Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wanton Punishment Part 5

I told Edmund the other day that I've just bought the new Punisher book called The Widowmaker. I was so excited to find out what happened throughout the story so that I finished the book in one sitting itself. As of writing, I finished the second round of the story.

Widowmaker is basically examines three things that remained unanswered in the Punisher lore:
  1. The first and foremost, it examines the other side of the perspective. If you, as Frank execute people because the main reason is that they are the scum of the society, drug runners, criminals above the law, and most important of all, rotten to the core, what about those who are related to the criminals? Wives, siblings, children, etc..? What is their reaction? That is the purpose of examining the other side of the coin, being a widow or a victim of a so-called killer.
  2. The second one examines a man's conflict torn of following orders from his superiors or acting at your conscience should the situation a man faces requires immediate action and no more waiting. At what consequence are we likely to face if we are to do something according to your conscience and as well doing something that is right for everyone? How far will you be before you could find yourself behind the 8-ball?
  3. The final element examines on a woman who lost her innocence and suffered atrocities at the hands of the five whores and a abusive husband and we get to see how the damage done affected her so badly that she eventually became a very sad creature with no hope or whatsoever.
First Wives Club?

If you have seen a movie called First Wives Club starring Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn, you might find this a little similar. No need for me to repeat the premise, but it's just simple - five women who lost their husbands to the Punisher is out for revenge trying to kill him by setting up a simple plan. Nuff said...Bah!

The ringleader of the group is one Annabella Gorrini, the eldest granddaughter of Massimo Cesare (surprise! Remember In the Beginning?). Forming up the rest of the ring would be Barbara Barrucci, Lorraine Zutta, Bonnie De Angelo and the 'Gangsta Princess' Shauna Toomey. By right Shauna is the most volatile of the lot but very meticulous of the execution plan thanks to her husband's antics:
John James was a careful man. Once he got the news he'd take steps of his own to clean things up.
Note: When you read the story, you might it a little confusing of which of the blondes are Lorraine or Barbara. After the second round, you would notice that Lorraine is the blonde with no curls and Barbara is the otherwise, long with curls.

To them, the reason is simple: Frank kills people and ignores their suffering. But sometimes, being a vigilante is sometimes painful. He had a pity for the kids of the parents whom he executed for being involved in making porn movies under the basement. But somehow, he had a mission in life and he will not stop until he cannot move anymore or if his time is up on Earth.
I thought about their looks on their faces. The little girl couldn't been more than four. She might stand a chance, depending on how much of it stayed with her. The boys looked like the damage was done. I had a sinking feeling that I'd be seeing them again in twenty years.
But the one thing that these wives have totally forgotten in Frank's argument is that the men, being husbands who are criminals, puts the wife and children under the crossfire. That is indeed the truth. Now, if the men are gone, what will happen to the children? Are they going to follow suit and become gangsters and criminals themselves? Just to avenge themselves or is it because of the influence of the father?

Annabella had the kind of fanaticism that being a family of the mob means that the kids are being part of the crime or that the women of the family has to marry the capos as to maintain the relationship and security of the family in blood. And it is said that women had no right in speaking of family matters. This is what we see in family purity in the Harry Potter series, and this fanaticism ultimately destroys the family. While they think to be great and in the process, you tend to feel the vanity of it.

Good cop? Bad Cop?

Widowmaker introduces two new supporting characters with one of them being Detective Paul Budiansky (yes, he is appearing in The Punisher 2 with Colin Salmon playing the role). Paul is a family man that is loyal to the wife, Gina. He gained acclaimed for single handedly stopping a school-hostage crisis. He stopped that by killing the gun-totting kid ignoring the superior's orders, because he is worried that with the stand back order in place, more innocent victims could die by that madness.

But the decision came at a price as his captain Starling refused him to attend press interviews and blocked his promotion, instead sending him for a mental trauma therapy with a psychologist. As you go along, you will notice that some of these characters, mostly Barbara and the psychiatrist are playing racist cards. Budiansky is one of those who can connect the dots easily and has figured out that the five women were involved in a club to beat Frank in a pulp.

The question here is about the conflict of listening to your conscience to do something good or listening to superior orders. What good is an officer if he is ordered to behave like a terrorist or not to do anything except to watch evil roll around? The man loved the neighborhood so much that he does not want to see New York become like Hell's playground. But the thing is no one telling him how far has he gone from observing protocols to an avenging angel.

You can notice how deeper has Paul descended from someone who can't stand it to finally decided to become an avenging angel. For instance, when Shauna's hitman Curtis hits Gina at the hospital, he kills that man, emptying all but one bullet from his magazine. The rage could not be contained until when he meets Frank coming out of the hideout in the finale and had second thoughts of killing him just because he is a murderer.

Frank's line, "You want to be me?" at Paul is a simple but very powerful statement and that statement itself manages to stop him from going to the point of no return. He knows that he is a cop and he risks losing whatever he had earned had he gone too deep as Frank does. Frank has no one left but his mantra and mission to punish the guilty before time is up.

Innocence Lost

The plan hatched by the five women went well at the beginning but the plan suddenly gone wrong with the return of Jenny Cesare - Annabella's youngest sibling who was stalking them from far and was responsible for turning the tables around them. That would explain how the plan of taking Frank down at the Bronx gone wrong later on.
An M4A1 with an M203 grenade launcher was discovered at the site.. as far as I remember, no one in the crime organization carries that. So, five of you were trying to club together and beat the Punisher?
Jenny is a sad creature who has nothing left, stripped of her innocence and virginity. Her marriage to the abusive husband Tim was a setup by Annabella, still having that kind of fanaticism and almost everyday she got abused and raped by Tim. She had to play and suffer everyday until the day Frank executed Tim. The thing resulted in her suffering from breast cancer and having to do mastectomy. Having enough of those things, she tried to turn to WITSEC and the FBI with all information, but the five women Shauna beat her up, messed her face and thrown her off the rail tracks presumably dead.

Some may agree that Jenny is just another Kathryn O'Brien, quite similar. But then after the bloodbath of the widows, she has absolutely nothing left. She has become like another Tim. She can no longer enjoy the pleasure of making sex and love with someone as if there is a gap that simply cannot be filled up by any means. The progression that she has is exactly as Frank, except the end.
I am simply your twin.
And there is still the breast cancer that still couldn't be removed after the mastectomy. Of course Frank's first instinct is to stop her from doing something stupid, but women are different from men and you tend to suffer more from breast cancer, just as my granny did days before she died. Any other options if you are to encounter that scenario? As I've said earlier, Frank still has his mission, but Jenny has nothing left, but a shattered soul. But it gave her some hope and determination from what Frank did previously.

I just had a guessing that Jenny is just a flipside of Erica Bain from the movie The Brave One :)
Now I know why you wear that shirt.
Sadly, all Frank could do in the third act is to sit and watch.

Lan Medina's art is much better than Leandro's or Goran Parlov's and edges Doug Braithwaite's. Realistic faces, well colored and inked by Bill Reinhold and Raul Trevino (the duo who inked Mother Russia). So you can say that it is photo like quality that you see in the pictures. I don't really have much of opinion on art but the story is well thought out in the first two acts. But somehow, the third act is a bit weak as Frank is just confined to the bed.

Just get that book. 'Nuff said.

Interesting Anecdotes:
  • Much of the references that the women pointed out are based on The Slavers - the Greek woman thrown off the 50th floor of a building, a man burnt to death and the other one refers to the Tiberius and Vera.
  • The psychiatrist that Paul visits is modeled after Miranda Richardson.
  • Tim Bradstreet's cover art for #44 has Frank's date which is 16 February 1950 but it was decided to block as the date provides some inconsistency to the canon.
  • The five women are modeled after Tim Bradstreet's wife and her friends.
  • Jenny's beating of Annabella by a baseball bat is quite similar to Al Capone beating up traitors!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review there. You pretty much summed up everything that can be said about the book.

    "Widowmaker" looks like another great entry in the Ennis-Punisher Canon. It explores the other side of the equation. We symphatize with Frank Castle, identify with him even, because of his tragedy (his family killed by the mob before his eyes). But Frank as the Punisher have been doing that to other people for decades! The mob bosses he killed, though evil scums, are still someone else's father, husband, lover, friend.

    Louis Cha examined this similar concept in the "Flying Fox" novels (and mentioned it explicitly in his Afterword to "The Young Flying Fox" novel). In "Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain", we read about Hu Yidao killing the villain, Shang Jianming. In "The Young Flying Fox", we see the widowed Mrs. Shang and her son grieving over the death of Shang Jianming and driven to vengence. Shang Jianming is a villain but he is still someone's husband and father.

    Interesting that you compared "Widowmaker" to "First Wives' Club". Haha! For the life of me, I cannot see Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn conspiring to take out FRANK CASTLE! Haha! But I definitely see your point... :)


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