By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
I did a double-take when I saw the name Cloonan on this cover. I’ve become so used to seeing her name on Gotham Academy, that seeing her on something like Punisher caught me off guard. Granted, she’s no stranger to the “dark” stuff. It’s simply a testament to how versatile she is as a writer.
Indeed, Frank Castle, a.k.a. The Punisher, is back in a new ongoing series. And he’s doing…well, Punisher stuff. A new group is is preparing to ship a lethal drug called EMC, which “turns $#%@-ass shrimps into soldiers with one toke.” Aiding them is a former mercenary codenamed Olaf, who happens to have old military ties to Frank Castle. But it’s not exactly a happy reunion when Olaf comes face to face with The Punisher, who performs his own bloody, stabby, shooty version of a drug bust. But in doing so, he finds himself on the radar of a sadistic psychopath who may mangle him strictly for the fun of it.
The most interesting aspect of this issue is how The Punisher is portrayed, as many reviewers have called it, “a force of nature.” He has no dialogue, and we’re entirely disconnected from what he’s thinking. Like a cataclysmic storm, he comes and goes leaving a trail of victims in his wake. To an extent, this keeps Frank’s feet in both of his habitats. He’s both a ground-level street hero, and a hero in the larger, super-powered Marvel Universe.
The great Steve Dillon is reunited with Frank Castle here. At this point, Dillon is so identified with The Punisher that when you type his name into Google, the first suggested search is “steve dillon punisher.” This foray is about as hard-edged, no-frills, and grim as one would expect. Dillon also doesn’t hold back on the gory stuff, very much earning that parents advisory we see on the cover. And Frank isn’t the only one getting his hands dirty. My favorite panel amongst the bloody and gruesome sees Olaf shoot a particularly disrespectful drug smuggler to through the head, in the process leaving a blood splatter on a nearby window.
But the high point of the book is a page without any blood or dialogue (shown above). The camera simply makes its way into Frank’s workshop, passing a variety of deadly firearms on the wall. The only words on the page are a series of metallic “tak” sounds. We come up behind our anti-hero as he prepares his tools for the slaughter to come. Truly chilling.
Cloonan also writes a hell of a line that we read about mid-way through the issue. When Olaf realizes they’re dealing with The Punisher, and one of the bad guys calls for him to be killed, he replies with: “You can’t kill Frank Castle. He’s already dead.”
The Punisher #1 is a fine start to a new series, and a well timed one. Given Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of the character on Daredevil, and a Punisher Netflix series on the way, a lot of new eyes of been on Frank Castle recently. Rarely has there been a better time for a quality Punisher book.
Images from author’s collection.
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