Review: The Punisher #1 – Frank is Back

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Written by Becky Cloonan
Art by Steve Dillon
Colors by Frank Martin
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit
Release Date: 05/04/16
Price: $3.99

Intro

When I heard Becky Cloonan was taking helm of The Punisher book, I immediately added it to my pull list. After enjoying her extended run on DC’s Gotham Academy co-writing alongside Brendan Fletcher, it’s exciting for a bigger reason than seeing her get her own book for one of the Big Two. Even more so, she is Marvel’s only female author at the moment that’s writing a male-led book.

Plot

After an extended hiatus without a book starring Frank, Castle is back in Becky Cloonan’s gruesome Marvel debut The Punisher. Cloonan introduces two potential foes, Face whom we learn on the last page why he has such a nickname and Olaf, an older beat-down gentleman who we discover has a connection to Frank. And guess what; it’s not a good one.

Story

Violence plagues The Punisher. I’ll own it: that’s not really my style. However, if you’re a little more bloodthirsty with regards to your taste in comics than myself, I doubt you’d dislike this book. We see brains blown out, eyes gouged, and a man get electrocuted among other intensely disgusting instances. With all the grotesque violence, I do find it ironic that the editors, I’m assuming, choose to censor the foul language.

Aside from the nearly disturbing amount of violence, mystery defines this comic so far. From the opening scene to the concluding moments featuring Face, we are left desiring clarity.

Who is Face? Who is Olaf? How do Frank and Olaf know each other? What tainted their relationship? Is Olaf loyal to Condor or is he using him for his own means? Are there any rogue agents within the D. E. A.? Essentially Cloonan threw nearly everything out to there hoping we would come back for more.

With each of those mysteries and the possible depth that lies beneath each one, we’re left with one underlying mystery: who is the Punisher? Becky Cloonan manages to take us through the entire first issue without giving Frank Castle a single line. I found this to be the most compelling and creative component to Cloonan’s debut issue.  

Art

I’m sure it’s apparent by now but I’ll state the obvious just in case: this is a dark book. It makes sense that art’s tone would resemble that of the character as well as the story. And while it does make sense, I’m not sure I enjoyed the art as much as I had hoped. Although I think his overall facial structures are well-defined, Steve Dillon seems to be unable to draw more than three facial expressions. Apparently every character in this book grits their teeth.

Colors-wise, Frank Martin opts for hues of blue-gray, orange, and army-green. Again, tonally, this all works. Still, it’s interesting how tired Brooklyn looks in the middle of the day. Dillon and Martin’s strength is certainly their shading and ability to utilize shadows and dark rooms to establish mystery and develop the reader’s suspense. Overall, the art works for this book. Perhaps Dillon and Martin will grow on me but for now I wouldn’t go in looking to be blown away.

The Verdict

My “buy this book” comes with an asterisk: this book and its forthcoming series looks to be extremely violent. It features a “Parental advisory! Not for kids!” on the cover. Personally, I’m surprised this wasn’t published as a Marvel Max book. If you’re of age and comfortable with more violent action sequences along with crude dialogue, then pick up this book.

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