THE PUNISHER #9
Writer: Becky Colonna
Penciller: Matt Horak
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Release Date: 1/24/17
Frank Castle returns to cause the type of mayhem one expects when picking up The Punisher. This series sees Frank facing an old ally as a new foe. This adventure sees Frank tracking down the Condor, who is pushing a drug that makes people crazy, literally. It also gives them obscene power, but a lack of any responsibility. As Frank buries an ally, a DEA agent who was hot on the case of the Punisher is suddenly seeing the need for Castle and his less-than-savory tactics.
As far as the story goes, Becky Cloonan really found a way to bring the Punisher to life in a manner we’re not used to seeing. Maybe it’s intentional, maybe it’s just Frank realizing that every now and again a little help can go a long way, but Castle is more open to the idea of people helping him than he has in the past as he tracks down these maniacs pushing the EMC drug.
One of the most memorable moments from the comic is when Face, an assassin previously hired by the Condor to stop Castle, slowly dies as a result of the EMC wearing off. DEA Agent Ortiz stands over him as he dies slowly, after having escaped from a barbeque with her as the main course. Previous issues had hinted at a new Punisher being born and Ortiz is as cunning as she is ruthless. This and the battle with the recently deceased Ethel are the two finest moments of a series that brings me back with each issue.
I usually am a huge fan of the art in The Punisher, but there is something off about Matt Horak’s version with this series. Rather than looking like his usual brooding self, this iteration of Frank Castle looks like a goon that dies at the beginning of a bad action movie rather than the iconic death-dealer of the Marvel Universe. Horak does a great job of painting the world around Castle and I would even go as far as to say that the other characters are spectacular, there is just something that bugs me about Castle’s appearance in this series, but nothing that is going to stop me from seeing his mission through to the end. As he usually does, VC’s Cory Petit brings the entire world alive with his fine lettering. Petit remains one of my favorites in the business for his lettering abilities.
Frank Castle is death merchant. He deals in death and people usually get hurt when they help him out. He’s a solitary character, but that’s what makes this run of The Punisher so fantastic. Frank always finds a way to accomplish his goals and even though the help continues to drop dead, they do so with a dignity and panache that most of wish we’ll have with us when we go. This comic is about the frailty of mortality and the fleeting nature of justice versus retribution. Cloonan has a hit on her hands, let’s hope that Marvel allows her to continue to see it out. — JW