Writer: Scott M. Gimple
Artist: Mark Texeira
Colorist: Frank D'Armata
Review: William R. Davis Jr.
Who doesn't love a good, bloody, Punisher romp once in a while? Right out of the gate, props to Marvel for making this one a weekly release. I wish more publishers did this with limited series runs.
Now there have been some shit Punisher books in the past (Punisher in Space), and some serious classics (Punisher MAX Garth Ennis run), so where does Punisher: Nightmare fit into the Punisher mythos? And how many "Punisher"s can one man fit into a single sentence? Let's find out.
I wanted this one from previews right away because of the writer Scott Gimple. The Walking Dead AMC series has been on quite a tear, and this man helped pen the pages of those scripts, instant street cred. The first issue was great. Gimple threw in a lot of really believable pop culture references that helped develop Johnny Nightmare quite nicely. When the man said "Tiffany Amber Theissen at her best" I knew exactly where he was coming from. It's still a toss up for me between early college years Saved by the Bell and 90210 on that one, but for completely different reasons.
The similarities between Johnny and Captain America were pretty clear to me by issue two, and when ol' Cap popped up later in the series for a short cameo, it was definitely a nice surprise. I definitely liked the dichotomy between super soldier Cap and Johnny Nightmare. One goes on to be the comic book version of Uncle Sam and lead the Avengers, and the other grows into a grossly distorted killing machine, all from a government serum. What a deliciously narcissistic view of the Marvel Universe. And of course the similarities to Frank Castle are spelled out from the start. Both had their families murdered in Central Park. The writing became a little sloppy towards the end. Even a roided out Johnny Nightmare would know that there were five bricks of C4 on his back, right? But this is all typical, mainstream comic criticism. If you like Punisher, you should like the writing in this one even if you have to suspend disbelief an extraordinary amount.
What almost killed this series for me was the art by Mark Texeira. Texeira has always been a serviceable Marvel staple, his art has always been a little simplistic and distorted for my taste, but he's a really nice guy if you ever get a chance to meet him at a Con. I just realized what a super shitty compliment that was, but let's continue. When Johnny Nightmare and the Punisher decide to team up, the first panel of them walking side by side down a NYC street made me let out an audible groan even though I was sitting in a room alone. Johnny Nightmare was somehow wearing a matching, Punsiher skull, rhinestone studded t-shirt. That was just too damn much, even for a Marvel book. I just pictured Frank Castle pulling it out of a drawer while saying: "Your family was murdered. My family was murdered. Let's roll Johnny Nightmare." Tosses t-shirt. Where was the art editor on this one? I know that if I were in the big chair and that came across my desk, someone might lose their job over that shit.
If you are looking for a nice little, bloody, escapist Punisher tale than this one is definitely worth the money. This series is slightly above average in the Punisher universe. The writing is way better than the art. Both have holes, but nothing that completely ruined the book for me. I have not been blown away by a Marvel book in quite a long time. Some of them are right there, and then they go Phoenix Five on your ass. This one fits nicely into that category. Polite golf clap. Fin.