"Space: Punisher" #1 is a high concept sell: an alternate tale of the Punisher hunting a mafia organization through space. Frank Tieri and Mark Texeira deliver exactly what's advertised in the title. This isn't ever going to be a high-lit comic. The Punisher as a science fiction pulp character is just too good to refuse and the creators take every opportunity available to twist the Marvel U into this new mold, resulting in a fun comic with detailed backgrounds and a story that evokes imagination in every reader.
Everything in this comic is big and full of bang. Tieri and Texeira have the entire expanse of space to fill with warped Marvel tropes and they want the audience to feel the scope. This Frank Castle zooms into space with a space variation on his costume, which instantly sells the concept to the reader. Castle even waves a laser sword through Brood soldiers wearing the symbiote. This is high fantasy action set against a new Marvel U.
"Space Punisher" almost feels like it could be its own story with no Marvel ties and been equally as fulfilling, but it is the repurposing of beloved Marvel lore that gives the book its edge -- it's a perfectly metered mash-up. This book only needs to exist as a twist on the familiar to make a "new and improved" version that brought a smile to my face. The book puts so much into these pages with appearances by Microchip, Corsair, Thanos, Rhino and even Maria. Tieri takes the concept of adapting the Punisher for science fiction and applies it across the board. When Castle discovers the identities of the mafia bosses, there is a moment where you instantly project forward and wonder what comes next.
Aside from the cool factor of the narrative choice, Tieri also crafts a well-told tale. This Castle is still tough as nails and equally as determined to end his quest -- but it's through his actions readers get to know him best. He is gruff and deadly and fascinating to watch. Tieri trims the fat and makes this book give as much as it possibly can. The only major problem, perhaps only for this reviewer, is the addition of a ponytail to the hero.
Mark Texeira matches the tone of the book perfectly. Ignoring the shine gloss of the paper, or the iPad screen, this could be a comic from 40 years ago -- an "Eerie" tale or something Marvel would have relegated to an anthology title alongside Robert E. Howard adaptations. Texeira lends the tale an authenticity of tone and intent, delivering incredible designs for all characters and concepts.
"Space: Punisher" #1 is one of the best "What If…?" comics Marvel has published in a long time, it just doesn't carry the "What If…?" rider. The Punisher seems to work well at extremes -- either incredibly serious and dark or intensely zany to the point of parody. This book falls closer to Remender's "Franken-Castle" masterpiece. If you liked that book then you'll enjoy this one as well.