The final in a trio of Marvel street-level relaunches dubbed “big shots” hit last week with the latest in a long line of Punisher #1’s. Former Gotham Central scribe Greg Rucka takes the helm this time in an issue that reads a lot like an issue of Garth Ennis’s first MAX Punisher series, only without all the f-bombs. The issue opens with a bloodbath at a wedding, so the game is afoot as both the Punisher and New York’s finest are trying to piece together what happened. The Punisher doesn’t make an appearance until a few pages from the end, and when he does, it’s a massacre. The bulk of the issue is about the detectives on the case. The back-up story fills us in on exactly where the Punisher fits in with our boys in blue (or at least one of them) via an interview transcript about a shooting the officer was involved in. The accompanying art shows us what REALLY happened, and overall, it’s a very cool device. Chechetto’s art is perfect for this story. It’s just dirty enough to work without being distracting and the entire art team shines all the way down to the suitably muted color palette.
I liked the last Punisher series because it was fun to see Frank squaring off against some of the villains of the 616 after reading him taking on mobsters for years in the MAX books. Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE the MAX series. Remender’s Punisher title was just a chance to see the Punisher do something a little different. This newest volume (so far) reads like “PunisherMAX Lite.” That doesn’t mean it can’t be good. It was quite good, actually. It just doesn’t fill a different need than the other book except that it doesn’t need an “Adults Only” tag. Make no mistake; this isn’t an all-ages Punisher by a long shot. They just don’t swear in this one and there’s no nekkidness. The violence and the grit are all there and it’s pretty extreme when it all starts to pop off.
I’ve seen praise of this book to the effect of “Rucka’s gamble paid off,” and I don’t get that sentiment at all. There’s no gamble here that I can see. This is just a damned fine Punisher comic. It’s really good, but I don’t think Rucka or anyone else took a huge chance on this one. This is kind of what a Punisher comic should be. I give The Punisher #1 4.5 out of five ruined wedding dresses. If you’re a Punisher fan, you’ll almost certainly like this one.
Check back with us this Saturday as I take a look at back at Punisher #1’s of years past in the PoP! Top 6-Pack of Punisher #1’s.