Thursday, 12 May 2016

Jennifer Blood Book 1: A Woman's Work Is Never Done (#1-6) NSFW

NSFW:  Full frontal male nudity, beware the Penis!  Also sex happens.

"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".
Jennifer Blood.
Later, after spiking their cocoa her drugged husband and children have been put to bed and she gets dressed up in a leather outfit, black wig and tooled up, in the armoury she secretly added to the basement while her husband was away seeing his parents.

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.
Two men get out of a car behind her and point guns at her but are distracted by her "boobies" long enough for her to shoot them.  Another jumps her and they engage in hand-to-hand combat.  She pulls out her knife which is stashed on her back and stabs her assailant then slices him up, "how much blood can one man have in him?"
She leaves her calling card.
She hears the police sirens and starts to leave when she sees one of the men on the ground dying recognises her, "it can't be."  She suffocates him and says "go back to sleep uncle Mike".  Then she writes Jennifer Blood in blood on one of the containers and makes her getaway.

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".
Romantic!
The next day we get the charming image of uncle Steve having sex with his wife Renee on the prow of their yacht.  Jennifer is at the docks doing some recognaissance.  She mulls over how you can't get a large calibre sniper rifle that is easy to conceal.

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.
Onboard Steve's yacht the Uncles discuss Mike's death.  All the cars were left so it doesn't look like a rival outfit, who are all either happy or too chickenshit to do anything like this.  One of them wonders if it is someone from the old country. 

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.
Boom! Headshot!
Then she uses a sniper rifle to kill the three guards/drivers of the three uncles who travelled there.  Then she puts the dead bodies in the cars as psychological warfare.  The three uncles leave a displeased Steve who starts saying they don't respect him, then he tells Renee to suck his dick.

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.
As the rest of the uncles regard the drowned pair, they see the boat's flag has "Jennifer Blood" written on it in blood.

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. 
Imaginary revenge.
So she screams at the top of her voice, and Jack hurridly pulls his trousers back up as everyone comes in to see what the matter is.  She says she saw a mouse:

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.
Marcus says whoever he hires to deal with her, will know about them.  Pete says they'll be killed as well when they have done the job.  He says he wants the bitch dead, "and her bones ground to powder".  He wants her gone from this world.

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 called up and told Nick has disappeared.  Marcus says he may have found a solution to the problem and on his PC screen is a page advertising the "Ninjettes".

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.
The Ninjettes.
Skyler and Kelly argue about each other's respective families and Skyler asks why Kelly can't get into character like Chelsea who is dancing happily behind them.  Kelly says she's always in character.  They'll do the job, get cash before their trustfunds open up and not have to rely on allowances from parents and "ninja up and get through this".

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 asks who hired them, and is told it was Marcus Goldhaven.  Jennifer says they were way out of their depth, how did they get on the ciruit?  Kelly admits they slept with the men who recommended them.  Jennifer says she can go if she has her "solemn promise" not to say anything.  Kelly enthusiastically agrees and turns to leave and Jennifer cuts her head off with the katana, fancy that, "still a very silly toy to bring to a party".

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.
Late that night, weary she returns home.  But she is being watched through a telescope by Jack.  He catches a glimpse of her leather suit and jumps to the conclusion she is into BDSM and goes out every night with a bag full of dildos to get some action her hubby can't provide. "I was right, I was right. Fuck yeah!" he says gleefully.

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.
Her next target is uncle Jimmy. She is unsure of how to deal with him, he "was good at getting into peoples heads".  He is attending a dogfight which suits her as the barn is a long way in the middle of nowhere.

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.
Her father had to go for many jealous reasons, but mainly because of his wife.  Pete "wanted her like nothing on earth". After Sam's death he made sure she was hollowed out with pills, until she ended up turning to Pete like he wanted all along.

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.
She returns home exhausted.  The watching Jack is dressed in a leather fetish suit, he rips the trousers off and says, "tommorrow night. You won't even know what's hit you."

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.
But she couldn't stop thinking of the family.  "What are we, Uncle Pete?" she asks.  Hugarian or Romanian, or border trash feeding on the bones of war.  And that continued when the brothers came to America.  She couldn't stop thinking of her murdered dad and what Pete has done to her mum.

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 puts a gun in his face and he starts pissing in fear.  She realises what he thought she was up to, and shows him all the corpses.  Then she drugs him and tells him if he says anything she'll release surveillance of this place showing he was here.  She also warns him not to ever try and force sex from her again.  And he burbles off home in a terrified daze.

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.
She says her family life was almost enough for her to forget thoughts of revenge.  But seeing the Blutes escape justice one too many times sparked the desire again.  She tells him her dad's money went nowhere near her family.

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.
An solid experiment by Garth Ennis this, gender flipping his usual manly man military killer into a tooled up housewife makes for fascinating reading in the context of his wider body of work.  I'm not sure he totally pulls it off, I'd hope for more about how Jennifer functions switching between two very different lives, she is in fact a sociopath with how she can carpentalise the gruesome deaths which don't affect seem to her greatly (although the mask slips once, when she stops writing about uncle Jimmy's horrific death for a moment) and herlove for her family.  There is an interesting possibility that arises from her actions, she seems to feel more alive and more like her "real self" when she is killing, whereas when she is trying to fit into suburban mundanity she feels like she is playing a role, and that explains why her "housewife" persona is such a stereotype, she is totally deluding herself along with everyone else who knows her. I know Ennis hasn't written the books that come after, they are written by Al Ewing and seem to be better regarded than Ennis's original work creating the character.  I haven't read the rest of the series, it's on my list of things to check out.  The book does suffer somewhat from weak art, that just doesn't fit the darkness of the subject matter, with three sub-par artists on the arc artwise it's a real disappointment in that respect.  I'm not sure this is prime Ennis, while it borrows from his amazing Punisher MAX run quite heavily in places, it in no way matches up to them and the Ninjette chapter falls flat for me in every possible way, either as comedy or drama.  But he has at least given comics an interesting female anti-hero who's gone on to have a possibly richer life beyond his pen.  Worth a look for the Garth Ennis completist.

8 comments:

  1. not much of a schlong..... doesn't look like prime ennis. hey tho, have u seen they have released a collection of his run on The Demon? might be worth checking out as u liked Hitman so much :)

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  2. I am literally clueless as to what constitutes a decent sized schlong. But we probably shouldn't be sizest.

    The Demon is being released? Shit really? *goes to Amazon* FUCK YEAH!! When I can scrabble a few pennies together that will totally be my next purchase, cheers for the heads up :)

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  3. It does look a bit small. But that might be a trick of perspective.

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  4. He's probably what they call a "grower not a show-er".

    Ick. Why did I know that term? >_<

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  5. I did write a dissertation on pornography as part of my Media Studies BA, sooooo, I must have remembered it from there. I guess that might count as a misspent youth :D

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  6. In the defence of men, maybe it was cold. But i adore this. I is intrigued.

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  7. It was a toss up between that panel or the one of him pissing himself in terror, but it was the dynamism of his enthusiasm that "swung" it for that image. Oo-er etc.

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