Friday, December 2, 2011

John and Frank

Many of you may not know that John Buscema  (December 11, 1927–January 10, 2002) is my all-time favorite comic book artist.  He is probably one of the most influential artists in the medium this side of Jack Kirby, and he practically invented "The Marvel Way" of comic book art.  I belong to a Facebook group for his art, and they post pictures of his work on a daily basis.  There have been several pics of the Punisher, and I always loved those.

On a whim, I did a Google search for Punisher pics by Big John, and discovered a trade paper back that collected a five-issue story arc from 1994's Punisher: War Zone.  It immediately went on my Amazon wish list.  But last week, I found a copy in my local comic shop, and being one to support local businesses, I picked it up.

The story is called "Barbarian With a Gun" and it is awesome.  Written by Chuck Dixon, one of my favorite comic book writers, and illustrated (pencils and inks) by John Buscema, it seemed a win-win without really even trying.  But try and succeed it did.  The story is typical Punisher, except that instead of the dirty streets of New York, the action takes place in fictitious sub-tropical island nation known as Puerto Dulce.  Through the story Frank is put to the test.  He is beaten, shot at, and otherwise abused.  But through it all he perseveres in typically stoic Punisher fashion.  The story also boasts some great dialogue with Microchip, Frank's nerdy computer-whiz sidekick, and a guest star from Marvel's comic The 'Nam, Iceman.  The ending is a pretty cool piece of irony.

But for me, the best part is John Buscema's artwork.  It is always a pleasure to see, and makes any book worth reading, IMHO.  Inerestingly, this TPB collects five issues, but the fifth issue was only broken down (rough pencils) by John, and finished by Tom Palmer.  And you can tell.  Tom is a good artist, but something is lost when he finishes John's work.  However, John's layouts and breakdowns are still very evident, so it's forgivable.  the only other critique I had was that the covers for each individual issue weren't done by John, and don't really reflect the story within very well.  but, that's typical for comic books in general.

I had the chance to meet John at the San Diego Comic Con in 2001.  But, I was shy and chickened out.  He passed away that following January, and I have been kicking myself ever since.

All that being said, if you enjoy a good Punisher story, and enjoy John's art, I highly recommend this book.


The Happy Whisk said...

Here's hoping that next time, you don't chicken out.

Charles Gramlich said...

Glad to get the recommend. I'll have to order this one next time I put in an order.