Wednesday, December 21, 2005

'Tis the Season

The air is a bit cooler and all the stores are decked out in holly. It's that time of the year again: the time for year-end best of lists! Today while I was out driving around, I heard discussion of both the top ten movies and top ten albums of the year, none of which I'd seen/heard.

With that in mind, I doubt I'll be spoiling anything when I reveal 2 Guys Buying Comics will be doing an awards-style recap of the year past. I'm already struggling with a few points, the biggest of which is trying to remember what's happened between January and now. Did Boy Blue fight the Adversary this year or last? What did Invincible do prior to this storyline where he went across the universe to find his dad? How long have Yorick and the rest of the Y: The Last Man crew been off that ship and in Australia? Most of these questions could be answered by getting off my ass and looking through the last twelve issues of each title, but that would require... well... getting off my ass and looking through the last twelve issues of each title.

Anyway, on to a tardy review (just got last week's comics last night):

No matter how many times I see his work, I can never really decide whether I like Kyle Hotz's artwork or not. All my Google searches of Kyle Hotz refer to him as the "master of the macabre." A Google search of "master of the macabre," however, forces you to wallow through names like Edgar Allen Poe, Berni Wrightson, Stephen King, Ambrose Bierce, Vincent Price, and H.P. Lovecraft long before you get to Hotz.

I was prepared to declare this grandiose and arrogant, but, upon further reflection, I suppose there can be more than one "master" of a given craft. Universities hand out Masters degrees to thousands of people a year. Every year at Augusta a new golfer wins The Masters Tournament. Yoda, Qui-Gonn, and Mace Windu all were able to coexist as Jedi masters. I guess my issue is with the use of the article "the" instead of "a." Regardless, I can't say Hotz's art in this issue is necessarily "bad," but it definitely doesn't work for this story.

Andy Diggle is trying to do his best Garth Ennis and the opening scene almost works, though I'd say it ultimately reads more like Carl Potts than Ennis. Punisher is watching a drug deal go down on a wharf, kills all but one of the guys with a sniper rifle, and goes in to interogate the last one. He learns that a mobster who has gone deep deep deep into hiding may be coming out of his hole to kill another mobster who'd turned rat and gone into witness protection. So, obviously, it's a holiday tale...

Actually, where it gets its Xmas twist is when the Punisher tracks down a mall Santa who epitomizes both why Hotz's style earns him the macrabre master seal of approval and why Hotz shouldn't be drawing this book.The grey Santa's overbite just gets worse and worse and he looks less and less human with every page. He tells the Punisher that the witness protected mobster is back home to make up for his sins of the past by throwing a big Christmas party at the orphanage where he grew up. The other mobster is so determined to kill him, there's going to be a big firefight at the orphanage. Punisher in his desire to both kill mobsters and protect orphans heads up to the orphange with Ghoulish Santa in tow.

Oh, yeah, and Frank gets a Santa suit of his own.This seems pretty stupid to me. Why couldn't either A) the informant be one of the elves helping the mall Santa or B) the Punisher put on an elf costume? Santa and an elf makes sense, but two Santas is stupid. There's even a scene where one of the mob bodyguards asks why there are two Santas, so it's not like this thought didn't occur to Diggle.

From there it's standard--and seemingly rushed--typical bad Punisher story. It's stories like this that make people like one of my fellow Guys Buying Comics (cough... Chris... cough) think of Punisher as a one-trick pony. The mobster and his guys come to kill the other mobster and his guys, the Punisher blows up all the soldiers with claymores in the above mentioned snowmen, and the first mobster tries to get away, leading to the Punisher chasing him in a reindeer driven sleigh and giving us a line so bad I hope Andy Diggle is forced to have it tattooed to his forehead."No. With Heckler and Koch." Also, see what I mean about Gross Santa's overbite?

So, Punisher catches up to the guy, who drowns in a frozen lake after Punisher cracks the ice. He then goes back and kills the other mobster for good measure, dresses him up in the Santa suit, and leaves the body for the orphan kids to find. You know, because the Punisher is all about protecting innocence.Merry Christmas, kiddies!

Overall Rating: 1/5 and that's only because I don't want to stoop to 0/5's just yet. When Punisher stories are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad, they make Rann-Thanagar War read like Bronte.