There is no doubt Greg Rucka has come onto this title strong. He clearly has a strong sense of who his Frank Castle is, and how he’ll be portrayed. That clarity helps this issue define what will come in the future. The question now stands, what will define this run?
We’ve had the force of vengeance initially introduced to fans, then we got years of a war that would never end. We’ve been granted Garth Ennis’ sleek as Teflon crime take and now Jason Aaron’s bizarre retooling of Frank Miller’s "Elektra Saga" with Castle at the center. Rick Remender recently ended a run which put Castle into the mix of the weird super aspects of the Marvel U. The Punisher has been brilliantly written before and each run has a hook, a statement of tone. What is Rucka’s intention with this title? Is it a different tone? Is it an effective tone?
Frank Castle is a shadow on these pages and yet commands concrete presence. Supporting characters for the title are instantly built up in this issue and effectively so. The cops we follow, though reminiscent of the detectives in “Se7en,” are all great to follow. Castle is merely an extension that affects the characters and the narrative; we see nothing from inside the titular man. It’s a bold move and one that sets a cold tone. The action set pieces are mostly wordless, the art violent and nasty. This is one face-stomping crime comic. The only problem might come from the possibility that it need not be a Marvel book.
The use of the extra sized debut is brilliant. The first tale shows us the impact of the Punisher on the world of these men, while the second tale shows us the impact on the men, themselves. The interview transcription playing against panels of what actually happened is a simple juxtaposition to set up, but used to grand effect here. Not only is the true story made more interesting by knowing how others perceive it, but the after-effects from such false knowledge is going to make for wonderful character work later on. Rucka is playing with these toys for the long haul.
Marco Checchetto carries his weight on panels of a face exploding, a bride on her happiest day, and a very bleak and haunting Punisher. For all the violence, this is still a pretty comic without ever coming across as juvenile or over-the-top. This book looks just like a Punisher crime comic should, except for the Punisher’s face. This Castle is a little too pretty and slick, but if that style yields us the visuals of the bride then it’s completely worth it.
With a new #1, “The Punisher” relaunch under the ‘Big Shots’ banner is going to be a treat. It reads well, it looks just as good, and will appeal to a broad audience. It’ll be interesting to see over subsequent issues how Rucka’s vision for this character plays out. This issue delivers a ballet of blood that kick starts a myth of a man of death. You could almost call this ‘The Ballad of Frank Castle’ and you’d have the tone nailed down.