I’ve always been a big fan of The Punisher. The 2004 Punisher movie came out when I was in high school, and even though I might be the only one, I loved it–and that led me to get into Garth Ennis’ brutal MAX series, and then of course Greg Rucka’s 2011 take. Fast forward to 2016 and Frank Castle is in the spotlight once again, thanks mostly to his show-stealing role in Daredevil season 2.
So when I heard Becky Cloonan was taking on a new ongoing Punisher series, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The day is here–was it worth the wait? Is it good?
The Punisher #1 (Marvel Comics)
Admittedly it may be a little paint-by-numbers for a Punisher story–there’s a major drug deal going down, the DEA plans on breaking it up, The Punisher beats them to the punch and dispenses his own brand of vigilante justice. It’s not an earth-shatteringly different take on The Punisher, which may be good or bad depending on what you wanted out of this. In my opinion though, it’s a very faithful and familiar take on the character, and one most Punisher fans will feel right at home reading.
The sort of standard feel to the story is more excusable given that this is a #1, so it has the task of introducing The Punisher to new readers who may never even heard of Frank Castle (though, if you’re one of those people, stop reading this and go binge watch Daredevil season 2 right now). And it does so admirably–dialogue exposes Frank’s history and why he is the way he is succinctly and naturally without ever sounding forced.
It all comes together with an interesting villain and a final-page reveal that makes you want the next issue right away, which is the sign of a good single issue of comics.
About the only thing that bothered me is the censoring of curse words–we can witness Frank pierce a dozen men’s skulls in brutal detail, but we can’t read an uncensored F bomb?! For a grizzly, dark comic such as The Punisher to have curse words replaced by hokey symbols is well, really #$%^@ annoying.
Steve Dillon’s artwork works great here, and brings to life the ultraviolence that makes The Punisher The Punisher. The Punisher brings the pain as he is wont to do, and every splatter of gore or punctured skull is rendered beautifully (is “beautifully” the right word for disturbing violence?).
The only strange thing I noticed is Frank himself–he seems to be depicted a lot younger than he normally is. Maybe it’s his haircut, but he doesn’t quite have the same weathered, “I’ve seen some s--t” demeanor he does in other stories. I suppose that’s neither a positive or a negative, but it is a peculiarity I noticed.
Is It Good?
Frank Castle is back, baby, and he’s in good hands. Becky Cloonan has a great handle on the character, and Steve Dillon’s artwork truly brings him to life in exciting ways. Keep this one in your pull list–it’s gonna be a wild ride.