THE PUNISHER #13
Writer: Becky Cloonan
Penciller: Kris Anka
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Release Date: 6/28/17
The last time we saw Frank Castle, he was in the middle of nowhere fighting on an iceberg. While the last book oversaw the end of the Olaf story, this story seems built as a one-off as the writers gear up for, what is sure to be, another bloodthirsty, savage, and almost pointlessly violent arc. All the better for Punisher fans and surprise, stop me if you’ve heard this before, but The Punisher has a new artistic team. This team seems to understand what The Punisher fans crave vis-á-vis their irrational love of gratuitous violence.
Our new creative team has returned The Punisher to Brooklyn. They have also given the comic a major artistic facelift. How fans feel about the new art style is definitely going to vary by reader. I wouldn’t be shocked to see some visceral reactions, though. After all, Steve Dillon left behind an immeasurable legacy for The Punisher artwork. I’m game for the new changes, however.
Plot: After dismantling Operation Condor, Frank returns home and immediately starts reviewing security footage from while he is gone because of course he did. Naturally, The Punisher stays true to its roots and peak Frank Castle tracks down a high school kid who stole his gun. But tracking down a video game-playing teenager proves to be only the surface of a case Frank will have to crack in order to get his gun back.
There are no moral stories to be found in this comic. As with all things that end up in front of Castle, most of them end up maimed and/or dead. It’s a rather rudimentary plot, but it entertains the whole way. For folks looking for a layered story like we just had with Olaf, you may have to wait until next month or the month after to see where the new creative team decides to take The Punisher.
Story: For better or worse, this book could have been titled, Guy Kills a Bunch of Other Guys and the story still would have made sense. Frank eventually tracks down his gun, but there is a surprise twist. If the book was going to leave its mark, this is the spot where people will find it. It’s by no means a twist that most folks won’t see coming from a mile away, but the sweet, sweet joy of watching Castle’s distributive justice more than makes up for the generic plot.
I understand the point of these stories. They’re often used to hammer out new ideas and to keep fans flowing in content as they wait to see who The Punisher takes on next. Interestingly enough, there were a number of fans pleading for the return of classic Punisher villains. One of the 50/50 propositions in writing The Punisher is that you can create any network of villains that you want thus reducing the return rate for a higher profile rogues gallery. It will be curious to see if the new creative team give in to these requests.
Art: Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson have their own interesting take on The Punisher. A couple positives and a couple negatives result from this. Positive, Frank Castle is given a more life-like image. The pair’s work on individual facial expressions is nothing short of artistic genius. On the negative side, there are several characters in the book that have an almost anime feel to them. As a consequence, there are times when you’re brought back from the realism into a comic-like state. As with previous artistic teams, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’ll iron out The Punisher and the look they give the series as we move forward.
The book didn’t quite live up to my complete artistic expectations, but it also didn’t let me down in such a way that I was put off. As with most things in life, you find the things you like and point out the things you don’t. Other people may love the juxtaposition of artwork. I could even see it growing on me if Anka stays with The Punisher going forward. Some of Ms. Marvel’s best moments are when she get super animated, I could see that same aspect being applied here to some degree of success.
Verdict: The Punisher is a comic that I’m likely always going to enjoy. That said, there are times when you have to acknowledge that a book is just an average piece of Castle-infused mayhem. That’s okay. He’s one of a few Marvel characters that can get away with that. I still think this story is worth picking up, but I won’t push a hard sell on someone if they wanted to skip this issue. It does seem more like a one-off than the jumping off point for a new story. — JW