ADVANCE REVIEW: The Punisher #1

The Punisher #1

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Marco Checchetto
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by VC's Joe Caramagna

$3.99 / On Sale this Wednesday, August 3

Over the past 5+ years or so, the question of The Punisher has been an interesting one.  Garth Ennis left an indelible mark on the character with his work with Steve Dillon in the early 2000s, then moved from the standard 616 Marvel Universe to the world of Punisher Max, leaving an even a stronger mark on the character.  After The Punisher simply not being in the Marvel universe, Rick Remender's run on The Punisher was able to put Frank Castle back in the mix with the other heroes, while doing something so unique and unexpected, it was as far from Ennis as you could get.  But as Remender's run ended, the big comics reset button was pressed, allowing for Greg Rucka to step in and launch this new ongoing series, The Punisher, with art by Marco Checchetto.

The opening page of The Punisher #1 provides a little background for a new reader, briefly explaining who Frank Castle is and how he became The Punisher.  This recap ends with the sentence: "Now, simply, he is The Punisher."  I can't think of a more succinct way to describe this issue, and what I believe will continue for the length of Rucka's run on the character.  Put simply, he is The Punisher.  He is a force of nature who seeks vengence and justice for those who commit crimes.

Fans of Rucka's previous work on titles like Gotham Central will really enjoy The Punisher #1, as Rucka establishes the story with a deep connection to the New York Police Department, as we're introduced to a new set of detectives who are invesitgating crimes in the city and sure enough, they're the same crimes The Punisher has taken an interest in.  With this first issue, Rucka has been able to strike a balance between the realistic crime investigation, a touch of tie-back to the Marvel universe proper, and the horrifying nature of The Punisher.  The story unfolds as you read it with two primary tracks; first being the crimes themselves, the acts, the investigation and the speculation of motivation. Running alongside the very realistic crime investigation is this looming shadow that is The Punisher.  Rucka handles the introduction and use of Frank Castle in the less-is-more manner which has a powerful effect on the story.  Each page turn leaves you wondering when The Punisher will act, and when he does, it's delivered with a punch and elegance that will make Punisher fans giddy.  When I think of The Punisher as a character, to its core, it's the manner in which Rucka has portrayed him here that I think is the most effective.  Aside from the killing aspect, The Punisher is very much akin to Batman, in terms of his motivation, discipline and execution of task and that has never been more apparent to me than in this issue.

As I mentioned before, you get the sense that The Punisher is a force of nature and to balance that force, Rucka's introduction and use of two police detectives clearly deliver the heart of the tale on which we are embarking.  In the span of this first issue, Rucka is able to establish these two police detectives in a way that the reader can immediately connect with: the elder veteran detective and the younger detective with a past.  It's a simple equation, but it works to near perfection in setting up the pieces of the chess board for this story.  A bonus back up story to the main feature helps to further develop the younger detective's character by shedding some light to his past and why he's so important to this specific story.  It's that added bit of background that allows the readers to get a more complete picture of what's going on, without revealing too much, too early.

Visually within The Punisher #1, I have to admit that I struggled with artist Marco Checcetto's approach in numerous places.  There are moments within the issue where Checcetto shines and it's absolutely clear as to how and why he got this gig.  His ability to depict the violence of the action sequences is key and the majority of the time it's effective.  There were a few points within the issue where, with the lack of narration or word balloons, we rely on Checcetto's storytelling ability and for the most part you were able to follow along, but with a few bumps in the road.  There were a few spots where I had to go back and re-read the page in order to understand exactly what's going on.  Further, in the quieter/non-action parts, at some points I was impressed with Checcetto's ability to deliver tone and emotion to a character, but then in others, characters felt lifeless and just stand ins to deliver the dialogue.  I'm not saying that I hated the art, as I mentioned that there are numerous points in the book where Checcetto dazzles, it's just that there lacked a consistency that I would hope for.  Specifically there were a few panels that contained no words, and yet I understood exactly the mood and emotion intended by Rucka for that moment. Being able to see those panels executed so well just made the sting of the few lifeless panels that much more of a disappointment.  But then you'd turn the page and get a stunning visual, especially within some of the violent action sequences, and quickly forget the others, distracted by the beauty of violence that Checcetto is able to present.

To put it simply, Rucka and Checcetto deliver exactly what you would want from The Punisher and go beyond your expectations. There's violence, blood, intrigue, confusion, but not too much to make it beyond the sense of reality. And then there's…that moment.  You know the moment I'm talking about, the moment you realize it's The Punisher and it's downright chilling. If The Punisher #1 is an example of what we can expect from this run, then we're in for a bloody, violent treat.

Story: 5 / Art: 3 / Overall: 4
(Out of 5)


  1. So far I hope DC is reading these recent Marvel relaunch books because they are really setting the bar high.  Moon Knight, Captain America, and Daredevil have all been amazing new #1 issues, Daredevil especially blowing me away.  If DC wants a successful “New 52” (which I hope they achieve) then this is how you do it!

  2. Agreed.

    I’m currently way over budget on my comic book buying, so I’ll have to wait until this is collected, and the public library gets a copy. 

  3. I’m grabbing this one. I’ve been a bit disconnected from Punisher for some time. Looks like a good time to hop on.

  4. This review has done nothing but make me even more interested in reading this series, if that was even possible.  Nice review, Ron.

  5. I’m really looking forward to this.  Can’t wait to get this in my grubby little hands.

  6. So nice to see Rucka back on the stands on a monthly (or more) basis.  Can’t wait for this, and it’s true Marvel have done some really nice relaunches which seem to cut out the excess fat without throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

  7. love and have missed Ruck’s comic work since he devoted himself to novels (have yet to pick up stumptown – looking forward to more frequency) – will be sure to check this out

  8. @rjspring  Try going to Borders while they are going out of business to find the sweet Stumptown HC at a discounted price.

    Also, I hope Rukka turns Frank back into FrankenCastle by issue #3.

  9. Great reveiw. It has gotten me even more pumped up and I can’t wait for this. I loved Remender’s Punisher series even though I’ll admit I dropped it when it was retitled as Frankencastle because that wasn’t really the Punisher to me. And as much as loved (most of) that run, it’s good to see that Rucka gets him back to what he’s mostly known. I hate to nitpick though because actually Fraction’s War Journal (coming out of Civil War) put Frank back into the mix of things, which was eventually led into Remender’s run.

  10. I’ve been boycotting MARVEL since Brand New Day started and all their books went up a buck, but I pulled this one.  I kinda wish I had pulled Daredevil last week too.  I guess I’ll have to trade wait cuz all the shops round here are sold out.  I could careless about Cap though.  Not that big a Brubaker fan still….

  11. “Rucka establishes the story with a deep connection to the New York Police Department, as we’re introduced to a new set of detectives who are invesitgating crimes in the city”

    Urgggggggggh. I know people like this side of Rucka, but I was really hoping he wouldn’t turn this series into ANOTHER “procedural”. It’s like watching people fill out paperwork…as entertainment? It can be good, but I guess personally I’ve just had enough of comics about office politics and CSI-style investigations. I miss Rucka, but count me out on this. Hope you guys who buy it enjoy it, though.

  12. I’ve never read Punisher before.

    Guess I will be now. Love Rucka, I’ve been re-reading Gotham Central recently, and hopefully I’ll finish it just before Vol. 1 of this comes out.

  13. After Punisher Max, I just can’t imagine Frank Castle in the regular Marvel U. I just can’t see where it won’t feel fake.

  14. Rucka’s first run on Detective is what hooked me into comics back in high school, and he may very well be my favorite writer. I’ll probably pick it up. That being said, I’m sure that I’m going to hold this one in my hand and debate buying for a few mintues. Outside of the costume I have zero intrest in the Punisher. 

  15. But Punisher Max right now is the best Punisher story going on.

  16. i thought all new series from marvel are going to be $2.99? i guess that idea went out the window…..