21st Nov2018

Panel Discussion #53 – La Muerta goes West Coast Punisher!

by Phil Wheat


Welcome back to another installment of Panel Discussion – this time featuring reviews of a handful of books that I’ve recently added to my pull list, including The Punisher, West Coast Avengers and La Muerta.

The Punisher #3

Matt Rosenberg’s fantastic run on Punisher continues with issue three, which picks up from the cliffhanger ending of #2 as Daredevil tries to bring Frank Castle to justice, only for the subway car their in to become overrun with numerous enemies, all wanting the massive bounty on the Punisher’s head. Which means this issue is action-packed, and I do mean ACTION packed. From beginning to almost end, The Punisher #3 is non-stop action and violence. Which means there’s not much room for story… making this book feel a little like a filler release. Not a bad example of a filler book, more a pause in the story if you will. And whilst it doesn’t add much to the story so far (for the most part), it does give us more character development – we get a look at the relationship between Frank Castle and Matt Murdock (Daredevil) and see get more of an insight into the mind of the Punisher, especially when Nick Fury turns up towards the end of the book and we, along with Fury, realise he’s got a much bigger master plan and is EXPECTING everything that has gone down so far. And then there’s THAT cliffhanger, the closing page as Frank Castle’s “plan” seemingly looks to have been sidelined by the appearance of one of his long-standing enemies, who’s returned (apparently) to kick Castle’s arse!

If you’ve read my review of the first two issues of The Punisher, I’m probably going to sound like a broken record here, but… Szymon Kudranski’s artwork once again matches the gritty style of story perfectly; bringing the same grit, dirt and grime to the visuals as Rosenberg’s script does, giving this book a much-needed darker edge than the rest of the Marvel universe.

West Coast Avengers #1 & #2

Ahhh… the funny books. MY kind of superhero book! The likes of Justice League International, The Heckler, Deadpool, Great Lakes Avengers… I am a huge fan of the kinds of superhero books that mix traditional hero storytelling with absurdist comedy. And this new iteration of West Coast Avengers, at least in its first two issues, has absurdist humour in spades. This time round the West Coast Avengers consists of Hawkeye, Hawkeye, Gwenpool, Kid Omega, America and new superhero Fuse. And yes, I did write Hawkeye twice – beacause this book features both Hawkeyes: Clint Barton AND Kate Bishop. The first story arc, set-up within the pages of these first two issues,  also features M.O.D.O.K. but not as you know him!

The set-up is relatively simple: given that there’s no superheroes based on the West Coast of America, Hawkeye (the Kate Bishop version) decides to resurrect the West Coast Avengers. During an attack by land sharks in Santa Monica Bishop recruits the OTHER Hawkeye, America Chavez, and her own boyfriend Johnny “Fuse” Watts, to help in her mission. The group is eventually joined by Gwenpool and Kid Omega after a “recruitment drive” sees them turn down numerous, terrible, superhero wannabes like Bread man and Spider-King (see what I mean by absurdist humour?). However given their lack of funds, the newly formed team tried to get financers by starring in a reality show following their exploits… Shades of the third volume of New Warriors? I hope to god this book doesn’t end the way that book did – it kicked off Marvel’s original Civil War in 2006.

The hilarious script(s) by Kelly Thompson (Jem & the Holograms), who has already proved she knows everything about the two Hawkeye’s in her previous Marvel work, is matched by the clean visuals from artist Stefano Caselli and bright colouring by Triona Farrell. The visuals in particular make West Coast Avengers look like a loud, kids book but it reads like the opposite – the humour is very much of the grown-up variety. And of the “Phil’s going to love this book” variety too!


La Muerta: Retribution #1

Despite the character being around for years, La Muerta is actually a new comic pick-up for me. I am more familiar with the Brian Pulido-created character from her appearances in other aspects of pop culture – in particular the stunning 12″ ation figure of the character made by Phicen. However, looking to expand my pull list I scoured the shelves of my LCS and the fantastic “Firepower” variant cover of La Muerta: Retribution #1 immediately jumped out at me.

Unfortunately is that this book is actually the first of two issues in the FOURTH chapter of the story of La Muerta – which essentially means this newcomers are missing out on most of this tale – reminding me why I hate this trend for renumbering books. So to get you up to speed… Santa Muerte, the Saint of Death, calls upon Maria Diaz to be an instrument of vengeance. And again Maria heeds the call, donning the guise of La Muerta. Seeking justice for a murdered child, La Muerta narrowly escapes death at the hands of a supernatural evil-the legendary La Llorona. La Muerta: Retribution #1 picks things up after that, as La Muerta’s defiance has enraged a ruthless, criminal mastermind known as Brujo. Practicing the darkest of magic, Brujo will stop at nothing to accomplish his nefarious plans. Now, only La Muerta and the luchador vigilante Loco can challenge the crime boss’ brutality.

Despite being part of a larger story, this is still an entertaing read. Especially given that this particular take on la Muerta feels very Crow-esque, with that same mixture of action and mysticism that made James O’Barr’s book (and the original movie that followed) so great. However the story does feel like its over before it’s begun – the plot is just getting to the nitty-gritty, after a brief set-up and a huge action set-piece when the book ends. Sadly a third of this books 32 pages are taken up by ads, which is why this feels over too quick. Maybe this would’ve been better as a larger, pricer one-sbhot rather than the two-issue mini series it is.


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