Review by: Nick Fovargue

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Story by Greg Rucka
Art by Marco Checchetto
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Cover by Marco Checchetto

Size: 0 pages
Price: 2.99

It should be noted that Stephen Wacker has created a special little corner of mainstream comics. Books focused on character and story rather than spectacle and continuity shake-ups are a rare things from the Big Two and yet that kind of book dominates Wacker’s corner. If I ever get the chance I’d like to buy the man a drink. And of the many strong books Mr. Wacker oversees the best over the last year in my opinion is Punisher by Rucka and Checchetto, hands down.

With all the awards and attention laid upon, the admittedly great, Daredevil, this view of mine may seem like sacrilege but I stand by it. In Punisher we have gotten one of the tightest, most consistently compelling stories in comics that never in 16 issues waivered in its quality. Rucka has filled this series with a deep supporting cast, each a defined character with interesting points of view and arcs of their own. Each character has not only served the plot of our main characters, Castle and Alves, but also has acted as foil and to reflect the impact of those characters and their actions.

The art has been equally strong. From the first issue Checchetto defined a unique look for this series. We get a Punisher who, when at work, is seen only in blurry or shadowed glimpses. The skull symbol often only a ghostly impression. There have been many times, most notably in the last two issues, where we get captions and images not describing the same actions with the juxtaposition creating added meaning. It is a tall order to make this work on the page, the panels have to carry the storytelling of the action on their own and the pages have to have to make the dual storytelling clear and work together. This is easy to do in film but much harder in comics and Checchetto and Rucka have pulled it off wonderfully.

Over 16 issues the story has built organically; step by step we have watched Sergeant Alves’ journey all the way to its inevitable outcome. And it has been her journey; Frank Castle here has been more a force of nature and an irresistible force than the protagonist of this book. We have had many interesting insights into the man along the way but always he has been seen from a distance. Frank just is. He is in a sense dead, frozen in one moment and one way of operating in and relating to the world. Still through his role in Alves’ tragic story, and especially his final decision, we see that perhaps there is more room for compassion and a more sophisticated sense of justice to Frank than we might think. In Alves herself we see reflected the pain and rage that fuels the Punisher. Her loss and need for revenge are equal to Frank’s, wreaking destruction and carnage, and yet there is a humanity left in her that spares her from sharing Frank’s fate.

If you have missed this series and there is room in your comic book stack for intelligent, nuanced character building and tightly plotted storytelling, go out and start finding the trades. If, like me, you have been reading all along, then you have gotten one of those real treats in comics, a perfect little run that comes out of nowhere and ends on a pitch perfect note.

Addendum – It must be stated that the eye-patch, bearded Frank Castle is just Bad-Ass. This is the best the character has ever looked. I am thrilled that the beard, at least, looks to be carried over into the follow-up mini-series, Punisher War Zone.

Story: 5 - Excellent
Art: 4 - Very Good

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