By Garth Ennis, Goran Parlov, Jordie Bellaire
Punisher: The Platoon is the first in a Marvel limited series by the veteran Punisher creative team of Garth Ennis and artist Goran Parlov that takes the character of Frank Castle back to his army days in Vietnam. Following an opening reminiscent of most movie biopics and their framing devices, the book catches you up with Frank’s old army buddies before transporting you back in time.
This feels like Ennis and Parlov’s attempt to create the pitch-perfect origin story for Frank and his first tour in Vietnam. It plays out as a flashback and will be a welcome treat for Punisher fans who are looking to read more of Garth Ennis writing the character, as he explores the themes that often come with Vietnam War stories whilst also fleshing out Castle’s character. This is an early Castle who is far from the grizzled, war-torn veteran that we know in the present day and whilst he’s not completely without experience, it’s also one who hasn’t yet killed. It’s going to be interesting to watch that transition between someone who can even be kind at times into the ruthless anti-hero that he is painted as in the best Punisher stories
The book itself does lose an element of unpredictability to the framing device of the extended flashback because we know that these characters will all come back from the war, but it’s the atmosphere of Vietnam that plays in this book’s favor. That setting means that it will always feel tense and engaging and that added depth to the characters really pays off with Parlov acing their numerous facial expressions and reactions, particularly in that final panel in the present day. Jordie Bellaire’s fantastic colors add a sense of murkiness to the world and as a result all it’s missing is a bit of Creedence Clearwater Revival and it could easily be turned into a Vietnam-set movie, making the most out of the location to bring everything to life in fantastic style.
The non-linear approach to this book pays off; even though it’s mostly set-up in this issue, you get a clear direction of where it’s headed. There’s not a huge focus on action, so those looking for an action-heavy Punisher book may be disappointed, but rest assured, it doesn’t subtract from how good this first issue can be at times. It’s helped that it’s not a straightforward origin story for Castle, and whilst he’s new to the battlefield he does have a few elements that keep him ahead of the rest of his team. This dynamic keeps things interesting and allows Ennis to avoid having to take the character completely back to square one.
The book is the perfect treat for fans of Garth Ennis’ take on Frank Castle. It’s an excellent first issue and with such a skilled and experienced writer in charge, you know you’re going to be in for a good read. It does help a bit to be familiar with previous series written by the same writer and as a result, it may throw newcomers off, but the darker feel and tone of the book really helps separate it from the rest of the Marvel Universe, transforming this book into a must-read.