"Punisher" has been one of Marvel's new, consistently strong titles, so the latest issue being good isn't much of a surprise. What might surprise people, though, is that "Punisher" #7 reunites Greg Rucka with his old "Gotham Central" art team of Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudino. True to form, this issue focuses not so much on the Punisher but Detectives Clemons and Bolt.
On the surface, "Punisher" #7 is about Clemons and Bolt finding the aftermath of the massacre of Exchange members in upstate New York. On that level alone, it succeeds; watching Clemons piece together the evidence to figure out what really happened is entertaining enough in its own right. He's a genuine detective, one who can take the evidence and turn it into something greater.
More importantly, though, we get a strong look into Clemons' head on his feelings about the Punisher, and his first encounter with the vigilante years ago. We get a strong statement from Clemons about why he objects to the Punisher's killings of criminals, and it helps solidify him as one of the main characters for the "Punisher" series. It's also fun to watch Clemons interact with Bolt; the "conversations" in the car are entertaining (even as poor Bolt is out of his depth), and the later confrontation between the two of them about the Punisher not only establishes yet again why Clemons is such an excellent detective, but firmly places a new barrier between the partners. Where we go from here is anyone's guess, but it should be interesting to see it unfold.
As for Lark and Gaudino's art, it's as beautiful as ever. The first couple of pages feel at first almost like they're showing off; the amount of detail on Clemons' map is startlingly impressive, and the shot of the pair of detectives driving over the bridge is just beautiful. The two of them are drawn with careful skill; each being instantly recognizable and looking amazingly lifelike without appearing posed or stiff. But here's the thing with "Punisher" #7's art; Lark and Gaudino never let up. Page after page is perfectly drawn, and it reminds me once again why I love their collaborations. "Punisher" has been blessed with a lot of great artists up until now (Marco Checchetto, Matthew Southworth, Matthew Clark) and Lark and Gaudino definitely fall into that category.
"Punisher" #7 is another satisfyingly great issue. "Daredevil" is Marvel's new series getting a lot of (deserved) attention, but if you haven't taken a peek at "Punisher" yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. The pair of them launched together, and I think they're two of the best series at the company right now. Check it out.