Review: Punisher: Soviet #4 (2020) by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows

Purchase Punisher: Soviet at your local comic book store or digitally on Comixology here!

 

The slow burn of Punisher: Soviet and its exploration of former Russian paratrooper/current vigilante Valery Stepanovich’s beef with former Russian Lieutenant Colonel REMF (rear echelon motherfucker)/current Russian mobster Konstantin Pronchenko has finally ignited into a firestorm. Valery returned from the horrific Soviet – Afghanistan War to a tranquil life of sorts only to learn that his entire squad was sold out for slaughter by Pronchenko, who has since taken his war-time corruption to the widespread international world of organized crime. Now that Valery and Frank Castle have gotten to know each other and their individual stakes in the conflict, the time for action is at hand.

Short, straightforward and to the point, the issue follows Frank and Valery as they declare an all out war on Pronchenko’s operation by first kidnapping Pronchenko’s wife. With their combined experiences, their attack was a one-sided massacre and obvious success. While the trajectory of this issue is familiar ground for Punisher readers, it’s interesting how Ennis and Burrows craft unique action sequences that take into account Valery and Frank’s experiences and personalities. Valery and Frank’s assault seamlessly blends the guerrilla Mujaheddin tactics faced by Valery and his soldiers on their BTRs in the war with their collective combined knowledge of special forces tactics and the wildcard of Frank’s signature M60 and grenade launcher assault.

When Frank and Valery are able to finally interrogate Pronchenko’s wife Zenaida Sebrovna, Ennis takes the time to actually flesh out her character resulting in a strange examination of someone that is simultaneously calculated and pragmatic, morally detached, in over her head and above all, a survivalist. Punisher: Soviet’s strengths continue to be the mystery behind its odd characters and their motivations and the underlying tension of how the drama will come to a head. The curse (or blessing) of a Punisher comic is the standard unrelenting bleakness and lack of positivity. Even as things seem like they are heading towards a “normal” and generally “happy” ending with the death of all villains, those familiar with Frank’s personality know that he won’t be content with the remaining unanswered questions. At this point, we still only have Valery’s words to go on and have relatively limited insight into who Pronchenko really is, why he’s changed up his operations and the relevance of Sebrovna. Against all odds, we can always bet on Frank to bring silence to these lingering mysteries. 


Jacen Burrows continues to draw some of the best violence with the action sequences being detailed with choice angles that allow the action to be followed coherently and cinematically. Bodies flying through car windows detail out every fleck and crack of glass and M60 shells and weaponry are detailed with accuracy. The expressions of the characters (especially the victims in this issue) in their coldness, fear and anger are drawn very well. Nolan Woodard’s colors run across a great range, taking the issue from its afternoon/even sunlight environments to night vision goggled helicopter battles in the dark and purple hazed flashback sequences. 

Paolo Rivera’s cover for this issue looks like an epic movie poster with a beautiful emphasis on a three toned red, white and black approach. The Punisher absolutely looks badass standing at the forefront with his assault rifle and the M72 Law over his shoulder. The cool stances and surrounding images of Valery, Sebrovna and downed helicopters invite intrigue and promises of slick violence. It’s one of my favorite Punisher covers of all time. Check out Rivera’s blog here for details and sketches on how he brought this cover to life.

Overall Verdict:  After three issues of backstory and intermittent action, Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows delivered an absolutely awesome payoff issue full of epic violence in Punisher: Soviet #4. There are still many mysteries to unveil before justice is delivered and it remains to be seen how The Punisher and Valery Stepanovich will part ways.

RATING: 9/10

Punisher: Soviet #5 Comes Out March 11th! Purchase Punisher: Soviet at your local comic book store or digitally on Comixology here!

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