Monday, October 12, 2015

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher ~ This animated feature comes to us from Madhouse, the folks behind Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore, and the four Marvel Anime series - "Iron Man," "X-Men," "Wolverine," and "Blade." I wasn't too fond of the feature, but I liked the first three series quite a bit. I was initially a bit conflicted seeing this one because as happy as I was to finally see the Black Widow get some time in the spotlight, I am not a Punisher fan.

This feature does not hold back on the violence, and is definitely not for the kids. As a matter of fact, the opening scene with the Punisher, a graphic bloodbath gunfight, is everything I hate about the character. My heroes don't wholesale murder dozens of individuals just because they're in the way. No matter his motivation, even if there's a heart in there somewhere, to me, the Punisher is a murderer and a villain, no better, if not worse than the 'scum' he 'punishes.'

Most irritating of all, regarding the sequence, is that the Punisher doesn't kill the big bad in charge, a fellow named Cain, but allows him not only his life but to escape as well, after killing dozens of his underlings outright. Punisher's murder spree is interrupted by Black Widow, Nick Fury, and S.H.I.E.L.D. They manage to only distract the killer. The Punisher in this feature is superhuman, almost supernatural, as if the animators were unaware of the character's origins and 'power set.'

A deal is struck, Punisher's freedom for his cooperation in the SHIELD mission that collided with his criminal massacre. Forced to work together, the Black Widow and the Punisher pursue Leviathan, a Russian offshoot of Hydra, who were among the big bads in the first season of "Marvel's Agent Carter." When Widow describes Leviathan to the Punisher, it's startling to hear his hypocritical care for dead civilians. Again, I reiterate, villain.

Now there's some weird stuff going on in this story. There's a character who's a mish-mash of both the original Red Guardian and Hank Pym foe Egghead, an anime stereotype version of Amadeus Cho staying at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Istanbul headquarters for some reason, and cool cameos of old school Marvel villains like Count Nefaria, Baron Zemo, Taskmaster, and others. The Hulk shows up as well, ridden by Amadeus Cho in a visual that conjures both the Imperial Guard's Warstar and Rankin-Bass' animated "King Kong."

And just so you don't think the Avengers part of the title is misleading - Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, and War Machine all show up late in the third act. They help wrap up Leviathan's bio-soldiers as well as Graviton, and the Griffin, and the other villains. Quite a finale, and I would love to see more anime Captain Marvel.

Now there is a nice evolution in the Black Widow and the Punisher's partnership. They go from opponents, to bickering couple, to the Widow actually teaching him something about mercy. So I didn't hate him as much at the end as I did at the beginning, but I still have intense dislike. The score by Tetsuya Takahashi needs to be mentioned also as its one of the best parts of this feature.

The animation is spectacular, visually stunning, and the kind we've come to expect from the company who also did "Death Note," Batman: Gotham Knight, and The Animatrix. And as much as it's not the Punisher we know, it is kind of cool seeing his eyes glow in combat. As I said, it's pretty violent, but worth seeing for comics fans, and Punisher fans will probably love it.

And if you'd like to hear more discussion of this feature, or my feelings about the Punisher, please check out this week's episode of The GAR! Podcast.

1 comment:

  1. Agree 100% on The Punisher. I can't stand the character and only watched this one because of The Black Widow. The story actually was pretty good and I wouldn't mind seeing more Black Widow solo animated adventures.