The Punisher Annual #1 (Marvel Comics)
It’s been quite awhile since we’ve had a seasonal issue of a comic hit at the right time. Thankfully this week sees the release of Punisher Annual #1, which takes place coincidentally on Halloween. While it doesn’t fit in with the current running Becky Cloonan and Steve Dillon (RIP) series, the Gerry Conway and Felix Ruiz special issue is still a fun little adventure that fits in with the themes of this time of year.
Or at least, it should’ve been.
Simply put, Punisher Annual doesn’t live up to the premise it’s promising. Gerry Conway’s script is fine, but it reads like every other Punisher story you’ve read before. Conway puts the focus on a young police officer trailing the Punisher as he hunts down a drug runner, which is a story that I feel has been told a thousand times before in the long history of Punisher comics. Conway does make some use of the Halloween theme, especially with a fun moment between Frank Castle and a guy wearing a Punisher t-shirt, but outside of that one moment and the trick or treaters running around, the Halloween theme that the awesome cover promises feels tacked on.
Another strike against Punisher Annual is the art. I’ve never seen Felix Ruiz’ work before, but I have to say, this is not a great first impression. There’s an overly sketchy nature to Ruiz’ style, and in the end, it makes his art look unfinished. There’s barely any definition to The Punisher’s face, as Ruiz instead has it obscured by shadows and sketch lines. If this was to try and make The Punisher seem larger than life and like a monster, it doesn’t work as well as Ruiz intended it to.
Punisher Annual is sadly not the comic to get your superhero Halloween fix. In fact, you’d probably be better off reading Rick Remender’s Frankencastle series instead (Google it). The cover and solicitations for this book promised something completely different from what we were given, and while that sometimes leads to some great surprises, that’s unfortunately not the case this time around.