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Garth Ennis is not what you call a superhero writer. Rumor has it that he doesn’t even like superheroes. The only tales you’ll see him write featuring the cape and cowl crowd are grim and sarcastic deconstructions of them like The Boys.

Where Ennis excels is writing the realistic—the down and dirty tales of war, crime and vengeance. Sure, he’s written horror and mystical books before, but give him a character with a gun in his hand and a war to fight and he’s happy.

This is why his run on The Punisher was so remarkable. Frank Castle could be considered the most realistic of all of the Marvel characters. But that was before Ennis got hold of him. He made it seem like we could see the character breathing right there on the page.

The Punisher’s backstory makes him at home in Ennis’ two-strong points—war and crime. Whether Frank was putting the works to a Mafioso, fighting off a hard nosed mercenary, or throwing a monkey wrench into a covert, black-op scheme of the government, Ennis made it seem natural and realistic. You believed the Punisher belonged in those types of stories, no matter how far away from one another they were thematically.

Ennis’ run on The Punisher began while the title was under the Marvel Knights imprint. The imprint was created after Marvel agreed to outsource several characters that were down on their luck and in need of revitalizing over to the team of Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti. Quesada and Palmiotti were friends and collaborators who acted as editors-in-chief for the imprint.

Palmiotti was Joe Quesada’s inker on a number of projects. The tandem co-created the character Ash for their Event Comics company, the success of which led them to getting the Marvel Knights gig.

Both men parlayed their success with Marvel Knights into bigger and better things. Quesada became editor-in-chief of all of Marvel, and Palmiotti began a successful writing career.

Palmiotti, with writing partner Justin Gray, went on to create 21 Down for Wildstorm and Monolith for DC Comics. They also worked on Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, Heroes for Hire, and the current Jonah Hex series.

The former inker became one of the better writers around. His stories were witty and inventive and he could write a great superhero story as well as a good western and practically any other genre you could think of.

Now, the editor and writer are reunited, this time as co-writers. They are on familiar ground for Ennis. Back to Brooklyn deals with a man called Bob Saetta. He has run afoul of his brother, Paul, a high ranking crime boss in New York City. Now Paul has kidnapped Bob’s wife and son. He thinks this will be enough to keep Bob quiet. But Bob is about to make a different kind of noise, and neither brother is likely to survive the aftermath.

Ennis can write this kind of story in his sleep, and Palmiotti can certainly hold his own. This makes the miniseries a can’t miss proposition. If you are looking for something good to read tomorrow, look no further that right here.

Also out this week:

Captain America #42:

When Ed Brubaker killed off Captain America, it caught a lot of people’s attention. To his credit, he kept people interested by writing a taught political thriller. He kept true to the history of Captain America and even made a guy whose face is on a TV screen on his chest seem realistic. Now, his legendary “Death of Captain America” arc is coming to an end.

The Red Skull’s plans are now in the “endgame” stage. He is close to getting everything he ever wanted—power, domination and the destruction of everything his nemesis Captain America held dear. But now, as he is so close to his ultimate victory, is he doomed to fail? If the new Cap and his allies have anything to say about it, the answer is yes.

Ed Brubaker (W), Steve Epting (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Solomon Kane #1:

Who was Robert E. Howard’s first major creation? Conan the Barbarian? No. King Kull? No. Bran Mak Morn? No. Some other sword and sorcery hero? No.

No, Howard’s first character of note he created was Solomon Kane, who appeared in the August 1928 edition of Weird Tales magazine—a full four years before Conan would make his appearance in that very same magazine. While Howard is best known as a “sword-and sorcery” author, Kane fell into the realm of historical fiction. He was a swashbuckling Puritan with revenge on his mind.

This issue represents the start of a miniseries adapting one of Howard’s unfinished Solomon Kane stories, The Castle of the Devil. The story first appeared in 1968’s Red Shadows compilation and was completed from Howard’s fragment by noted British science-fiction writer Ramsey Campbell. In it, Kane stumbles upon the body of a boy hanged from a noose. This sets Kane on his typical quest for vengeance. However, when the mystery is unraveled, he might find something for more sinister than he ever imagined.

Scott Allie (W), Mario Guevara (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Flash Gordon #1:

Flash Gordon made its debut on comic pages on January 7, 1934, and to call it a groundbreaking or revolutionary idea would not be accurate. It was a science-fiction strip designed to cash in on the popularity of another enormously popular, science-fiction comic strip of the day, Buck Rogers. But what started as a way to cash in on a popular trend turned into something lasting, and Flash Gordon has been around almost 75 years and has appeared in almost every media imaginable.

The latest comic book adaptation arrives this week and is an updating of the concept. Dale Arden is now a CIA agent who brings Flash back into the fold to track down a scientist by the name of Hans Zarkov, a man accused of possibly creating a weapon of mass destruction. But the truth isn’t what it seems, and what they find out will eventually lead them to the hostile world of Mongo.

Brendan Deneen (W), Pauk Green (A), Ardden Entertainment, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #14:

TV’s The Simpsons yearly Treehouse of Horror episode has become a Halloween tradition. The show takes a break from poking fun at pop culture and the world in general and instead pokes fun at the world of horror. Bongo has brought this annual event to comics, and each year brings some of the most interesting names in the industry on board.

This year is no different. The master of modern comic book horror himself, Steve Niles, joins superstar artist Glenn Fabry on a tale which features Springfield being over run by vampires. And indie comic legend and Love and Rockets co-creator Gilbert Hernandez casts Homer in a comic homage to one of his favorite films, Frankenstein Conquers the World.  

Steve Niles & Gilbert Hernandez (W), Glenn Fabry & Gilbert Hernandez (A), Bongo Comics, $2.99.  Anuual.

Vincent Price Presents #1:

Vincent Price’s name for decades was synonymous with horror. Through the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared in numerous horror films, including the original versions of House on Haunted Hill, House of Wax, and The Fly. He was so skilled at scaring people that even his voice was enough to give a person goosebumps. So the lending of his name to a comic book horror anthology seems only natural.

Of course, it would feel more natural if it came about a decade or so earlier. Price passed away in 1993, and while new fans are being introduced to his work everyday, he isn’t exactly in the public eye. Will his name on a comic entice horror fans who think Freddy and Jason are old hat to read it?  

ChadHelder (W), Ray Armenterios (A), Bluewater Productions, $3.99 Each. Ongoing Series.

Daredevil #111:

Who is Lady Bullseye? That’s what fans were asking since the solicitation for this issue hit the public. Well, we get some answers now as she makes her first appearance in Daredevil. However, knowing how Marvel loves a mystery, I’m sure we won’t be getting the answers to all of our questions just yet. But what we can say for certain, based on Hornhead’s history with the name “Bullseye”, is that she will be making his life miserable.

I don’t know what to think about “Lady Bullseye.” On one hand, the male Bullseye is still out there and has been such a major part of Daredevil’s history that I’m not sure I like a new character taking focus away from him. On the other hand, depending on how it plays out, it could add another interesting villain to DD’s rogue gallery (or ally to his supporting cast, if Marvel goes that way), which is something Daredevil needs. Either way, you have to love that costume design!

Ed Brubaker (W), Clay Mann (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

M-Theory #1:

Is there intelligent life in the universe? Besides us, that is? This is a question that propels a lot of genre fiction. Not only do authors want to find out the answer to that question, but they also want to examine every possible way that question can be answered.

One popular answer in the eyes of fiction is that yes, there are aliens out there, and they are coming to get us. Space invaders have been attacking the Earth for over a century in every medium. This tradition continues this week in comics with M-Theory.

But this time, they have a reason to invade—revenge. The aliens reached out to us in peace. We blasted them out of the sky. Now, they want payback. Can anyone clear up this misunderstanding? Or has the human race doomed itself?

Dwight L. MacPherson & Bruce Brown (W), Mike Barantine (A), Image/Shadowline Comics, $3.50. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Punk Rock and Trailer Parks:

One of the reasons that slice-of-life stories are so popular in independent books is in their diversity. No two person’s lives are exactly the same, yet you are bound to identify with another person’s story, if only a little bit. You are drawn to the similarites with your own life, yet are intrigued by the differences.

Derf offers a unique display of everyday life in this graphic novel. The story involves life in a trailer park in the 1970s. It reflects growing up, the microcosm of the trailer park as it relates to the town as a whole, and the effect of punk rock on the younger generation that lived there. As someone who grew up in a trailer park in the 1970s, and learned to appreciate punk rock later on in life, I am interested to see Derf’s take on it. 

Derf (W/A), Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics, $15.95.  Original Graphic Novel.

My Name is Bruce:

In my humble opinion, Bruce Campbell is the man. From Ash in the Evil Dead series to Brisco County Jr. in The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. to his work in the Spider-Man movies, he can do no wrong. When it was announced that he would be writing and directing a movie starring himself as himself hired by a small town to fight a Chinese War Demon, I couldn’t wait.

But wait, I did. Rumored problems with the budget caused the film to be delayed. Now, finally, it is set for an October release. This means Dark Horse (whose Dark Horse Entertainment branch is helping to produce the movie) can finally release this one-shot tie-in. If you can’t get enough of Mr. Campbell, well, here’s something else you can get!

Milton Freewater, Jr. (W), Cliff Richards (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. One-Shot.


William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also is the comic review editor for PopMatters and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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