Review – The Punisher: Welcome Back Frank
Publisher: Marvel Comics/Marvel Knights
Writer: Garth Ennis
Penciller: Steve Dillon
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colourist: Chris Sotomayor
Letterer: Wes Abbott & Richard Starkings
Release Date: April 2000 – March 2001
The very first time that Garth Ennis wrote Punisher in Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe, some of his dialogue was changed in editing without his consultation. This led to Ennis not wanting to write for Marvel going forward, until they offered him the chance to write Punisher again, but this time under the Marvel Knights umbrella. This meant that Ennis would have more creative control and wouldn’t have to worry as much about including more explicit content. Punisher: Welcome Back Frank is the result of that offer.
Something I realised upon revisiting Welcome Back Frank for review was that this is probably the most fun that a Punisher comic has ever been. Don’t get me wrong, – I also love the classic version of the Punisher as well as the more sombre version of the character that we got in Garth Ennis’ Punisher Max run, but those versions didn’t have Frank punching a polar bear in the face. This book also contains my favourite depiction of Lieutenant Martin Soap ever committed to print.
Ennis also writes this version of the character with a surprising amount of humanity. It’s not exactly as if Frank is super social and has a group of friends, but there are people featured throughout the story that he does seem to care about. This isn’t something that can be said about most other iterations of the character. I am also a fan of how Ennis writes Frank’s inner monologue in this run. As he is a man of few words, the use of inner monologue allows readers to get a glimpse into Frank’s mind without betraying his badass demeanour.
Something that I also find fascinating when comparing this run to Ennis’ later run on Punisher Max is their respective approaches to how they handle violence. His Marvel Knights run takes a much more comedic, light approach to the extreme violence that takes place, whereas in Punisher Max the violence seems to carry much more weight and has a more sinister feel to it.
It is also interesting to consider when the books were written and released. The American attitude to violence changed drastically between the release of the two runs due to the 9/11 attacks. This seemingly also affected the way that Garth Ennis saw violence and in turn changed the tone of how he chose to portray it in his work.
Steve Dillon’s pencils are a huge part of what makes this run so much fun. If you have witnessed his work in Preacher, you will know that he had the unique ability to illustrate somewhat taboo scenes of violence and yet still manage to keep them light, never drifting into showing excessive depictions of gore. I have also always loved the way that Dillon was able to capture a character’s expression and this story allows for many examples of that.
There are also several gorgeous splash pages in this book that really demonstrate Dillon’s abilities as an artist. He chose to conclude the first issue with an iconic silhouette of Frank overlooking the Southside of New York and it really captures the love that Dillon clearly has for the city. Ennis and Dillon both lived and worked together in NYC for many years, so the city clearly holds a special place in the artist’s heart.
Steve Dillon sadly passed away suddenly back in October 2016 due to a ruptured appendix. It was a devastating loss to the comic book industry that is still felt today, but his legacy continues to live on through his work.
Overall, getting to review Welcome Back Frank really solidifies it as an all-time classic for me. It is a phenomenal starting point for the character due to Garth Ennis’ masterful writing and Steve Dillon’s glorious artwork. I would recommend anyone to pick up this book and read it through, – whether they happen to be a fan of Punisher or not, – as this book is a great time for any reader that decides to give it a go.
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