Pick of the Week

January 30, 2013 – Punisher: War Zone #4

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Avg Rating: 4.3
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 0.1%
 
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Story by Greg Rucka
Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico
Cover by Marco Checchetto

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this, and if I had to pick just one guy to write all the comics I read, it would be Greg Rucka. For whatever reason, when the guy puts words to thought, it just works for me. The work is the perfect blend of precision plotting, and humanity. It doesn’t hurt at all that I know the guy on the other end of the pen really cares about the stories he’s telling, and even if he doesn’t necessarily love the characters, he sure makes it feel like he does. Greg Rucka isn’t a “that’s good enough” guy. Yet the final product doesn’t feel picked over and harangued. It feels right, and far more often than not, it works for me.

The truth is, I don’t really like The Punisher. I never have. I’ve dallied in The Punisher, but the idea doesn’t interest me. When Rucka started his Punisher series, I hung out for a little while, and decided I wasn’t really digging it, so I hopped off. Then a bit later, I was just so hungry for more of Rucka’s work that I hopped back on. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be very good, and even more so, I got right back up and running without much trouble. That’s a sign of good comic booking. Of course, that was right about when it was announced that the series was ending, and the story would be finished up in Punisher: War Zone presumably for market driven reason. So, “you go over here and finish up your story quietly while we do things NOW!” if you follow.

Yet lo and behold, Punisher: War Zone is a damn fine time. While the previous series took place in the Marvel universe, you couldn’t really tell. But this miniseries is basically Avengers vs. Punisher. In fact, they should have named it that, because it would have sold three times as many copies, and actually been true. Sort of true, anyway. Last issue found Thor and Frank Castle sat down and talk about being a warrior over some brews. There wasn’t actually much in the way of fighting, which is, I guess, what the kids show up to a Punisher book to see.

Issue #4 is when it all starts happening. Frank has to spring his friend, and he’s not going to let anyone stop him. That’s the way things work with The Punisher. But the Avengers want to stop him, and usually it’s their thing to make that work out. So what happens when these unstoppable forces and immovable objects meet each other? Because if you ask a Marvel fan, “who wins, The Avengers or The Punisher?” you’re going to get very different answers, and that’s why this is so interesting. Punisher isn’t going to kill any good guys (probably), but shouldn’t Captain America and The Avengers be good enough to beat him. They should be, right? Enough of The Avengers have a grudging respect for the guy, while at the same time, Spider-Man think Frank is a straight up criminal. Cap and Black Widow think of him as a soldier. Thor kind of likes the guy. Wolverine is pro-Frank. It’s hardly a united front, which is so good!

Finally, the reveal at the end of the issue throws a whole new wrench into the proceedings at exactly the point where you want and need to keep reading, leaving you with a wonderful comic book cliffhanger, as we helplessly wait for the next issue.

Rendering these tense adventures, Carmine Di Giandomenico and Matt Hollingsworth team up, and get the job done. The challenge here is that most of what is being said is happening opposite of what we’re seeing. The Punisher doesn’t say very much in these issues, so an impetus is put on showing, rather than telling.What the art accomplishes is a sense of tension and a culmination of all these forces coming together. It’s quiet, but it’s also frenzied. Since it looks a bit different than what you’d expect from an Avengers tale, it feels like we’re looking at these very familiar characters from a slightly different angle. It doesn’t hurt that, from a purely graphic standpoint, Frank’s beard, shaggy hair, and eyepatch just look cool. That single look, and the contrast to how we normally think of the character does a lot of heavy lifting on its own, at least in terms of tone. Also, they made Tony Stark’s suit wonderfully ridiculous.

I know that we don’t really live in a world where Marvel would hire Greg Rucka to write The Avengers. But know that if they did, it would be my favorite run in Avengers history. So, I’ll have to make do with these four issues, and the one still awaiting. The very fact that Greg Rucka got me reading a Punisher series, and making it a Pick of the Week is testament to the power his writing has over me, and if you like the character as well, so much the better. I know one thing. That next issue is going to be wonderful, and I have no idea how it’s going to resolve.

Josh Flanagan
Always have conversations with Logan in a bar. Always.
josh@ifanboy.com


Comments

  1. Greg rucka isn’t a big commercial name. He’s very liked by critics but not a guy who’s name you see on a book you have to run and buy. Im not a rucka fan,ive avoided most of his work. This is great review I’m glad you enjoying rucka run. But I’ll be happy he’s no longer writing punisher and glad he will never write avengers

    • To each their own. Care to elaborate? Just curious is all.

    • Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      You said you’re happy he’s wrapping up on this character and won’t be writing books like the Avengers. Also that you’ve avoided most of his work. Is it just because critics like him that you’re actively avoiding his projects and don’t want him writing books you presumably like? It sounds like the disinterest doesn’t have much to do with the actual writing, since you’re not actually reading any of it. Where does the distaste originate?

    • His wonder woman and superman runs. Was where u first read rucka work. I wasn’t a fan if both runs. I then bought his ultimate elecktra run. And world of new krypton. The way new,krypton ended was very unsatisfying. As was his action run with flamebird and nightwing. It was when he took over wolverine one of my fave characters I began to avoid his work.. I bought The punisher because frank is one if my fave characters and unlike wolverine if you don’t buy his book you won’t get frank any where else. But The punisher is where rucka tropes if female protagonist really turn me off. I buy punisher for frank castle not lt. Cole alves. So I drop The book and have given up on trying to get into rucka work. Im not saying people shouldn’t like his work. I just don’t

    • Hmm, I thought adding Lt. Cole-Alves was a really interesting addition to his story. Does Frank try to get to her to give up her life of revenge? Does he train her knowing what grim future awaits her? I love it when Frank goes ballistic and shoots up a bunch of bad-guys, but that’s not very interesting storytelling.

      As far as Ruckas other superhero work, I’ve liked the majority of it. I agree with you on his run with Superman. He’s much better when he can write a character that lives in the streets. Superman takes a special kind of writer. Saying that though, when Supes showed up in Checkmate, that was using the big-blue-boy-scout perfectly.

    • Its just my,own personal,preference.

    • Not a commercial name?
      Wow.

      I guess you haven’t read many comics over the last 15 years.

      Detective, Batman, Batwoman, Wolverine and one of the four star writers of 52.
      Among a ton of other material.

      Ignorance is no defense of the law my friend. Get back to the comic shop and catch up on stuff.

    • Oh I getcha, as I said, to each their own man!

    • How well have Greg rucka last few books sold. Not well at all Chris. Punisher wouldn’t be getting canceled if he,was a huge draw. If I don’t like his work why am I going to go to his back log. Ive read a ton of rucka books over The decade. its not for me.

    • Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      “His tropes of female protagonists really turn me off.”

      That he writes female protagonists in general or…?

    • That that’s what he’s known for which is totally fine and have no problem with. But he turn The,punisher book into her story instead of frank castle story. You only get so much punisher now because he’s not as popular as he was in The 90s. What interest me about a punisher book is actually The punisher frank castle. Not a pair of detective and Cole alves. Thats not why I buy The book.

    • First off. If you don’t dig him, that’s fine by me. Those 2 runs aren’t among my favorites, so it’s not a great sample, but what can you do?

      Also, I don’t think Rucka is a very commercial presence anymore either. He was at one time, yes, but the markets have changed, or something. But if he was a name who moved units, him on a Punisher book would have sold through the roof. It didn’t. I don’t think that’s necessarily a mark of quality, but rather the mark of an audience that isn’t always into the same things I am.

      But no, at some point, he stopped being a “put butts in seats” guy. At least in the larger sense. He’s still a very respected name, obviously.

    • Couldn’t disagree more with nastysnow. Rucka’s writing is outstanding. Seems to me a case of someone going out of their way to not like something. Hey, whatever makes you feel warm and fuzzy, right?

    • Im not saying he is a bad writer. Im just saying he’s not a writer who’s work I don’t enjoy. But again I think josh review is great as usual. And glad you found a punisher run to enjoy.

    • @nastysnow You’ve sampled all the wrong stuff. Try his indie work and then you’ll know if he’s not for you. He’s one of my favorite writers alone for his work on Queen & Country.

    • @nastysnow “Not a commercial name” That’s a good thing if you ask me but he’s definitely a well known and respected writer, the runs you mentioned weren’t what he’s known for, Gotham Central is one of his finest and highly critically acclaimed book, try that. I’d love to see him write the Avengers cause I know they’d appear as real people and superheroes to me at the same time, his handling of a team like that would have substance I’d assume. I love Geoff Johns work for the most part but his Avengers run was terrible. This WarZone mini and Rucka’s work on Punisher with Hollingsworth and Checchetto is some of the best Punisher I’ve seen since Garth Ennis, Rucka and Co have him an accessible,real,gritty outlaw and just looking cool. This mini is a great way to end they’re run and don’t know when I’ll be drawn to a Punisher book again but Thunderbolts seems like a gimmicky, lets put these guys together cause it’ll look cool book with no rhyme or reason but hope he’s on there cause of his vigilante ways and the turn out of WarZone, seeing how the Thunderbolts were supposed to be a group of criminals and villains put to use instead of a cell. Anyway, to each his own, hopefully the next Punisher book makes us all a fan.

  2. I’m sad I dropped this after issue #2. It wasn’t because I thought it was bad or anything, I had to free up some budget room. What got me reading this mini was the “Punisher vs. Avengers” story and from what I read, I wasn’t disappointed.

  3. Punisher is great. If people want to read a good Rucka book, look for his CHECKMATE run from DC. Really good stuff.

  4. It’s funny how in my young age I never cared much about the writing aspect of comics. It was all about the art and art and art; this was in the early 90’s, so that should probably explain things. Now though the story and writing mean so much more to me. A good writer has the ability to shield art that I would otherwise think was subpar. The same could be said about characters that I would otherwise never bother with.
    I used to like The Punisher in the 90’s and specially when JRJR was the artist for War Zone but lost the love for the character as I grew up. This review and your great appreciation of the writer is certainly giving me a reason to pick it up.

  5. I’ve had an itchy interest in checking out both Aaron and Rucka’s Punisher work. I’ve never really had any affection the character, but I really like both those writers and I’ve heard nothing but good things. Maybe it’s time I actually scratch that itch.

    • The entire Punisher MAX series, both Ennis and Aaron’s work is a fantastic read. Throw “Born” in there and that’s about all the Punisher you’ll ever need.

  6. I’m a long time Rucka fan. Each issue in this mini just gets better and that makes me sad. Only one more to go. I’m actually enjoying the Avengers in this Punisher story more than I am in the Avengers books.

  7. First Deadpool, now Punisher…This must be killing you!!! 😉

    I have just been reading Fury Max after all your fine words, and I’m hooked, so I guess I’ll have to check this out next!

  8. What!?

  9. I know it’s not going to happen, but I really hope Marvel collect this in a omnibus format.

  10. THis whole run has been excellent. will be sad to see it go. The moment Rucka announces a new ongoing for Image or someone I am front of the queue.

  11. Really shocked this was POTW. Only because, for some reason, I didn’t expect Josh to make Punisher a pick. I know he’s been really loving this run by Rucka….Now I really need to read this run. Hopefully Marvel collects it all in one chunk like Remender’s run.

  12. I am shocked that invincible 100 didnt get POTW

  13. I don’t care for The Punisher, never really have. He always struck me as “Batman with guns,” and that bores me. But Rucka… I may have to look into this after it is collected.

    Adventure Time was my POTW. I love me some BMO.

  14. I guess I should keep up with the news, but I thought Rucka was done with Punisher. I suppose that’s one more book to add to the list.

    I love Rucka, he really is one of the most consistent writers in the industry. While he has written stuff that I didn’t love, I really can’t think of anything he worked on that I felt was ‘bad’. This article has also reminded me that I still haven’t read Gotham Central(I know, shameful).

    Nice review, I look forward to the POTW podcast.

  15. This entire Punisher story by Rucka was great. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

  16. Thanks for the great pick, Josh!
    While you and I have different opinions in regards to Frank Castle (you’re not so much a fan and he probably my single favorite character) I couldn’t agree with you more about Rucka’s writing though. It’s been amazing on this series and while many people above have mentioned their dislike toward the character of Cole I really like her inclusion since it gives the Punisher another dynamic to his character we haven’t seen before. That of mentor. Here in lies the genius of Rucka. The exclusion of Frank having any visible internal monologue and his change of appearance just added to Rucka’s unique take on the character which I enjoyed very much.
    While I myself did enjoy the last issue more (action or no, there’s just something awesome about Thor and Frank chatting about what it is to be a warrior over a cold one) I’m loving this whole series and I can’t thank you more for giving it the attention it deserves on the site. 🙂

  17. I would love to read some Punisher. He’s a character that’s always interested me, but when looking for suggestions, I was pointed in the directions of “Welcome Back, Frank.” I felt it was very immature and ridiculous. After reading what was praised as this character at his best and hating it, I’ve never really given any other Punisher stories a try. What else should I try? I love Fury MAX which is also by Ennis, so any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Try reading the current run that Rucka did or since you like Fury Max I would recommend The Punisher MAX that Ennis did not the Marvel Knight imprint (Welcome Back, Frank) that you’ve mentioned which he also wrote. I too didn’t like the latter very much since I’m not a big fan of Steve Dillion’s art when it comes to this character. It just doesn’t fit well in my mind.

      The first volume of Punisher MAX by Garth Ennis is called “In the beginning”. I highly recommend it.
      http://www.amazon.com/Punisher-MAX-Vol-1-Beginning/dp/0785113916

    • The same creative team on FuryMAX also did PunisherMAX Vol. 6, PunisherMAX: Barracuda and PunisherMAX Vol. 9-10, all of which I highly recommend (read in that order.)

      You can basically read any of the other PunisherMAX volumes in any order (1, 3 and 5 are highlights). Oh, and PunisherMAX: Born is spectacular.

  18. 0.0%. Zero Point Zero. The old Z-O-Z. Not a crowd favorite.

    I like the Punisher and Rucka and I have never picked this up, although I much prefer the Punisher out of the superhero realm.

    • There’s actually an on-going bug with the POW percentages that we are battling that has been keeping out the POW numbers from displaying correctly. The actual community POW percentage for this book is around 3%.

      (Not that it matters in terms of the selection of the Pick of the Week.)

    • Yup, looks like it is displaying correctly now.

  19. Have really enjoyed Rucka’s run. Really wish Checchetto could have been part of the swan song.

  20. Supposedly there will be a 99 cent Comixology sale on the first 9 issues of Rucka’s Punisher staring tomorrow, for anyone interested.

  21. I know there’s plenty of people who don’t like the character, but has any character had a better run over the last ten years or so than the Punisher? He’s consistently had great books on the stands since “Welcome Back, Frank” from some of the best writers in the industry. Ennis, Aaron, Remender, Rucka…so much quality. I’d argue maybe only Daredevil has come close to that consistency.

    • I feel the same way. Frank isn’t all that deep of a character but I never thought I’d end up with 20 Punisher trades on my shelf. Good stuff.

  22. Rucka’s okay but he can be so damn BORING. I do definitely think that he puts a lot of time and effort into each and every issue. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the characters and stories are always that “worth it”, and he doesn’t do a good job of conveying his own interest and excitement to prospective readers. Just my opinion.

  23. Punisher is a character I only enjoy in short term bursts because I think he is a one note character. I can understand when I see real fans of the character say they did not like Punisher War Zone. Because the things i loved about it are not really what makes punisher fans excited to read. I loved the how Rucka like Aaron delved into the damage it does to a person to do what the Punisher does. i also enjoyed the addition of other characters to the book especially the widowed soldier who wanted revenge like Punisher but in the real world mistakes can happen when someone tries to be a vigilante. And as a fan of Greg Rucka i had to agree with Nastsnow but i do think Greg Rucka is not a big name in comics anymore because he just doesnt spark increased sales numbers on his books whether mainstream or indie.

  24. His entire Punisher run is deserving of collection.

    The work by the artists and the colorist has been outstanding.

    I haven’t read a ton of Rucka, myself, but this is an interesting run full of beautiful art.

    I plan on buying the trades.

    I personally thinks it’s worthy of Ultimate Collection and OHC treatment.