Monday, March 31, 2008

Wanton Punishment: The Greatest Rematch Ever

If the Evander Holyfield vs Mike Tyson II match was deemed as the greatest rematch ever in boxing ever, then the Frank Castle vs Barracuda rematch is much better!

Yes, Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov, the artist for Barracuda has returned for Vol 9 of the series called the Long Cold Dark, the phrase simply says of Frank Castle's desire of slipping back into the shadows. Though the paperback isn't out yet, I managed to get all the 5 issues (why 5, because #50 is a double-size issue with Howard Chaykin art) and read it all.

The Long Cold Dark is the payoff of Barracuda and Man of Stone, Mr. Barracuda intending to settle the score with Frank by having a very prized possession that Frank cannot ignore: a toddler called Sarah which turned out to be...

....Frank's illegitimate daughter!

The child turns out to be the result of the relationship with Frank and Kathryn O'Brien and to get to the child and the whereabouts as part of the plan to draw him out, Barracuda whacked one of the characters we knew, setup a trap at a hotel that will give make sure Frank comes in and smack the ass out of him. The child was left to Kathryn's sister, Barbara as a request before she went to Afghanistan to whack six ex-Taliban men there.

We are seeing Terminators in the psychological level between Frank and Barracuda. One to protect, one to kill, in the spirit of guarding angel movies like Gloria, Ultraviolet, Nick of Time and etc.. Seeing how both men slug out, it is far more visceral than the Terminator and the T-1000. But then we don't see the mayhem and destruction in the city, all was on the outside as Frank's tactic is not to engage against the police Yes, we can see a hybrid of Kyle Reese in Frank in the form of 'Do exactly as I say', but Barbara was no hysterical woman as she had a clear understanding from the beginning when Kathryn made her swear to it.

The first act is a setup of the two men where the exposition from the events of the previous three episodes come into place. Frank knew that Barracuda's weakness was in the form of his ego and at the end of the first act, he admitted of him beaten in his own game. The question of who tipped Barracuda over everything was a mystery and we are likely to find out at the final chapter called Valley Forge. Act II is the bluff game between Barracuda and Frank while Act III is the rematch...! Somehow, they are not like Terminators, fighting like machines and here, we see through voice bubbles of what makes Barracuda is as of now.

But Parlov's art was too frantic, scribbled and doesn't show that kind of cool value of Barracuda as seen in the first encounter there. But there's more gore in here, head shots, blood, caved-in nose, two hands chopped off, well you have to see it. And the finale, it's just like the Harry Potter scene in the opening of the Sorcerer's stone or at the end of Revenge of the Sith and there's an instruction - don't look for him again.

The story value was not as exciting as of the last three episodes, but it's more psychological than The Slavers as this story involves more on Frank in layers than it was during his adventure with Viorica. When I was told of the preview, that Frank teamed up with Barracuda, I thought is that guy crazy. I had to find out. The paperback would not be out until May, so I guess it's sensible to find and read it in a e-format given right now I'm in tight spot over money.

Should you read it? If you want to see the so called rematch of the century, I can't stop you. But this assumes that you have also read the special mini-series spin-off of Barracuda so it will be good to read that first before coming here.

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