REVIEW: The Punisher #12 – “I’ve Never Felt More Alive”

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THE PUNISHER #12
Writer: Becky Cloonan
Penciller: Matt Horak
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Rating: M
Price: $3.99
Release Date: 5/17/17

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When we last left Frank Castle, The Punisher and Olaf were getting ready to square off for the final time aboard an iceberg. The book wastes little time getting straight to the point and wrapping up an arc that has been going on for a little bit. For the first time in the series, it felt like the writing took a step back, but it’s important to note that the action took a step forward. It’s hard to see how both things can exist in the same space; you can either talk or fight.

This book highlights the virtues of The Punisher comics in that there are none and it’s just filled with violence that occasionally makes a moral point. The end of this book sees Agent Ortiz make her moral point, but it comes after the superfluous violence. To be sure, I am not complaining about this fact. It is essential to The Punisher reading process. One of the “Twelve Steps” of reading Frank Castle, if you will.

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Plot: Frank Castle has worked his way through the Condor’s operation and is now at the boss, or at least the new boss since Olaf eliminated Condor to send a message.about new ownership. The Punisher uses this issue as a way to wrap up the vast majority of the loose ends from the spread of EMC, which gives the user the abilities of a super solider, for all intents and purposes.

Frank and Olaf aim to settle their differences to the death and Olaf hits himself with a strong dose of EMC to ensure he has a fair chance against The Punisher. After all, mere mortals drop like flies when Frank Castle goes to work. This book is action with a side of action and Becky Cloonan shows she can deliver on all fronts of Frank’s personality. By taking a simple step back with the level of content in the book and focusing more on the fight between The Punisher and Olaf, this book hits the perfect notes before it reaches its crescendo.

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Story: Becky Cloonan has been building toward this fight for quite some time. The final showdown between Frank and Olaf is supposed to be next-level and it ends up being just that. It’s difficult to judge a fight in comics. The Punisher is different than other heroes in that he doesn’t have any powers, he’s primarily an ass-kicker, not a name-taker. Becky nails this aspect and delivers a final fight worthy of an entire arc.

It has been enjoyable to watch Cloonan weave her narrative within the world of Frank Castle. She brings a certain flair for the overly dramatic that just fits in perfectly with the tone of the series. One of the readers brought this up in the letters section, but here is to genuinely hoping that Cloonan is able to put together a run that is longer than 30 or so issues, which is where The Punisher seems to die out. Cloonan has proven she has the writing chops and this book proves she has the fighting chops. She understands Castle and it’s the reader who benefits.  

Cloonan has experience writing complex characters — Victor Von Doom —  and she has worked with the cream of the industry’s crop, which would explain why she’s ascending to that level herself. It can’t be easy for a female to wade through the testosterone-filled waters that create the body of work surrounding The Punisher, but Cloonan does so with the aplomb of a writer with double her experience. The Punisher is a coming out party for Cloonan and every plaudit she gets will be well deserved and is still likely to understate the job she’s done.

Art: Matt Horak went to town on this book. Drawing out the action scenes and making sure he paid strict attention to detail during emotional scenes helped Horak find the perfect balance. Even with the bandanna over his face, you can still see the enmity on Frank’s face as Olaf readies the fighting square. When Frank departs Agent Ortiz at the end of the book with his usual foreboding warning, the look on his face says he means it.

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Next month’s book will guest feature the artistic stylings of Kris Anka and the drawings Marvel showed in the letters section should ease every Frank-ophile (see what I did there?) and allow them to rest easy knowing the book will deliver on the artistic front even with a guest artist. Seriously, the Anka pencils they put on display were works of art. The artistic portion of this book is in good hands now and next month.

Verdict: The Punisher continues to deliver book after book. The series is all the better for having Cloonan at the helm. Less can be more and this book illustrates that fact quite literally. Wrapping up this arc was never going to be easy and was always going to end with a bang, which is what readers deserved, wanted, and got. The perfect end to a great start.   — JW

Rating: 4.75/5 Stars

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