Writer: Matt Rosenberg
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Greg Smallwood
Review by Cameron Kieffer
What do Baron Zemo, the Mandarin, and Hydra have in common, besides the fact that they’re all infamous Marvel baddies? They’re all in Frank Castle’s crosshairs.
Punisher #1 kicks off with the reveal that Zemo, leader of Hydra, is in bed with the Roxxon Corporation, a mainstay of the Marvel Universe. Their scheme is to integrate Bagalia, a country secretly controlled by Hydra, into the United Nations and to do so, they’ve joined forces with perennial Iron Man villain, the Mandarin. Once the plot is set in motion, things kick into high-gear with a series of action sequences that are as gritty and explosive as any R-rated action flick as Frank enters the fray with his own unique form of…punishment. To say more would get too much into spoiler territory, so let’s just say you’ll want to read till the end.
Writer Matthew Rosenberg, hot off his stint on the last volume of the series, injects this story with enough political intrigue and action to keep readers engaged. It’s also accessible – everything you need to know about Castle and his most recent exploits is right there on the recap page. This is a much more back-to-basics Punisher, though his experience with the War Machine armor has definitely changed him. At one point early on our “hero” blows away a couple of Roxxon stooges with some very high-tech weaponry that essentially disintegrates them. There’s a look of glee on Castle’s face that we don’t normally see–it’s both amusing and disturbing that he takes such pleasure in his work.
This approach to the Punisher is also an inspired one. Once the vigilante shows up, he tears through the issue as more of a force of nature than an actual character, much like his portrayal in Greg Rucka’s 2011 run. The art by Szymon Krudanski and Antonio Fabela suits the story perfectly with just the right amount of grit to look and feel like a mature readers’ book, while still being (mostly) teen-friendly. There are a few areas where the art falters, particularly in some of the photo-referencing (there’s a panel in particular featuring a Hydra agent holding a gun that doesn’t look right). I also take issue with Baron Zemo’s look: the dude’s wearing a mask, you shouldn’t be able to see every facial feature beneath it. This is a complaint I have with a lot of depictions of masked characters. It’s also a little difficult at times in Punisher #1 to tell what’s going on from one panel to the next, but it’s beautifully rendered nonetheless.
Another small complaint I have is with the lettering. I’ve mentioned before in reviews that appropriate fonts and word-bubble placements are important and Corey Petit’s just doesn’t seem to mesh. It’s far too bright and Comic Sans-y to really fit the tone of the story. It’s a minor issue and shouldn’t ruin anyone’s experience, but I feel there’s an opportunity to try something different in the next issue.
The Verdict: Buy it.
Whether you’re a long-time Punisher fan or this is your first foray into Frank Castle’s world, there are a lot of things to like about Punisher #1, and it’s perfectly accessible to new readers and those returning from Rosenberg’s previous volume. The shocking cliffhanger ending promises an interesting direction for Castle and those he goes up against next.