Review: Punisher: Soviet #5 (2020) by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows

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

The Punisher and his new Russian vigilante comrade Valery Stepanovich have officially joined forces in an effort to take down former Russian Lieutenant Colonel REMF (rear echelon motherfucker)/current Russian mobster Konstantin Pronchenko. After a seemingly successful assault resulting in the capture of Pronchenko’s current wife Zenaida Sebrovna last issue, Frank and Valery learned that it was Sebrovna herself who was responsible for transitioning Pronchenko’s usual bloody operation towards the “clean” world of corporate crime. Aging, in competition with younger women and forced to consider Pronchenko’s penchant for murdering romantic partners, Sebrovna involved herself in Pronchenko’s operations as a way to establish value beyond her looks and survive in her current lifestyle. Sebrovna’s unusual calm demeanor led Frank and Valery to the discovery of a tracking device embedded in her left thigh, a crucial finding that proved too late as multiple helicopter units began to surround the area…

With the backstory for Valery and Pronchenko fleshed out, Punisher: Soviet #5 continues the forward momentum from last issue, introducing the stakes of Pronchenko’s growing operation which currently involves an upcoming deal with a U.S. Senator, a squad of 40+ hired Special Forces mercenaries and his three idiot wannabe”gangster” sons. While the issue zooms by very quickly with more exposition than action, Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows introduce just enough personality in the newly introduced players for readers to imagine them as complete characters off page, spend much needed time in the strangely jovial relationship between Frank and Valery and leave enough unpredictability and set-up for what will surely be a bloody conclusion.

The issue culminates with the sad, but predictable death of Valery, who sacrifices himself in a mad rush for a heavy machine gun to take down a helicopter pinning down himself and Frank. The prolonged time spent with Valery in the past issues gives a certain weight to his death, although I still feel that this miniseries has done more in terms of teasing a more interesting character in Valery through words and anecdote rather than what has explicitly been shown on page.

And then, there were those who profited…

In terms of narrative and character growth, I think that it is interesting that Punisher: Soviet builds off the framework of Fury MAX: My War Gone By, Punisher MAX: The Platoon and the last Punisher MAX arc “Valley Forge, Valley Forge” in tackling on the issue of the exploitation of soldiers by the military industrial complex and Frank Castle’s conflicted honor and reverence for the military. As his run on Punisher MAX progressed, Ennis slowly escalated The Punisher’s war on crime from the alleys of New York to the boardrooms and yachts of Wall Street to a face to face encounter with the corruption of the United States Military itself. With Punisher: Soviet showing a Russian shade of the same corruption, this series does raise interesting questions on how Frank Castle’s perception of crime have changed and if his responses to said crime have also escalated. With one issue left, the true mystery of Punisher: Soviet has been unveiled…what are the limits of The Punisher?

Frank Castle out in nature…a rare sight in the usual imagery of The Punisher

In terms of art, this issue gave me some of my favorite Punisher art yet with some absolutely beautiful splash pages displaying uncommon sights such as Frank Castle out in nature against a beautiful sunrise and “that helicopter scene”. Jacen Burrows continues to show his craft as a man who creates beauty in the smaller details, in everything from adding stubble onto Frank and Valery due to their time out in the field to taking the time to give different uniforms and looks for every goon to maintaining consistency in blood splatter and adding birds to an environment. With this issue, I have to also say that Burrows is starting to nail his “Frank”. Height, build and face-wise, this issue was the most consistent in terms of its depiction of Frank, maintained uniqueness and managed to finally remind me of how badass The Punisher looked in the MAX run. And talk about the expressions in those sad last looks between Frank and Valery! Nolan Woodard complimented the art in colors perfectly in showing the changing sunrise and nightfall, creating highlights for burning goons against the night sky and depicting the glorious violence.

Paolo Rivera continues to kill it with his covers. The cover for this issue pays tribute to some awesome events in the comic. I love how story beats and imagery for each issue have been preserved in the covers. With this issue, details such as Frank’s sleeveless arm from bandaging up Sebrovna and Valery’s epic last stand are highlighted. The huge red shadow of Frank over Valery also reminded me a lot of the Gummy Venus De Milo from The Simpsons and is an awesome cover just for that alone. Check out more behind the scenes information for this cover at Paolo’s blog here!

Overall Verdict: Punisher: Soviet #5 bids a grand farewell to the heart of its story, Valery Stepanovich, and paves the way forward for greater questions about The Punisher, the scum he targets and his methods of punishment. With his Russian ally now deceased and a U.S. Senator, a Russian mobster and over 40 Special Forces mercenaries to deal with, the upcoming finale should be a grand bloodbath.

RATING: 9/10

Punisher: Soviet #6 Comes Out March 25th! Purchase Punisher: Soviet at your local comic book store or digitally on Comixology here!

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