The Punisher Vol. 5 #1-12 and Vol. 6 #1-7, 13-37 by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Darick Robertson, Tom Mandrake, Cam Kennedy, and John McCrea - Read these last month when I got a free month of Marvel Unlimited. I haven't read a lot of comics with Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, or The Punisher, so I thought I'd correct all three at once. The ending of the first issue of "Welcome Back, Frank" is a perfect encapsulation of the character, especially how Ennis reasserts who he is in light of the failure of Angel Punisher. With the copycats that Ennis introduces in the story, he bolds and underlines that Frank Castle isn't a hero or an aspirational solution to crime. The stories that follow are one and two parters mixing roomfuls of criminals getting wiped out with Ennis' brand of humor, giving way to longer stories later in the run. Reading a bunch of these issues in a row, the violence gets repetitive after awhile, but the cumulative effect of so many dead at the hands of a man who derives no emotion from it is simultaneously haunting. Dillon has a stock company of faces he uses, but between him being in the top tier of current artists able to imbue lines on paper with life, and the acknowledged nature of criminals being like a hydra, it doesn't take away from the art at all. When Ennis tapped into black comedy, I found the book hilarious, but the more juvenile and goofy bits, like The Russian coming back with breasts and the little people mobsters, usually left me cold. The final story may have drawn out the joke too long, but I found Ennis' disregard for superheroes, from Spider-Man getting beaten down to the ideological confrontation with Daredevil (which read much better on the page than in the Daredevil TV show) to the ol' Canucklehead Wolverine, very entertaining. With Ennis' naturalistic dialogue and Dillon's controlled pacing in the artwork, it's easy to see why the run was considered ripe for adapting to film. It's amusing when Ennis has a point of social commentary to make, as the to the point banter gives way to massive word balloons of text that lay out exactly what Ennis wants to say. I can't explain how it happens, maybe it's because Ennis and Dillon already knew each other so well from their previous collaborations, but Dillon quickly just is the definitive look of The Punisher. I think because Dillon pays so much attention to his facial expressions and body language, the book has an ever present humanity to it, even though you're following a shell of a man endlessly killing criminals. In fact, Ennis and Dillon so thoroughly create the world of The Punisher that the story arcs with guest artists always feel slightly off. The horror of "Hidden" wouldn't have felt disgusting without Tom Mandrake's art, and Ennis' take on Wolverine wouldn't have been such a delight without Darick Robertson's berserker dirtball depiction of the character, but Dillon stays in a corner of your mind. Some of the artists have a depiction of Castle that is just different enough from Dillon that the disconnect is greater than with the others. The run has its problems, and I'm sure the MAX run blows it away, but it offers a good answer to the impossible question of how to create a modern Punisher comic set in the Marvel Universe.