Last Week’s Comics 8/10/2011

The Punisher #1

(Marvel – writer: Greg Rucka; art: Marco Checcetto)

I never really liked The Punisher. I always thought he was a pretty one-dimensional character. Writing a character like Frank Castle has to be a difficult job. He’s angry. I get it. His family died and now he takes his vengeance out on the criminal underworld. So what? Every superhero has a heavy dose of tragedy in their origins. What makes the Punisher so special?

Lately, Marvel has been doing spectacular work with its core heroes: both Daredevil and X-Men started new number ones, delivering great results in their first issues. So I figured I’d give The Punisher a go, and see if Greg Rucka could make me interested in Frank Castle.

He can.

As to be expected, the issue is violent. It centers around a massacre that occurs at a wedding. Afterward, Detectives Walter Bolt and Oscar Clemons investigate the murders and try to follow up on leads. I emphasize try, because Frank Castle has taken it upon himself to take out the trash. But he’s got an unexpected ally, and it’s a plot thread that is instantly intriguing. After the story wraps, Rucka gives us an eight-page coda that shows readers a little more about Walter Bolt. It’s a nice addendum to a strong first issue, and it makes the characters a little more tangible.

Bolt and Clemons are a lot like Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in Seven. Clemons is the grizzled veteran who’s seen it all, and Bolt is the new detective who’s got great aim, but poor detective skills (or so it seems). It’ll be interesting to see how their relationship plays out because while Rucka doesn’t do much character development here, it’s evident – from Marco Checcetto’s awesome art – that there’s a lot of depth to each person. His facial expressions are beautifully crafted, and instantly moving. The first five pages have no dialogue, allowing readers to immerse themselves in Frank Castle’s world.

Frank actually doesn’t show his face until the final page of the issue, and even then, it’s almost completely shadowed. Checcetto does a phenomenal job of setting the tone. There’s a barroom shootout that echoes the wedding attack, but this time it takes place in the dark, and unlike Batman systematically taking out his villains while using the shadows as cover, The Punisher brutally murders the gang members while standing out in the open. In fact, Frank doesn’t speak a single line of dialogue in the entire issue. He lets his guns do the talking.

And that’s what makes him so damn imposing. Rucka allows Frank’s actions to speak for him, as anything he could say wouldn’t be as powerful as pulling the trigger on a .45. The message he sends needs no wordplay to make it stick.

This is a good introductory issue to a potentially gripping series. There’s not much background one needs with The Punisher. He’s cold, remorseless, and intent on killing the criminal element of the world with his bare hands.

And I want to be there to watch him do it.

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