Punisher MAX: Butterfly (3 of 3)
There were a number of very nice “grace notes” in the story which I rather liked. The panel of Butterfly whispering her safeword, “Jamaica,” to the violent (and bad) dominant — after she’d killed him in self defense — was creepily elegant. I was unsurprised to see archaic crosses on his shirt, in fact; it depicted nicely that Butterfly was definitely leaving behind the monotheistic, patriarchal definition of a “good woman.” That she spoke her safeword again as the Punisher appeared said to me how greatly she desired to leave her personal “underworld” — and how powerful that earlier moment with the bad dominant (which was also her first kill) must have been for her.
The art was powerful for me in several scenes, in fact. The panel where the photo of her family members is reduced, by her memory, to faceless mannequins was very creepily effective — especially in how telling the placement of the various family members was. The foreshadowing of poor Celeste as a similarly-faceless mannequin, even in just the single panel, was well done also. Other nice foreshadowing in the story which I liked: the little statuette of Kali (who unwittingly slays her consort), the mention of St. Stephen (who was violently martyred), and the repetition of “Chapter 13” (in which the Punisher first appears in Butterfly’s life). The colors throughout were usually either the mingled,lurid reds and golds of blood and light, or quite dark and moody — but I think they worked very well, and ably assisted in depicting the way Butterfly’s thoughts drifted and were juxtaposed with her “present.”
In fact, that dreamy-seeming mental wandering back and forth through her life was a fascinating way to demonstrate both her time in the Underworld of her soul, and the reflection on the Self necessary for spiritual development. I thought it worked quite well, and showed clearly how, like Inanna, she sheds all her trappings in order to descend. Her editors, her lover, her comfortable lifestyle… in the end she is in appalling living conditions, but she determinedly finishes her book — the self-reflection of her spiritual development — and triumphantly announces her success to her ghostly, murdered spiritual guide. It is he who drives her to complete her story, who tells her the story of Inanna, who persuades her to send her story out to every news person on the internet… and yet, since he is a part of her psyche, it is ultimately she herself who must know all of his teachings already, so they appear when necessary to her awakening soul.
That leads to what I believe is the most powerful moment in the story: the panel when it is clear that Butterfly herself clicks the button to send out her story. Had we not seen that panel we would not have known for sure if it was she or the Punisher who emailed her book out — or even if it ever made it. But because of that panel, we know without question that, just like Inanna, not only does Butterfly metaphorically return from the Underworld even more powerful than when she descended… but it is she, a woman empowered in her own right, whose voice speaks doom, casting down those who wished her dead and silenced.