I don't know how Rick Remender did it, but he's officially done it in my eyes. His mainstream Marvel Universe "Punisher" title is the official heir to the throne that Garth Ennis' "Punisher" MAX comic once had. The latter was Ennis' non-superhero, mature readers comic that treated the Punisher with a great deal of respect and seriousness under Marvel's MAX imprint. And while the title continues (retitled "Frank Castle: Punisher"), it's Remender's work here that is punching all the right buttons for me.
It's funny, because Remender's opening story is set right in the heart of the Marvel Universe: going up against characters like the Green Goblin, the Sentry, and now the Hood. But there's something about Remender's take on the character, even if he's using crazy science and technology from the Marvel Universe, that still seems down to earth and grim. The Punisher here is a joyless person, going about his mission no matter what is thrown in his way. So from Mr. Hyde to random security guards, he continues to march forward towards his eventual goals.
I also have to give Remender credit in that he's able to bring a character back from the dead in a way that made me nod and say, "Yes, that's the perfect reason to do so." It's a creepy scene as the Punisher meets up with his former assistant, the deceased Microchip, and the offer put on the table is handled in just the right manner that makes you know that Remender understands how to write the Punisher. Not since Ennis have I been this eager to read a new issue of "Punisher" because I want to see just where this title can possibly go from here.
Jerome Opena's art is a good match for Remender's script; it's dark and gritty, but there's still a strong clarity of storytelling. He's able to take some moments that another artist might play for laughs and keep it straight, here. More importantly, the Microchip scenes work in no small part because Opena makes them look fairly creepy, the light on the monitors reflecting off of Microchip's glasses while the two stand in a mostly dark room. I hadn't been sold on the idea of the character coming back, but Opena and Remender nailed it.
"Punisher" is a surprisingly good book. So sure, people use shrinking technology and talk to dark flaming headed gods from other dimensions. But you know what? It still works, and in a completely non-silly way. Remender and Opena are hitting all the right notes here.