"What we do in life. Echoes in eternity" - Jennifer Blood
After a career writing male protagonists, with this series Garth Ennis decided to try his hand at writing a female one. Now he's written a lot of interesting and varied women characters in his books before like Tulip in Preacher and Tiegel in Hitman, but they've tended to be subordinate to the male lead. Here we see him explore the idea of a character that is as proficient at meting out death and destruction as The Punisher but who also lives an entirely normal family life with a gentle husband and two young kids and how she balances the two sides of her life inside herself as she embarks on a week of bloody revenge against the family members who had wronged her. The book is very heavy with textual narration via Jennifer's diary in which she records her exploits and thoughts on her mission as well as how she takes such care not to let the violence spill over into her ordinary life. It goes without saying that the gun fetishism is turned up to the maximum as is the violence and sexual explicitness. So if spilled guts and naked penises aren't something you want to see, don't read on. Artists are Adriano Batisa, Marcos Mars and Kewber Baal, doing two issues each consecutively.
We begin with Jennifer recording all sorts of mundane things in her diary. How her husband Andrew is so sweet and a dilemma over washing up liquid. But it takes a Garth Ennis turn when she says she was reading "Guns And Ammo" in the nailbar. She wonders why there are so many articles about 9mm guns:
Jennifer: "What on earth is the point of having twice as many bullets if you have to use three times as many to put someone down?"
Her husband picks up the kids to get in her good books so he can go bird watching at the weekend which she happily accedes too. While she does her domestic chores, she thinks about earlier when she took her car in for a service (she could repair it herself but what would the neighbours think?) and the mechanic leered and pawed at her. "Eventually I made one of my mental notes".
She has a bit of a twinge about the kids, but ignores it and drives on out to the docks where her target is. She collects the MP5 machine gun she stashed in a car their earlier and "Before I knew it, I'd struck a pose". She stops that immediately and carries on surveilling the docks.
Boosted cars are being brought there for sale overseas. She waits for them all to be loaded, twice as many as usual today then when the men are clustered together to be paid she chucks a grenade at them and machine guns the survivors. But she hadn't realised double the cargo, double the security.
|Boobs, the ultimate weapons.|
|She leaves her calling card.|
Jennifer: "And that was the end of my first night out."
Back home she showers and gets the smell of blood and cordite out of her hair. She has another twinge about coming home to a happy family after causing such carnage. Then, bone-tired, she slips into bed. Sadly her husband is feeling randy, so she has sex with him. "Nice to do something boring just to bring youself down off that massive adrenaline high". Then she notices a damp patch on the ceiling, she is annoyed, "just what I needed. Honestly".
Jennifer: "You'd think someone would have come up with something by now, wouldn't you? Honestly".
Back home the family meet their new neightbours, Jack and Laura and their baby. Jennifer realises Jack is going to be trouble from the way he looks at her. Jack says he is going to throw a housewarming barbeque and they are invited. Jennifer chats to Laura about schools, "my mind wanders. I'm talking schools, but I'm thinking of fields of fire. I should possibly try to stop that." Later she drugs the family, but forgot to get them into bed first and has to carry everyone up thinking truly, "a woman's work is never done".
|The uncles discuss their little problem.|
Steve says are they implying someone is back from the grave? Another one says no, there was no faking that day. The name "Jennifer Blood" is bugging Pete, it has made him think of family, "but they say the family's done, Pete. I mean we are it" says another uncle.
They realise they can't do anything "which means the ball's in this maniac's court. All we can do is brace for impact, an' wait on what the crazy fucker does next". Jennifer meanwhile has wired lots of explosives under the yacht, enough to rip it open.
Jennifer boards the yacht and takes out all the men aboard with a gun that has a supressor attached. She walks out on deck and reveals herself to uncle Steve. He immediately starts begging saying he can make things right.
She just handcuffs him and Renee to the prow of the boat. She leaves the yacht and just as the other uncles discover the corpses in their cars, Jennifer blows up the ship and watches Steve and Renee slowly drown as it sinks, the pair cursing each other the whole way down.
|My heart won't go on.|
Jennifer: "Yo-ho me hearties. Yo-ho. And so to bed. You won't believe what tommorrow will bring".
The next chapter starts with her regarding neighbour Jack's penis as he has cornered her in the bathroom and dropped his trousers. "God, I hate being right" she thinks. She tells him she is not interested in extra-marital stupidity, "I don't betray my husband at all" she says.
He tells her he thinks she's playing hard to get. She wonders how to get out of it, she could poke his eyes out, strike his throat, and grab his balls and throw him out of the window before slamming his head into the barbeque, but that might be hard to explain to the party guests.
Jennifer: "It was so small and skinny and pink and disgusting. Like a tiny little worm".
With the "mouse" now gone, everyone goes back outside. A woman comes up to her and says that she saw a mouse too, and she kneed it in the balls. Jennifer thinks if she could have a friend, Emily Eastwood would be ideal. They'd gossip about the neighbours and skewer them with their wit and generally rebel against the suburban existence.
Jennifer: "But that's not me. I can't risk clever friends. I can't do irony. Woe is me".
The remaining three uncles are at the office of Marcus their lawyer who Pete calls a dramatic Jew. Marcus shows them CCTV footage from the police of "Jennifer Blood". One of them thinks he recognises her, and other tells him to leave the fairy stories in the mountains. They are definitely being fucked with.
Marcus: "Whoever's doing the fucking, knows things that should not be known outside this room".
They discuss the probability one of them is responsible but discard that theory quickly. Pete says the police who provided the information should be killed so they can't be traced back to them.
|The uncles are still none the wiser.|
We return to Jennifer's surveillance on uncle Nick. She realises he is the weak link who would choose to flee rather than stick around and risk death. He goes home, grabs some cash and drives off, leaving his wife and kids behind.
He takes the back roads luckily for her and she is able to shove his car off the road using her souped up S.U.V. She hangs him upside down from a tree and gets out a knife. He comes too and says to her that while he was partly responsible for the death of her dad, what came after was all Pete.
She says she knew he'd break. Then she cuts into his stomach and pulls out his intestines. When they get too slippery for her to handle, she uses the car to pull them further out and spells out "J.B." with them as Nick bleeds to death.
|Another uncle bites the dust.|
Marcus is interviewing the Ninjettes who are teenage girls with masks on. They speak pidgin English and random Japanese words. They are evidently not Japanese. Marcus says they come with recommendations from top men in the business.
He then tells them they are going to be part of a trap. They are going to lure the target to an old nightclub where they will be waiting. There will be perimeter security as well. They are going to make the lure so attractive the target will definitely come.
At Jennifer's home she is mixing the sleeping pills in with the cocoa for her family. She wonders how drugging your family rates:
Jennifer: "On a scale of one to ten, when ten is gutting your uncle and using his viscera to spell your initials? Barely even a two if you ask me."
There is dissension in the ranks of the Ninjettes, actual three trust fund kids called Kelly, Skyler and Chelsea. Kelly thinks the racial charicaturing is demeaning. Skyler says it's about building a brand and being memorable.
Jennifer isn't fooled by the trap she is being led into. She has been surveilling the family for months and months. She follows uncles Jimmy and Pete, such tempting targets as they travel to the old nightclub.
She waits for them to leave then climbs into the van that holds the extra security personel and tells the chief to call the operation off, she has a gun to his head so he obliges, getting them back into the van. They drive round the block ten times, then Jennifer kills them all.
She decides to face her potential killers, and climbs onto the nightclub roof and drops a smoke grenade. In the confusion, she shoots Chelsea and Skyler, leaving Kelly alive for questioning. She tells her to drop the katana and did she realise how much strength would be needed to cut someones head off with it?
|So much for the Ninjettes.|
She arrives at Marcus's office and he recognises her as Jennifer Blute. Isn't she supposed to be dead, fell off a boat during spring break? She says yes, but then she started swimming. Marcus tries to bargain for his life, but when he realises he's going to die he starts talking about that instead.
He says he'd quite like to be machine-gunned and fall out the windown onto the pavement. She says it would attract too much attention. What about blasting his head off like in a clint Eastwood film? She says she doesn't have the right kind of gun. He says he just wants a memorable death. Taking out an orange she says he will and he is hanged from the light fitting in ladies undies and the orange stuffed in his mouth.
|Based on the real life death of a Tory MP.|
Jennifer has a nice day playing with the kids. She relaxes and catches up with some sleep. She dreams about being at home with her mum and dad as a kid herself. And how much her father loved them. She thinks of her mother:
Jennifer: "She was the only human who could reach him. Who knew how to melt that stony heart".
She recalls how the Blute Boys took over the organised crime in the city. A campaign of sustained and horrific violence until there was no one left to oppose them.
Jennifer: "In one long week they made the city theirs. Nick, Steve, Mike, Jimmy and Sam. My dad behind it all. His plan. His resolve. His hands steeped in so much blood the others looked like innocents. Sam Blute was steel and ice and lead and stone. But with Jennifer he was something else".
|Jennifer's happy childhood.|
Using a flamethrower she torches the barn killing everyone bar Jimmy who jumped into the dog fighting pit to escape. She shoots the half dead dog down there saying that's the one death she'll regret. She asks Jimmy if it was his idea to kill her father up close and personal rather than get an outsider to do it. He is silent for a moment then he says, yes, "because I wanted to feel the blades go in."
The others made excuses for doing it that way, but he wanted to feel the skin splitting, his guts bursts and his blood spray on his face. "I wanted to feel steel against bone" says Jimmy. He asks how she knows they killed him, "Pete talks in his sleep" says Jennifer.
|Jennifer's dad betrayed.|
Jennifer had been packed off to boarding school. Her mum sent her a letter one day blowing the lid off what her family were like, she included some useful numbers like that of a bank account in the Bahamas. The letter said when she dies, "they'll get you too". A year later her mother committed suicide.
"Fuck her" says Jimmy. She knew the score, where all the money was coming from. He baits Jennifer into coming down to face him. "I think I'm going to stop writing in my diary now" she writes as we see her chopping Jimmy to bits with an axe.
|Hands on revenge time.|
The last chapter begins with Jennifer injecting a drug into a stricken uncle Pete to keep him alive while he dies from a bullet in the gut. She says she expected him to be harder work as she contemplates all the dead bodies strewn about the house. Now it is time for her to talk.
She tells him about the letter her mum sent, that revealed the true face of the Blute family. When she committed suicide, Jennifer jumped off a ship during spring break, made it to a bank and all of her dad's money, "Jenny Bell of nothing nowhere was all set to go".
|Uncle Pete, the worst of the lot.|
Jennifer: "You see whatever we are is in me too. That urge to kill. To live by the feud. I guess you could say it's in my blood."
She used her father's contacts to learn to use guns and fight hand-to-hand. Learned surveillance and industrial espionage. She has "an entire criminal network to teach me everything I needed". And if one got suspicious of her true identity she'd kill them without qualms.
One day while learning broken bottle fighting, she realised she was prevaricating, "but a funny thing happened on the way to the unspeakably violent showdown". Then she hears a noise and goes to investigate. Jack jumps out at her, ripping off his trousers.
|Oops, heh heh heh.|
She returns to Pete and picks up the story. She'd taken a class in accounting with a half arsed idea she could take down the Blutes financially. Andrew was the lecturer. She fell in love with him, "he was the exact opposite of every man I'd ever known". She says the Blutes would call him weak, but "he's the kind of man that makes society work instead of preying on it."
|She can't fight her true nature.|
Jennifer: "That's my revenge on you uncle Pete. I have a life. A proper one. Not some travesty snared in filth and darkness."
She says she can give him two more hours as his bowels leak into his guts, "then I have got to go home and make a start on breakfast".
|And she wins.... for now.|