Do you know what's more dangerous than a Barracuda?
The Punisher dispatches a small time coke dealing posse, and during the attack he rescues their prisoner by the name of Stephen. He has a very interesting story for the Punisher, which sees the vigilante travel to Florida in an attempt to take down a powerful company by the name of Dynaco. The boss of the company named Harry Ebbing possesses a secret weapon to deal with him. -summary
I've mentioned many times Garth Ennis is by far the best writer to ever pen Marvel's most notorious vigilante, whom believes that justice only comes from the barrel of a gun. His run on the gun toting anti-hero through the pages of Punisher Max has been nothing short of awesome and overall it's among Marvel's most fantastic series. Unfortunately, Ennis did suffer a hiccup here and there with this sixth volume of Punisher Max being one of them. Now don't take it as if I'm saying this is a bad book, but when compared to the thought provoking, imaginative, and exciting storytelling found in the first five volumes; it seems as if Ennis was reaching a lot more towards shock for the sake of shock. In comparison this story feels amateurish to Up is Down, Black is White and The Slavers. This volume collects issues 31 - 36.
This volume sees the Punisher going after a company that is huge on Wall Street. They have the bright idea to fake an accident in order to shut down Florida's power supply with intentions on raising their stock. This will obviously fatten up the bank accounts for many greedy men, and at the same time be responsible for a rather large loss of life. When the Punisher makes his presence known, Harry Ebbing dispatches the assassin known as Barracuda; a hulking man standing at 7 feet tall and weighing 350 pounds with no sense of mercy or compassion.
The book feels like a mixed bag in some ways; Ennis does manage to work out the storytelling very well concerning suspense. He manages to flip around the usual clichés into something completely unexpected. This can easily be spotted within the subplots.
Ennis cleverly adds new twist to very old story elements. He manages to keep the story fairly interesting with his awareness on corporate level crime, but in the end it's only a plot device and he doesn't quite make it as interesting as his earlier story elements, such as the slave ring in Volume 5, or the treasure hunt found in volume 2. He made those story elements feel like a very big deal. This right here feels way too by the numbers and it needed better development.
The characterization is alright at best and Barracuda is developed fairly well. He's a psychopath for sure and he prefers brawn over brains, which makes him an usual opponent for the Punisher when compared to his earlier enemies, most notably Nicky Cavella who attempted to take him out with strategy. The confrontation with Barracuda in a way... felt kind of silly. It felt like a more sadistic version of the fight with the Russian in Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank. It was taken quite a bit aways from the realm of realism which felt almost like a one-eighty from the previous stories. I didn't dislike the fight, but it qualifies too much as schlock for my taste.
I mentioned that Ennis basically attempted to shock the reader for the hell of it; there are certain events here that proves he was clearly just reaching. One moment that comes to mind is a male character who is gang raped pretty much just because. It plays no role in the story and it doesn't even develop the character. There's no sense behind it at all, plus there are story elements that needed more explanation. The ending was indeed awesome but it felt like Punisher actually killed innocent people. Despite small details stating otherwise, I don't think Ennis properly conveyed this.
The artwork is provided by Goran Parlov and although it can be entertaining, it does not compare to Lee Fernandez's in the previous volumes. They feel a bit cartoony in comparison, but perhaps that was the point when considering the dark comedic flow of Ennis' writing. In any case, I think it's average at best. The action panels do have brutal moments such as fingers hacked off with an axe and vicious beatings with lead pipes. Since this is a Punisher MAX title that's pretty much what counts.
Punisher MAX: Barracuda is quite different from the previous titles. There seems to be more of an emphasis on shock value and even dark comedy. I think Ennis was attempting to either be experimental here or showcase his range. I commend him for taking the chance and even though my feelings are in the middle, he did manage to keep the story fresh after 30 issues, and that really isn't very easy to do when he doesn't have access to the rest of the Marvel universe. I won't say if you loved the earlier stories then you will love this because I don't love this story. Instead, approach this expecting something out of the ordinary.
Pros: Interesting new character and still delivers with the action
Cons: Not the usual greatness Ennis spoiled us with.