This review is based off a volume that collects Punisher: Trial of the Punisher #1-2, Bullseye: Perfect Game #1-2 and material from Daredevil #500.
It’s not very often that I get to review a trade paperback that’s an anthology in the purest sense, so I find myself most fortunate that this one – Punisher & Bullseye: Deadliest Hits – focuses heavily on one of my favorite Marvel characters, Frank Castle.
Before delving into the content itself, I can’t help but voice my bewilderment as to why the co-headliners were even paired for this compilation. I mean, this isn’t a Punisher vs. Bullseye book by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, Daredevil is the connecting thread here, as he does appear in each story in some capacity. In fact, they could’ve easily put his name on this book, which may have even boosted sales.
But, there are various factors to consider, like both Punisher and Bullseye are highly skilled marksmen, and are known to favor New York – then again, so do 90% of Marvel’s other characters for some reason. Or, it could be due to Punisher’s recent Netflix exposure and the fact that a Bullseye six-issue miniseries just launched. Either way, I guess we should just enjoy the book for what it is.
Anyway, a two-issue arc, Trial of the Punisher, kicks things off and does so with a bang (pun intended). In it, Castle turns himself in for murdering an assistant district attorney, causing the reader to believe he’s having a crisis of conscience. What follows is a taut courtroom drama, something that’s quite ironic for a guy who often acts as judge, jury and executioner.
In the wrong hands, this could’ve easily been a snoozefest, but, thankfully, this was the brainchild of one Marc Guggenheim. And, as if there were any doubt, he brings the same levels of grittiness and realism to this as he does every Wednesday night with Arrow, a TV series which he serves as executive producer and co-showrunner on. Actually, he takes the violence to another level here, as this is a more uncompromising character we’re dealing with.
Doing my best to avoid major spoilers, I will say things aren’t quite what they seem and the beauty of this tale lies in showing just how calculating, patient and lethal Castle can be. Trust me, if you love the character as much as I do, there’s plenty here to make you smile.
Before moving on, I’d be remiss if I failed to compliment the artwork. The first chapter is illustrated by one of Marvel’s greatest talents, Leinil Francis Yu, who never ceases to show why he’s worth every penny. But, to me, it’s Mico Suayan who steals the show in the concluding portion, as I feel his style is more well suited to the anti-hero. Seriously, it’s almost like having interiors on par with Tim Bradstreet covers.
Before we go any further, I should say that despite my being a Daredevil fan, I’m not really a Bullseye guy. Honestly, I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, I’m just not into him. That being said, if you get the right creators on a project, I’ll take notice no matter whom the spotlight is on.
Suffice it to say, Charlie Huston got my attention with Perfect Game. With an outside the box approach to providing a third person examination of a supervillain, what the author achieved here is nothing short of ingenious. Seriously, who would’ve ever thought of telling a story in which Bullseye takes a contract to kill a baseball player and then decides to go through with the hit by getting into the sport himself, followed by working his way up to the majors with the intention of publicly killing his target in front of tens of thousands? And I thought the Punisher was patient and calculating!
As for Shawn Martinbrough’s artwork, the strength doesn’t lie in the details, but rather, in the subtleties. His noir-ish realization of this transcending yarn brings together all the best qualities of greats such as Frank Miller, Eduardo Risso and Szymon Kudranski. You could say he pitched a perfect game of his own.
Concluding this volume is an excerpt from Daredevil #500. Despite some less than perfect writing by way of Ann Nocenti, it provides a pretty decent encapsulation of the Daredevil-Bullseye rivalry and is a somewhat fitting followup to Perfect Game’s closing panel. What’s more is that artist David Aja channels the spirit of David Mazzucchelli, which should please at least a few among you.
Realistically speaking, this book is probably below the radar of many, but I promise that Punisher & Bullseye: Deadliest Hits is well worth adding to your buy pile the next time you stock up on trade paperbacks. This is what an unexpected gem looks like.
Without a doubt, Deadliest Hits provides some of the best out of the box storytelling you may ever come across featuring two of Marvel's most lethal characters.