"Punisher: War Zone" #4, the penultimate issue of Greg Rucka's treasured run of Frank Castle's adventures sets the trap for the Avengers to bring finally down the Punisher. What should be straightforward action heroes versus shoot 'em adventure turns into a caper comic with twists, turns and the expected dose of intelligent action from Greg Rucka.
While Rucka certainly has a firm grasp on the Punisher, Black Widow and Wolverine, his depiction of Thor has been a pleasant surprise throughout this series. He also writes a very good Spider-Man and delivers a solid Captain America. Rucka's take on Iron Man is an arrogant, conceited character that makes Robert Downey, Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark seem reserved. It's this rendering of Stark that is the lynchpin to "Punisher: War Journal" #4 -- it's not an overly surprising move, but certainly is presented in a most satisfying manner, as only Rucka is capable of delivering. Rucka's logical workings of the Punisher's actions make sense and further ingratiate his run with this character as one of the best Frank Castle will ever receive.
The art on this issue is less convincing than Marco Checchetto's work in the ongoing series or even Carmine Di Giandomenico's from the first issue of the series. Some of the faces are flat, heavily reliant upon colorist Matt Hollingsworth to add depth and dimension. Beyond that, some of the props and furniture melt into the backgrounds, perhaps most prominently around the table as the Avengers plan their protection of Punisher's one-time ally Rachel Cole-Alves during the sentencing portion of her trial. Di Giandomenico's storytelling is very good and his figures act well throughout heir backgrounds, but they need a little more depth and dimension drawn into them to rise up from the flat prison of the page.
"Punisher: War Zone" #4 might not be the strongest single Punisher comic book, but it certainly isn't the worst. The stakes have been raised, traps have been set and Rucka has managed to illustrate how resourceful and effective Frank Castle can be. Although this is the fourth issue in a five issue series, there is a complete story here, albeit a complete story that is just a chapter in the war-torn life of the Punisher. Rucka has raised expectations for the finale of his work with this character and judging from the stakes and props on the table in "Punisher: War Zone" #4, that finale is going to be quite memorable.