This latest version of "The Punisher" has, for the most part, skirted around the edges of the Marvel Universe thanks to writer Greg Rucka. He's not been afraid to use elements of it when needed, like an appearance from the Vulture, but I haven't felt like at any moment the X-Men or Captain American will make an appearance. That's about to change with "The Punisher" #9 acting as a bit of a lead-in to next issue's crossover with "Daredevil" and "Avenging Spider-Man." Which feels, honestly, a little jarring.
The scenes meant to pull the Punisher into the hunt for the Omega Drive (found by Daredevil in his own series a few months ago) feel a little more blatant than I'm used to from Rucka on "The Punisher" with new-to-the-series bad guys suddenly swooping in, demanding information, referencing the Punisher and then just as quickly get moved off-panel. I'm not against the idea of the Punisher having crossovers or interacting with other parts of the Marvel Universe (the earlier-mentioned appearance of the Vulture worked quite well, for example) but this feels tacked on, not quite meshing with the story that's been building for the previous eight issues.
On the bright side, that story does continue here as well, intertwined with next month's crossover and that part of "The Punisher" #9 is still strong. It's a mistaken identity story with a nasty little twist waiting for the man who set the trap last month and Rachel Cole-Alves' prominence in "The Punisher" continues to grow. Rucka is known for writing strong women and Rachel is no exception to that rule, but I appreciate that she's one who was clearly designed for "The Punisher" and fits well into this world, not just a generic tough character.
Guest artist Mirko Colak steps in this month so Marco Checchetto can get an advance step on the crossover and it's a crisper, cleaner style than we're used to getting here. That said, it's still an attractive art style overall; Colak is good with getting a "real world" look and feel Checcchetto uses for "The Punisher" and Colak's storytelling is good. In a collected format I fear this chapter might stand out a bit, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to see more of Colak's art down the line.
Overall, next month's crossover doesn't fill me with any sort of excitement and that's as someone who greatly enjoys Mark Waid's run on the new "Daredevil." Still, I'm willing to wait and be pleasantly surprised. As part of the ongoing "The Punisher" series, this issue is good; as a lead-in to that crossover, though, I'm not as impressed.