The Punisher: Born
by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson & Tom Palmer
In the midst of the Vietnam War, Captain Frank Castle is the savior, protector and conscience of Firebase Valley Forge. This is Frank's third tour of duty; he knows that he should be home with his wife and kids, but he loves to fight, and the dark voice in his soul tells him as much. Ennis maintains that The Punisher was born long before his family was killed; that was just the inciting event--the real Punisher was forged in the fires of Vietnam. There are two POV characters here: Frank, and a young Marine named Stevie Goodwin, thirty-nine days short of ending his tour and returning to America's heartland. Ennis does a good job at portraying the unit and the action, though it suffers a bit like many war stories in trying to represent as many different war experinces and types of soldiers in just one unit. The art by Robertson & Palmer is very good and appropriate to the story; Palmer's inks lens Robertson's pencils a good rough edge, and Robertson renders the action quite well. It's another good solid war comic from Ennis.
Rating: 3 (of 5)
Sgt. Rock: Between Hell & A Hard Place
by Brian Azzarello & Joe Kubert
During the Battle of Hürtgen Forest in late 1944, Rock and the rest of Easy Company have a gaggle of new soldier added to their unit and a quartet of captured German officers in tow. But when three of the German prisoners are murdered and the fourth goes missing, Rock must determine what exactly happened, and whether or not one of the men in his unit is a murder--if murder under such circumstances as war is possible. Azzarello grafts a mystery onto a war story, and while it doesn't really gel into something more than the sum of its parts, it isn't really less either, and provides for an intriguing look back at WWII. The main attraction here is seeing Kubert illustrate a modern war comic, the pace and style of storytelling giving his artwork plenty of room to breathe. The story could have easily have been a good thirty pages shorter, but with the nice art to look it it's hard to complain too much.
Rating: 3 (of 5)