Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Adriano Batista
Lettered by: Rob Steen
Colored by: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Cover by: Tim Bradstreet
Rock on, Garth!
Garth Ennis is a recognized symbol of excellence on my bookshelf. Next to Mike Grell there is no creator whose bibliography I find almost categorical delight in. Ennis’s one failure was taking The Punisher away from the humorous tales where Frank Castle was straight man to some amusing antics into the deadly serious Marvel: Max version. The Punisher is a ridiculous character who no longer deserves to be used in serious tales. The character’s fatal flaw is never advancing beyond a humorless avenger against crime. I crave some form of characterization in my comics where the featured player and supporting cast grow over the years. There’s been no significant change to the Punisher in my comic-reading life. I had doubts about the launch of Jennifer Blood. Mainly because a cursory glance offers obvious similarities to the Punisher mythos…only with a woman. Before release I wondered if we would see tonal similarities to either of Ennis’s Punisher works or if this would be something original.
The Voice of Blood
The concept skews closely to the Punisher, but swings over the usual pitfalls of the person-with-guns story to offer a main character with a depth of personality Frank Castle fans should crave. Ennis creates a believable voice for Jennifer using narration taken from diary entries serving as the prime purveyor of background details. Rob Steen’s lettering should be lauded for evoking the feel of a private tome without the illegible cursive font so many letterers use in such an instance. Ennis’s writing in the diary is an exceptional window into the mind of his new creation.
Jennifer Blood is a housewife by day that goes out and kills villains at night. Ennis offers enough motivation for Jennifer’s actions yet leaves additional elements to explore in future stories. Elements of home life contrast beautifully with the character’s evening proclivities, and the apparent familial motivations offer tantalizing hints. Where Jennifer gets her weapons is unclear in the first issue, but where she hides them, and how she sneaks out at night are handled in a smart manner. All told, Ennis has created a character that may seem like the Punisher but is far more compelling after only one issue.
The artwork by Adriano Batista tells the story but falls short in several ways. The main points of contention regard weak facial expressions, panels lacking detail, and a generally unfinished look to the pages. There appears to be a decided attempt to make Jennifer pretty and almost everyone else ugly. I don’t know if it’s intentional but the art seemingly symbolizes Jennifer cleaning up the uglier elements of society. I hope to see Batista’s artwork grow with the series. He tells the story capably, so a focus on correcting the the rougher aspects could elevate this to A+ material.
I was even disappointed with Tim Bradstreet’s cover for the first issue. I feel like the first image should sell the concept to a prospective buyer. The title Jennifer Blood fails to offer the dual nature of Jennifer’s life, so the cover should strive to broadcast this information. Bradstreet phones in one of his typical photo realistic Punisher-esque images. Not really good enough for a debut. Bleeding Cool just debuted Johnny Desjardins’ variant for issue #4, which is a much better translation of the dueling elements of the series.
It’s doubtful Jennifer Blood will feature the complexity of Ennis books like: Preacher, Hitman, or Chronicles of Wormwood. There is little chance the series will offer the mileage other Ennis properties have shown. Yet, it’s a well told premiere that offers enough without reaching too far, too fast. You can’t ask more of a creator than to put the concept out there in issue one and give us enough hints to entice us back for the next outing. Garth Ennis easily succeeded on that score.
Tags: Garth Ennis, Preacher