Old Ghosts Return To Haunt Frank Castle In Cloonan And Dillon’s ‘The Punisher’ #1 [Review]
Thanks to Netflix’s Daredevil series, The Punisher is more popular than ever, which makes this the perfect time to launch a brand new Punisher ongoing series. Written by Becky Cloonan with art by Punisher veteran Steve Dillon, the first issue of Frank Castle's new series is packed with all the creative violence you expect as the Punisher sets his sights on a new drug cartel and crosses paths with the DEA.
Cloonan and Dillon’s Punisher is a force of nature in their first issue, as he remains unseen for the first half, only to appear like a whirlwind and rain bloody vengeance on the criminals planning on introducing a new super-drug to the streets. Interestingly, Frank has no dialogue in the entire issue, and as such we only ever see other characters reactions and thoughts about him.
The first issue does a great job of mixing what is essentially a done-in-one issue with the upcoming larger story, as The Punisher’s raid on a drug-smuggling outfit leads to a run-in with someone from his time in the army, and a tip-off about the people running the outfit. It’s a great way to establish the series, as readers get their money’s worth for this one comic, but there’s enough to entice them back for the rest of the arc and beyond.
Tonally the comic takes a departure from what previous creative teams have attempted with The Punisher, and comes across more as a T+ Punisher Max-style book. Recent runs by writers including Rick Remender and Greg Rucka have emphasized the fact that The Punisher lives and operates in the Marvel Universe, but aside from a drug that can increase strength and remove pain thresholds, this is a much more grounded interpretation of the character than we’ve seen over the past few years.
Steve Dillon will no doubt go down in history as one of the greatest Punisher artists ever, and his previous work on the character with writers Garth Ennis and Jason Aaron has yielded some of the best Punisher stories. Here his work is just as blunt and visceral, and it leans more towards the hard-edged violence of Punisher Max than the slapstick comedy of Marvel Knights Punisher.
My one complaint --- and I want to stress that this is not a complaint with Steve Dillon’s art because he does as excellent a job as you’d expect --- is that we’ve seen Steve Dillon draw The Punisher kill criminals in at least five separate volumes that I can think of. He does a great job here, and he’ll no doubt do a great job down the line, but it feels like a very safe assignment for him.
The Punisher is an overwhelmingly strong Marvel debut for Cloonan. It would have been interesting to see what an artist less-versed in the character could have brought to the table, but judging on its merits, it's hard to find fault with this first issue.
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