On sale now is the first issue of Marvel Comics' all-new Punisher series. Written by the venerable Greg Rucka (Batwoman: Elegy, Queen & Country, Gotham Central) with gorgeous artwork by Marco Checchetto and colorist Matt Hollingsworth, the series diverges from Frank Castle's recent adventures in the exhilaratingly insane (i.e. Frankencastle) and returns the Punisher to his ultraviolent best. The oversized first issue is without a doubt one of the more entertaining reads on the stands this week, and you can check out a big preview after the jump.

As he explained at Comic-Con International in San Diego
, Greg Rucka's take on the Punisher is that the character is, for all intents and purposes, a force of nature. Frank Castle died the day his family was brutally killed, and what remained was only the Punisher and his mission: to kill bad guys. The writer said the fascinating thing about Frank Castle is that he is not insane, and that everything he does is planned and direct. As such, the series will deal heavily with how the Punisher's relentless actions affect those around him, like the police who may be trying to work cases whose principals have been murdered by the Punisher. The first issue details just such a scenario, introducing us to a cop whose life becomes entangled with Castle's unholy quest.

Rucka and his collaborators take bold storytelling risks in Punisher #1. Castle himself does not speak nor are his thoughts revealed to the reader via any sort of caption. Indeed, this will be the case for the series' first three issues.

The setting is the Marvel Universe, realized wonderfully the Checchetto and Hollingsworth as something approximating the gritty yet inescapably beautiful world of David Fincher's film, SE7EN (the principal cop characters seem like an obvious visual reference to Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman's characters from that excellent film, too). The Punisher travels through this world like a hurricane: you can't stop to learn what a force of nature is thinking or explore why it does what it does - it just is. What you can do is shine a light on the destruction itself, and it is in this way that Rucka has succeeded in presenting a version of the Punisher more compelling than any we've seen since Garth Ennis concluded his definitive run several years ago.

Perhaps more impressive than the main story of Punisher #1 is a supplemental feature that's presented as an illustrated interview transcript. With just typewriter-style captions and art, we learn just how one of our brave detectives came to find himself in contact with the Punisher. Of course, what the official transcript reads and the memories the artwork depict do not always match up. It's a storytelling trick that works beautifully in comics, and Rucka and Checchetto pull it off with aplomb.

The Punisher #1 is on sale now in finer comics shops and can also be purchased online from Things From Another World.

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