Series – The Punisher (2016)
Writer – Becky Cloonan
Art – Steve Dillon, with Frank Martin on Colors
Publisher – Marvel
Summary from Comixology – “FRANK CASTLE LOSES CONTROL! A by-the-numbers drug bust is about to take Frank Castle by surprise…and he HATES surprises. The horrible fallout threatens to send The Punisher into the heart of darkness, but Castle won’t make that journey alone: A DEA agent is on his trail and attempting to get into his head…but what horrors will she find there, and will she survive the experience?”
The Punisher is a fascinating character. There are so many dimensions to him that I think get lost a lot of time in the way he’s perceived. Frank Castle is a decorated war veteran. He’s not just some thug who arbitrarily murders people. He’s very intelligent and can think quickly in high pressure situations. Sure, he works outside the law, which can either be an attractive aspect or a complete turn-off for readers, but he has complex reasons as to why he does what he does. He’s just a man of few words typically so it’s incredibly important for whoever writes him to capture that complexity with as much behavioral expression as possible. (Also, I may be WAY over-thinking it.)
I was a huge fan of the previous Punisher comic, written by Nathan Edmondson, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when this new series was announced. I’ve been a fan of Becky Cloonan’s work for a while now though, and Steve Dillon was the artist on Garth Ennis’ Punisher series years ago and that’s my favorite Punisher run ever, so there was no doubt in my mind that this creative team would do the series justice.
The story opens with some nefarious guys planning a drug trade, and some respectable DEA agents planning to stop it. Little do either of them know that The Punisher is wise to both parties, and has a plan of his own to inconvenience them both. There’s this great exchange between two of the DEA agents where one says to the other that “the price of righteousness is paperwork.” That is an absolutely brilliant statement, and a clear reason as to why Frank operates the way he does. Do you see how clever this is? Cloonan has the establishment character say with complete conviction the exact thing that Frank is rails against when it comes to law enforcement and the judicial system. These people are not corrupt or crooked. They’re playing by the rules and that’s what Frank believes doesn’t work. His disagreement in methodology becomes apparent when kicks in the door of the criminals warehouse and starts un-aliving every motherf—er in the building. At one point, and I want you to pay very close attention to this because it’s genius, he stabs a dude with an iron rod, then he picks up a cinder block and uses it to hammer the guy into an electrical box that’s behind him. THAT HAPPENS IN THIS COMIC. If for no other reason, you should buy this book just for that page.
As I mentioned previously, Steve Dillon’s run on The Punisher several years ago with Garth Ennis is my favorite that the character has ever been done and I’m thrilled they brought him back on for another go-around. The man has a been drawing comics for damn-near four decades, and he’s a consummate professional. His style is frequently imitated but no one can ever pull off what he does. He’s clearly inspired by the classic comic art of the 60’s and 70’s but he puts a modern spin on it that makes it partner so well with dark and violent stories. In many cases, art that seems more traditional, and less realistic, makes violent comics not seem so heavy. What Steve does, though, cause it to feel even more brutal, and creepy too. The final page of this issue, which gives us a better glimpse into the nature of the main villain “Face”, is a perfect example of what I mean. It’s a full page of cartoon art, that is equally disturbing as it is beautiful.
This 1st issue of the new Punisher series is a fantastic start to what I believe will be a violently good series. It sets an exciting and brooding tone that perfectly captures who Frank is, and how fans feel about him. The art is top-notch, and the story has some mystery to it that will have you eagerly anticipating the next issue. If Jon Bernthal’s recent turn as the The Punisher in the second season of Daredevil got you pumped about the character then I highly recommend you head down to your local comic shop and pick up a copy of this book. You’ll be bloody glad you did.
Music Pairing –
I really felt like a grind or powerviolence band would fit perfectly with the tone of this issue. I almost chose Magrudergrind, but ultimately went with the dudes in COVE, a local Nashville band that hammers out some punishing hardcore grinding jams. Make sure you play their self-titled album really loud while you read The Punisher so that you get good and pissed off.