If you title something "Punisher vs." I'm going to check it out -- it really is that simple. Marvel could make "Punisher vs. Squirrel Girl" and honestly, I'd be unable to resist reading the first issue (okay, maybe that does sound a little awesome). With this story in the latest volume of THUNDERBOLTS, writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker have given Frank Castle an epiphany: the Thunderbolts are no good and, after being betrayed by Rulk, Frank thinks he needs to shut them down once and for all. He's already removed Red Leader, Deadpool, and Ghost Rider from the picture. It hasn't been a compelling experience, but it has been a fair amount of fun. Facing Elektra, however, brings more weight to the narrative because the two have been seeing each other. This means we're not just dealing with two people trying to defeat one another -- we're dealing with two people basically fighting over their relationship. One is struggling to end it while the other is battling to hold onto it. If you're expecting a crazy and over-the-top fight between these two, you'll more than likely be disappointed. It's more about fighting for what they stand for as opposed to trying to actually harm one another. Some bits of dialogue felt out of character and it wasn't as engaging as I hoped it would be, but it's still an amusing sequence. I'm still left wondering if Doctor Faustus is playing a significant role in the bigger picture.
Artist Jorge Fornés and colorist Izrael Silva create panels that have a totally wacky vibe -- which is an odd contrast to a heated exchange between two lovers -- but there's no denying they produce some really, really entertaining pages. The sequence of Elektra and Punisher on their first "date" is a lighthearted blast and so much fun to gaze at. The style -- jagged features and exaggerated expressions -- may not be for everyone and I don't think it's appropriate for this chapter, but overall, I enjoyed the attention given to each panel and the energy that was put into these characters' stronger physical and emotional beats. Oh, and I can't forget to compliment David Yardin's great cover.
Look, I'm all for seeing popular characters duke it out, but the Punisher's fight against Elektra feels unnecessary and there's several bits of dialogue where both of them seem out of character (this includes Clint Barton's brief scene). Now, I know some of you might be thinking that Punisher's dealing with a lover, and considering his history with relationships, it's not an easy subject and we can all act a little out of character when dealing with potential breakups. I had that in mind while approaching this and it still felt like the two didn't quite sound like themselves at some points and the fight just didn't feel required. I like how the writers were handling Elektra's actions, but I still couldn't shake the idea that she's more than capable of restraining him and that would force them to talk it out. Sure, that's less exciting, but I'd rather have an engrossing exchange between these two. On top of that, there's a change made to their first encounter. It's meant to give us a stronger emotional connection and understanding of Elektra's actions, but the issue's tone doesn't really allow us to feel all that impacted by it. Is Punisher vs. Elektra fun? Sure, but it's a little tough to understand the logic behind Frank's decisions and he came off as pretty irrational.
The visuals work well for the action, but it doesn't seem very fitting for the more emotional side of this story. It makes some of the moments that need to be more heartfelt seem lighthearted and cartoonish. The splash page with three characters and a collection of moments is an example of this. That may work for some, but for me, the contrast between the tone and the style made some of the incidents feel less effective.
I can't hold it against this issue (and it doesn't impact the score, obviously), but I still think it's disappointing that we never got to see Punisher vs. Deadpool. The bit with them was amusing, but it's almost always a good time when we get to see those two fight.
THUNDERBOLTS #30 is a pretty fun journey which is complimented by equally fun artwork, but the characters' dialogue sometimes feels off and the physical conflict came off feeling really unnecessary. I get the symbolism behind the actions and how it was their way of addressing some issues, but it mostly seemed like fighting for the sake of fighting. On top of that, it's clear the story arc is going for over-the-top fun and the art works well with that, but it's odd when the narrative switches gears and aims for more serious and emotionally gripping scenes. It doesn't transition all that well into those and they're left feeling not nearly as impactful as they should. Still, if you're just looking to have fun, odds are you'll be able to overlook most of these issues and have a decent time.