It seems like I just read (and reviewed) an issue of “Punisher.” Checking my records, it turns out that I did. Less than twenty-three days ago, I reviewed the “Thanksgiving” issue of “Punisher.” It would go to figure then that this issue might be the Christmas issue.
Your figuring would be dead wrong. Dead like the dozen or so fatalities in this Greg Rucka-written issue. The wrinkle in that statement is that not all of those casualties were caused by the man formerly known as Frank Castle. It’s pretty hard to cast a holiday glow on something so grim, and nothing is done to try to counteract that in this issue. Sure, there’s snow on the ground and snow coming down from the skies, but all that white simply gives Punisher a wider canvas to spill red upon.
Punisher’s not alone in the bloodshed in this issue. Rachel Cole-Alves’ story of vengeance continues and runs parallel to the Punisher's throughout much of this issue. Naturally, the two paths have to intersect at some point. Rucka delivers a sharp turn to bring the two together in a way that not only feels right, but looks marvelous.
Matthew Clark, a collaborator of Rucka’s on “Felon” and “Adventures of Superman,” draws the story featuring Cole-Alves. Matthew Southworth, Rucka’s partner on “Stumptown,” delivers the visuals for Punisher. The two styles are different enough to offer up diverse sensibilities, but they work well enough to make this issue visually consistent. This is a nifty little experiment in combing the two styles into one story and it works out to great effect. As enjoyable as regular artist Marco Checchetto’s work is, I don’t mind having a fill-in -- or, in this case, two -- to provide a breather. The Matthews not only provide a breather for Checcetto, they do it with flair. The pair of Matthews is rounded out to a trio thanks to the spectacular colors of Matt Hollingsworth.
The art team is a fine match for Rucka’s story and vice versa. The most impressive part, to me, is the fact that even the pages without dialog, which are expertly carried by the artwork, still feel like Rucka pages. Rucka’s writing is strong. His characters are steadfast and his pacing is timely. This book didn’t have much room to get better, yet somehow it did.
If you’ve been missing out on this book, this issue -- which is the sixth part in a multi-part storyline, mind you -- is very approachable. From here, you’ll be hooked, as Rucka and company are ready to throw a few more curveballs at the Punisher. This issue ends with a double-page spread cliffhanger that will undoubtedly kick off the next issue in an explosive manner.