By Becky Cloonan, Steve Dillon, Frank Martin
For those keeping a record at home, this reviewer will buy anything with Becky Cloonan’s name attached to it. She’s one of the biggest up-and-comers in the industry and for her, the sky is truly the limit. When it was announced that she was writing The Punisher, it felt like all was right with the world. Perhaps that’s a little too much pressure, but the point is that we’ve been very excited for this title’s launch.
Unfortunately, the results are a tad mixed. For starters, this issue is written well and looks fantastic. Artist Steve Dillon is no stranger to the Punisher and he does Frank justice every single time. Color artist Frank Martin is also well-versed in the Marvel Method, providing a TON of work for the publisher. Together, they are a match made in Merry Marvel Heaven. There’s a lot of shadow used in order to present Punisher as some sort of dark vigilante. However, this issue is not afraid to turn on the color and put Frank Castle front and center. When this happens, that’s when Dillon and Martin truly shine. The violence is fun and ridiculous, but not too over the top. All in all, this is a very visually appealing comic.
Now we mentioned earlier that this issue is written well and it is. For better and for worse, this is classic Punisher. Nobody will be bowled over by the fresh take on the character. Basically, if you have read a Punisher title at all over the past 20 years, this story will be very familiar to you. In Cloonan’s defense, Punisher can be a very tough character to put a new spin on. He’s an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of character. “This has been working for years, so why stop now?” I understand that line of reasoning, but it would be nice to have something different. At least the last volume had Frank in LA instead of the New York/New Jersey area.
Some of the problems start with the big “#1” on the cover. This is definitely a standard first issue. Right from the start, you can tell that Marvel is hoping that Netflix viewers will be buying this. We’re told through much exposition and hiding in the shadows that Frank Castle is a stone cold badass. For a reader that has read Punisher for years, this comes off as very redundant. Heck, anyone who even has a very base knowledge of the character knows that this dude is a total tough guy. It all just comes off as too much hand-holding.
Also, this issue really goes out of its way to let you know that they want Frank Castle to be Batman with guns. The silhouettes of the Punisher logo pop out from the darkness, a la the Bat Symbol. Frank remains silent the entire issue, as Batman tends to do when he is focused and trying to scare criminals. This isn’t the first time that Marvel has tried to do this with the Punisher. They have even spent decades trying to convince us that Daredevil is Batman too.
If you can get past the ‘playing it safe’ approach to this first issue, it can actually be a fun read. The creative team is wonderful, so we’ll need to keep an eye on this title. Perhaps future issues will turn things upside down and give us something from Frank that we didn’t even know that we needed.