something. Maybe that guy is on to something....

- Ryan

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