Marvel Comics continues to release their Marvel Knights line of comics in a new streamlined black cover release with Punisher: Taxi Wars this week. This book features four one-shot stories plus a four part story written by AHOY Comics writer and editor Tom Peyer. The series is gritty, has a Preacher sort of feel only ’90s kids would understand, and it’s totally wild.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Taxi for Frank! A new menace called the Medallion wants control of every cab in New York City – can the Punisher stop this maniac’s meter before a taxi war erupts? Or will Medallion’s mechanic Mr. Badwrench and his deadly Cabattoir turn the Big Apple into a slaughterhouse? Meanwhile, Detective Soap gets a disturbing new girlfriend! Plus, discover what would happen if the Punisher targeted…1920s mobster Al Capone?! And relive the Punisher’s very first encounter with Spider-Man, from Frank’s point of view! As the holidays roll around, the Punisher has his own Christmas list of who’s naughty and nice! And it’s serious business when Daredevil and the Punisher help the Black Widow face an old enemy!
Why does this matter?
Enjoy Marvel Knights as it should be with these classics. This collection has a nice mix of stories opening with a time travel yarn only superheroes can go on, a Christmas story where Frank is checking off naughty and nice criminals, a retelling of the classic Spider-Man/Punisher tale, and of course the four part “Taxi Wars” storyline. There’s a lot to love here.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Let’s start with the one-shot stories, which open and close this book. The opening story by Ron Zimmerman and Mike Lilly is the kind of wacky story you might expect from a more socially adjusted hero, but in this story Frank goes that route as he gets sent back in time by Mr. Fantastic to kill Al Capone. It’s just crazy enough to work as Zimmerman writes some fun interactions for Frank and the 1920 goons.
Following “Taxi Wars” is a quick crime story involving Daredevil and Black Widow. This tale was written by John Figueroa and drawn by Alberto Ponticelli and has some great action and some excellent visuals when it comes to Daredevil’s acrobatics. It has a nice twist and reminds readers why Punisher is sometimes required since he’s so reliable.
Following that is the Stuart Moore and C.P. Smith X-Mas special that has a visual flair that’s quite realistic and cool. There are some clever ideas at work here, like integrating Frank’s notes and newspaper clippings into the story. It makes it that much more real. The story is fantastically done and well worth a read.
Capping off the book is a retelling of Punisher and Spider-Man’s first interaction by Joseph Harris and Michael Lopez. There are some interesting layout designs, like a full page of all of Spider-Man’s past villains and girlfriends watching him fail. The environments are excellent too.
The main feature is by Peyer and drawn by Mike Lilly with inks by Rodney Ramos and colors by Steve Oliff. There are a lot of ideas at work in this story, making it feel quite fresh and sometimes zany. Peyer created a Kingpin sort of character in a man named Medallion. He’s incredibly fat, runs a taxi company, and outfits those taxis with missiles and goons. He wants to run the taxi industry of New York, but unfortunately for him, Punisher is in town. There are some wacky ideas like Medallion requiring to be naked for meetings with his men and an underling of his who has a wrench for his hand. I honestly thought of Preacher when reading this story because the violence is high (as it should be) and the ideas put forth are so insane they work. The art is gritty and raw as Punisher demands and the violence doesn’t let up a smidge.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Some of these stories show their age. The opening story with Al Capone is particularly wordy, especially the opening page, forcing the story to slow down when it should speed up. The concept behind it is odd too, although maybe Mr. Fantastic in the Marvel Knights universe is cool with killing?
The “Taxi Wars” story spends a good deal of time setting up characters only to wipe them out. It has a Sopranos kind of feel to it because of this, but it also makes you wonder if Peyer was thinking this series would go on for longer. That said, certain characters have dead-end sort of stories that may have picked up later, but as they read here it’s like they were half baked ideas.
Is it good?
I was surprised by how much I liked this collection. Each one-shot has something to offer and the “Taxi Wars” story has the right kind of ideas to make it fun and crazy that only comics can pull off.
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