Punisher #10 Review

Reviewer: Will Cooling
Story title: Kitchen Irish Pt. 4

Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Leandro Fernandez
Coloured by: Dean White
Lettered by: Virtual Calligraphy’s Randy Gentle
Edited by: Axel Alonso
Published by: Max Comics/Marvel

In the twelve years I’ve followed politics (and yes that does mean I started when I was seven) one belief has stuck with me even through the painful realisation that I am not a heterosexual catholic but instead a bisexual atheist. “What is it?” I hear you ask well let me tell you, it’s the burning conviction that Ulster (Northern Ireland) is British and proud of it and that the only way there will ever be a genuine peace is if the British completely and utterly defeat the IRA on the ground. No pussy footing around with a “peace process” that is in reality Appeasement at its most banal and defeatist. In any case such a process fails to solve the fundamental “Irish Problem”, the continued existence of the IRA and their refusal to accept the right to self-determination of the majority Unionist community (it won’t surprise you that I’m also a firm Zionist as well).

You may be wondering what this has to do with the latest Punisher comic and I’ll tell you; my visceral hatred of the IRA and their apologists gives the issue an extra bite, an extra thrill. Why? Well because one of the scenes is seeing the Punisher and his two British allies (including one MI6/SAS) absolutely murder the Feinnian assholes and what’s more it all happens on a lovely big bloody battleship. This is Punisher experienced as pure Death Wish retributive fantasy and I for one enjoy it thoroughly.

(Btw, before I get any wishy washy Americans write in complaining about this naked anti-Irish Republican tone let me tell you something. These bastards in 1984 came within inches of killing Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher and almost her entire Cabinet, then in 1991 they came bloody close to killing Prime Minster John Major and his entire Cabinet with a mortar attack on his official residence 10 Downing Street and then there’s the 3,000 civilians and soldiers that have been killed by these assholes. You think Al’Queada are bad? They’re rich Arab boys who want to play Jihad compared to these guys in their prime and the fact that I had to watch the current head of the IRA Army Council be Ulste’s Education Minister ten years after we were so close to finally defeating the bastards makes me sick to my stomach).

Okay slightly scary rant over, I better actually give a review for those who haven’t been twisted by paying too much attention to Ulster politics (Ulster is one of the those issues that you either ignore or it just gets you right in the gut). The Punisher has managed to become embroiled in an Irish gang war after former IRA terrorists Finn and Peter Cooley mistimed attempt to blow up an Irish Pub in the middle of New York. The reasons are gradually becoming clear; there are three Irish gangs in Hell’s Kitchen namely the Westies, the River Rats and those led by Maginty. All of them along with Finn Cooley had links with Old Man Nesbitt who died last year and left them ten million dollars between them. Now they are trying to get one over each other and get the whole amount for themselves instead of sharing it like they were suppose to. To complicate matters the British Government with the connivance of the IRA/Sinn Fein (one and the same btw, never forget that) have sent Yorkie, an MI6 operative over to assassinate Finn Cooley to stop him becoming a focal point for Republican resistance to the Northern Irish Peace Surrender Process. In addition Yorkie intends to let the son of the last British squaddie murdered by the IRA get his revenge on the guy who did it (one Peter Cooley) as payback for said squaddie having saved his life twice. Having served with Frank Castle he has managed to convince Frank to give them a hand. Last issue we saw the Punisher and his British buddies interrogate Peter Cooley thoroughly whilst the tensions between the gangs intensified as Maginty continued his provocation of the Westies by sending them the cut up remains of their still living leader. Now we learn the full story of what’s going down as The Punisher attempts to play off the gang rivalries to defeat them all.

Oh hell how much do I love this? Ennis’ writing is brilliantly clear and unsentimental with a wicked clarity when showing the nexus (swank) between Irish Republicanism and Irish organised crime. In addition he is brilliant at weaving his story within a chain of events that is at the very least similar to reality, there probably was secret British SAS involvement in Vietnam due to the close links between that the Canadian and Australian SAS had with their sister organisation in the Mother Country, torture was almost certainly used by the RUC/Special Branch during The Troubles, the links between the American and Irish wings of the “movement” and finally the Provisionals current attempts to crack down on splinter groups such as the Continuity IRA. It’s a thoroughly nasty story with no truly sympathetic characters with the possible exceptions of Peter Cooley and Andy Lorimer (son of the murder squaddie) who both are portrayed as being slightly naïve about the world they have been drawn into. The exceptional scene of Andy feeling sick at the sight of P. Cooley’s torture whilst Castle and Yorkie are unaffected summarises everything about the brutalisation of men that happens in dirty wars.

Yorkie is a fantastic character and one who I can’t help but like. Of course I’m not really meant to, he’s a bastard plan and simple being more than happy to murder freely (unless it’ll land him into trouble) and to resort to torture. Really I should be complaining about negative stereotyping, etc but to me this rings true; again there’s something wrong with you if you don’t think the British used torture against the IRA (hell all the evidence points to us using a lot worse) but dammit it needed to be done. And that’s what you feel when you see this guy, yes he is nasty and yes he is ruthless but good god this is the man I want to protect me (as long as he’s far, far away naturally). In addition Ennis does give him a core; with his loyalty to the friend that saved his life and to gaining the justice that the shameful early release of the IRA terrorist has made impossible. He is a gravelled, experienced son of a bitch and one of the most fully developed and captivating characters I’ve seen in a long time.

Then there’s the bad guys, which are a hideous parade of grotesques as is typical of Ennis. However whereas sometimes Ennis hides the horror of such creations behind his wicked sense of humour here they are opened up and are written completely seriously. Finn Cooley is a hideous mess of a man with a nasty streak, no face and illusions of grandeur whilst Maginty is a villain’s villain from the calculating sadism to his joyous nihilism as shown by his relationship with Napper. Then there’s the hints at frustrated incest in the brother and sister leaders of the River Rats whilst the matriarch of the Westies is a furious and incandescent. Yet all despite their outlandish elements feel real.

The brilliance of Ennis’ writing is matched by the art of Fernandez who produces some excellent art. His linework is tight with a sound grasp of storytelling and an unflashy and deceptively simple style that brings the characterisation and story to the fore. Sadly he no doubt go under-appreciated due to his artwork lacking the superficial bells and whistles of a Jim Lee or David Finch. Overall an excellent story with Ennis back to his best with a nasty cynicism and harshness to his writing.