After the initial Marvel Noir books were concepts that didn’t immediately lend themselves to the noir treatment, Marvel has put out books that seem more suited to the genre and none seem more suited than the Punisher. The idea of a man killing criminals is easily transported back to the early-to-mid 20th century, but, somehow, what Frank Tieri does here is still a little surprising by not taking the easy route.
Some elements of the regular Punisher story carry over with Frank Castelione, a World War I veteran and single father after his wife died of cancer sometime after the war. It’s 1928 and Frank runs a general store in the Bronx, doing his best to keep his son out of trouble. But, for a young boy of Italian and Jewish descent in New York in the late ‘20s, trouble finds him and he’s soon pickpocketing people with his buddies, much to his father’s frustration and despair.
Tieri spends nearly half of the issue setting up Frank’s life in 1928, but it’s time well spent. The introductory sequence, in particular, is well done, introducing us to this version of the Punisher in 1935 via a radio show introduction. Reimagining the Punisher as a radio drama crime-fighter ala the Shadow is a great idea and makes for a great sequence -— so long as you don’t think too hard about how the Punisher would also have a radio show.
While necessary, this issue is almost exclusively set up and doesn’t really provide a pay-off except for the reveal of the real world villain of the series at the end. The details Tieri throws in are great, like Frank’s chest tattoo to mock the Angel of Death, but there may not be enough here to bring back some readers. Even the fantastic opening sequence seems a bit long considering that it takes place seven years after the main story.
Paul Azaceta’s art is quite good here. He handles the mood and emotion of the characters well. We’re used to seeing Frank Castle looking serious and angry, but to see Frank Castelione heartbroken at the path his son is going down is new and a little shocking. Visually, this isn’t Frank Castle and that’s exactly what this book needs.
Azaceta mostly works with non-action scenes in 1928 New York and it looks like the time period (from what I know). His World War I sequence is a little over-the-top, but also thrilling. I can’t wait to see him handle this Punisher taking on the mob.
“Punisher Noir” provides a few surprises and does a good job of differentiating itself from the regular Punisher story. However, there isn’t much in this issue except for set-up, which is done very well, but doesn’t take the place of a good plot, something we only see a brief glimpse of.