Comic Review: The Punisher #1

The Punisher #1 (Marvel Comics) 

For those of you looking for a Punisher series to start reading after binging all of season 2 of Daredevil, Marvel has finally answered your call. After a few Punisher-less months since Secret Wars wrapped, Frank Castle is brought back into the Marvel fold in Becky Cloonan and Steve Dillon’s aptly named The Punisher #1. A throwback to older Punisher tales, this issue sets the stage for the upcoming story arc pretty well, but probably could’ve used a bit more action or forward momentum to really make it stand out.

This debut issue finds the Punisher doing what he does best, taking out gangs of drug dealers. Except this time, the dealers are working with Frank’s old commanding officer, and the drug the dealers are pushing grants the user super human strength and other abilities. Naturally, this puts Frank in a bind, and now he’s got to figure out how to take out this drug before it gets a wider user base.

At least I think so, because unlike the previous Punisher series, Becky Cloonan gives us no insight into Frank’s motivations or thoughts. Much of the dialogue and exposition comes from the two cops that have been casing the dealer’s hideout for months. Cloonan’s Frank Castle has more in common with the Punisher from Greg Rucka’s run, where he’s portrayed as more of a one-man army than a journal keeping sociopath. That I might seem like a dig at Cloonan’s writing, it’s not. She’s got a great handle on the character and what people like to see out of him, but at the same time, some more insight into Castle’s motivations this time around wouldn’t have hurt.

Classic Punisher artist Steve Dillon handles the art duties on this issue, and it’s not going to make you a fan if you weren’t already. Dillon is VERY hit or miss for me, and this issue is definitely in the “miss” section. Sure, there’s some great action and brutal violence, but the old “every Steve Dillon face looks the same” complaint rings very true here. In fact, for the first half of the issue I thought Punisher and his old Commanding Officer was the same guy. It wasn’t until Frank Castle showed up that I realized that they were two different people.

Cloonan and Dillon’s Punisher is a solid enough start for those looking for an in after watching Daredevil, but I have to admit, I was a little let down by it. There’s not enough of a hook here to really keep you going unless you’re a die-hard fan of the character. Maybe Jon Bernthal’s portrayal set the bar too high, or maybe I just loved Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerad’s previous run too much, but Punisher left me feeling a little cold. I’ll still check out the next issue, where hopefully something will happen to differentiate this run from other Punisher stories.

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