“A Gun Toting Angel”

Written by: Doug Wojtowicz
Drawn by: SL Gallant
Published by IDW Publishing

“I have given up any chance at sedentary life, the privilege of being protected and cared for. When Animal Man destroyed my family, I sought out my own way to defend society, to protect those who cannot fight. And the surest lesson I learned as a protector is to place myself between the violence I seek to end, and those who would be harmed.” –Mack Bolan, the Executioner

I’m not a fan of the Punisher. One note and one dimensional, I doubted that I would have any more luck with the character who inspired his creation. Don Pendleton’s The Executioner—especially under the pen of Doug Wojtowicz, popular writer of The Executioner series (which numbers in the hundreds)—has an 80s/90s Punisher feel to it, with a couple of his inherent flaws.

The Executioner remains every bit the cipher he began the story as. We know his name. Mack Bolan. It even sounds like an action movie character’s name (a strong, one syllable name; I guess “Steel” or “Hawk” were taken).We don’t get inside his head at all and it’s hard to relate to someone you don’t know. We’re told a lot about him—though we’re never sure how much is true—and he becomes essentially a ghost in his own book, little more than a boogeyman for the criminal underworld.

In addition to that, you don’t get the sense that he’s ever in any sort of jeopardy. Bolan is so prepared and good at what he does, his campaigns come off as akin to Batman vs. a gang of muggers: a page or two of that is pretty much all you need.

“If anyone’s that god’s priest, it’s Bolan.”

We live in a world where terrible injustices are perpetrated against innocents and evil-doers go mostly unpunished. We pray for God’s justice, even longing to be His hands of justice. During those times, we want there to be a God, both just and wrathful, who would smite the evildoers with pain, suffering, humiliation (and, if so led, toss in death and eternal punishment). Figures like the Punisher or the Executioner appoint themselves God’s Angel of Death, doling out His punishment. The problem is that they often lose sight of His compassion and mercy. They lose sight of the power of forgiveness and redemption. It’s a delicate road to walk. While there is room for laments and imprecations in our prayers, I don’t think I’d trust in people to dole out justice.

“The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.” –Psalms 11:5-7

The Executioner has a pulp novel feel, a beach read romance for the testosterone set. In fact, it might be the cause of my main criticism of the book. In the transition from pulp novel to comics, the book suffers from information overload and could probably lose half of the exposition/running commentary. The unclear storyline—involving the Border Steel Cartel, arms deals, and a covert government agency—becomes an excuse for constant shooting. But stripped of words, the “romance” is strictly reduced to action porn. But you know what? With this book, it works. It delivers what fans of The Executioner want.

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