The Punisher Red Xmas


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The Punisher Red Xmas


  • Words: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
  • Art: Mark Texeira
  • Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
  • Colors: Raul Trevino
  • Story Title: Red Xmas
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Dec 22, 2004

The Punisher treads in familiar territory in this Holiday yarn. His gift to those "deserving" is, as usual, punishment.

The Punisher is one of those characters that can easily get caught in a rut of repetition. No matter the setting, the reader knows going in that a mobster, gangster or someone (often many) of that ilk is fixin’ to die. It’s the details that make the difference between expanding on the character and yet another rehash of a tale already told a hundred times before. Garth Ennis has achieved mixed results with his extensive run with the book, arguable none better than his current (MAX imprint) run. Comparatively, other writers who’ve written Frank Castle during Ennis’ tenure have struggled to bring anything really worthwhile to the table. That tradition continues with Red Xmas.

Palmiotti and Gray are competent writers, especially when the subject matter is of a dark nature. They have created an interesting story in DC’s Monolith, and several other earlier collaborations, but this one-shot doesn’t give them enough room to spread their collective wings. That is not to say that the writing is bad, per se, because despite the tired theme, it is cleverly rendered and set, giving the story a sort of Catch-22 feel during one climactic scene. However, my main beef is with the characterization of the title character himself. Any time a writer (or writers) tries to "soften" or humanize Frank Castle with the lure of a woman, I’m taken out of the story a little. This is a hard-cased, driven, psychotic man, hell-bent on the destruction of all criminals regardless of gender. I’m sure there is humanity left in Frank Castle, but I don’t buy that it exists solely for carnal discretion. The resolution to this questionable event is made up for in a sickly humorous way, which brings the story toward a conclusion that seems rather abrupt, although mildly satisfying.

To be blunt, the art here is choppy and uneven at best. I’ve seen Mark Texiera deliver in the pages of Black Panther, so this is an enigma to me. Within the confines of a single page, the art goes from vibrant and well rendered to downright ugly. It’s as if he got writer’s cramp and switched hands. This could well go on the shoulders of Palmiotti, whose inks can sometimes dominate facial features for what I expect is enhancement of an individual’s anger or maliciousness. The one noticeably positive aspect to the art is panel placement and distribution. There are some dynamically rendered action pages scattered throughout the book, it’s a shame the art couldn’t be more clear.

This one-shot is clearly a moneymaking gimmick for Marvel. Anyone reading a Punisher story for the first time may take a liking to this pricey issue. Longtime fans, on the other hand, are likely to be disappointed in this ho-hum Holiday piece, as there is nothing new to take away from it. General rule of thumb for Marvel titles: once you MAX, you shouldn’t go back.

-Kert McAfee

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