Punisher (2016) #1 Review

Author: Becky Cloonan  Artist: Steve Dillon Color Artist: Frank Martin

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Coming in hot off the heels of the Marvel Universe reset is yet another new Punisher series.  Following the rather uneven run that lasted from 2014 right up until the previously stated reset, the reigns of Marvel’s scumbag slayer have been handed over to Becky Cloonan, a writer who has built quite the reputation from being involved in almost every major comic publishing house.  Helping her to bring the war to life is Steve Dillon, a man who needs no introduction to Punisher fans given his work with the character spans close to two decades by this point.  Completing the trio is Frank Martin on colors.

            Right off the bat, an interesting story telling decision is detected.  The first issue of this story takes inspiration from Greg Rucka’s Punisher storyline from a few years back in that Frank Castle, the Punisher himself, is actually quite distant from the reader.  He has no dialogue, no inner monologue, and the only glimpses we are given of him, at first, are when he is in shadow and has his back turned.  Rather, it is the supporting cast that is given the spotlight.  Four characters in particular stand out: a former Marine named Olaf, DEA agents Ortiz and Henderson, as well as the obviously psychotic Face.  Olaf and Face both work for the former mercenary company turned drug-running organization known as “Condor.” They traffic in a red dust narcotic known as “EMC,” which can turn wimps into soldiers with one toke according to Face.  He wants Olaf to make sure the first shipment does not run into any snags. The DEA, obviously, does not want this being shopped around to the youth, as we can see by Ortiz and Henderson planning a raid for the next day.

Frank in Action

Frank Castle cleaning out the neighborhood scum.

            When we finally get our first full look at the Punisher, he is in the course of derailing everyone’s plans in his usual blunt manner.  Cloonan and Dillon have kept with the current trend of using a younger Frank Castle and the resulting mayhem is nothing short of what any good Punisher fan would expect. The level violence on display would fit comfortably within the pages of the old Punisher MAX comics as blood is casually splattered and eyeballs are gouged right out. In the end, we have a body count, the plans of the DEA ruined and a string for Frank to follow.

            All in all, the story is simple, but then again a first issue has to get the reader invested.  The Punisher’s shtick need not be explained, so it falls on the writer to give us interesting secondary characters around him.  Luckily, Cloonan gives us exactly what we need, especially with Face, a man who could become an all-time great Punisher villain like Barracuda.  The artwork by Dillion is familiar, and after all this time, why wouldn’t it be?  It’s clear, though, that he’s improved himself quite a bit.  There are more than just the usual scowls and shocked faces that tended to heavily make up most of his previous work, particularly that of the MAX run.  The action is also much more fluid and not quite as stiff as some past panels.  The colors by Martin are a bit hit or miss.  For most of the book, they pop rather nicely, but there are spots where it is a bit too dark and muted.  Still, these instances mainly take place during the interactions of Olaf and Face and do not take away from the majesty of Frank’s inevitable rampage.  The meat and guts of the tale is drawn and colored rather nicely.

It may be a standard Punisher tale from the outset, but Frank Castle is all about the art of bloodshed and what we get is a nice little taste.  There are sure to be more gunfights and slaughter down the road, and this issue is aptly makes the case for readers to travel down that road with Frank.

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