And I don’t mean that in a snarky way. Marvel just cancelled the Marvel titles I read. I say this not because there were a lot – there were just a couple, and the occasional books I picked up when I saw something interesting that tied in to the ones I regularly pick up. Mostly I noticed it because they tended to cluster around certain weeks when my DC haul was low, and I’d be surprised to see that my Marvel occasionally equaled or outnumbered my DC titles.
It is a blow to see them gone like this, though.
The Daken: Dark Wolverine cancellation, I have to say, I saw coming for a long time. I liked the character, in part because I was tickled by the weirdness of him, and in part because I think he represents a fantastic picture of the dark romantic hero. (Don’t laugh. A bunch of books and comics present certain characters as ‘dangerous’ – characters like The Punisher, or Wolverine, who are about as dangerous as ten week old staunchly loyal labrador puppies. Everyone might say that they’re violent and cruel, but then unfailingly end up doing the right thing, and often the most noble thing. Dangerous AntiHeroes With Dark Pasts Who You Shouldn’t Get Involved With pretty much always end up being the best people in any book. Daken’s arcs followed the same pattern; people getting to like him, seeing his vulnerabilities, thinking they were the exception, and then unfailingly getting screwed over because that’s what darkly violent romantic heroes would actually do. You don’t develop a bad reputation by doing the right thing all the time.)
Still, it was easy to see the concept was staggering from the beginning. Daken was born in a tie-in, raised in massively-confusing event continuity, and his solo title launched in an incomprehensible crossover series. That pretty much hobbled the guy. Since then, various writers have been sending him around the globe trying to give him something to do. ”Look! He’s in New York! Milan! Madripoor! LA! Something’s happening! We’re almost sure of it!” The book never settled down into telling a story. It just sent him places.
PunisherMAX was a shock, though, especially since I like Aaron’s work so very much. Not only does he slalom between genuinely horrific events and hilarious slapstick violence perfectly, he brings a new dimension to the Punisher. I, being a wuss, have to mentally edit out the worst of it, but brainwashing myself is worth it for the story and the characters. Anyone reading this is a comics fan, and so anyone reading this will definitely know how rare it is to see the big reveal on the last page of the issue and think, “Holy crap! I did not see that coming! I can’t wait to see what happens next.” It’s rare to be surprised, and even more rare for that surprise to elicit more than an, “Oy. This guy again.” Aaron’s Punisher had me doing that every issue.
More importantly, it had me interested in the Punisher as a character. Most Punisher comics don’t have the guy thinking more than a few words, and if they do, it’s usually words of blank contempt for the villains, the onlookers, or the world in general. This Frank looks at himself, and his mistakes, explains why he does the things he does (More than just ‘I hate them,’ which was a cop-out.), and shows more variation of emotion. Aaron gives the character feet of clay without surrendering an ounce of toughness or personal morality. It’s a great look, and while I didn’t expect him to get Garth Ennis’ ten book run, I was hoping to settle in with this character being written by this author.
Oh, well. I shall bid a fond farewell to both books, and secretly hope that Daken shows up on a team without too much tedious backstory and Jason Aaron writes a Punisher novel. It could happen. In theory.