"Punisher War Zone" #5 brings Greg Rucka's time with Frank Castle to a close and in doing so succinctly sums up everything the writer has brought to the Marvel Universe through the cache of the Punisher. With Carmine Di Giandomenico on art, the final team-up between Frank Castle and Rachel Cole-Alves is filled with shooting and explosions and all sorts of reds, oranges and yellows that explosions elicit.
Rucka's Avengers play to the writer's strengths in this issue with Wolverine, Cap and Black Widow getting the most from the writer. Iron Man comes across as an exaggerated caricature of Robert Downey, Jr., and Rucka shows just how brilliant Castle can be in combat by dealing with that caricature so completely and repetitively. I like Rucka's approach to Thor and would like to see more from him with this character, but I don't think it's in the cards. Rucka's Spider-Man is quippy and persistent, aided by the tattered costume Di Giandomenico draws for this issue.
Throughout his work on Punisher, Rucka has constructed the character of Cole-Alves to be a strong, independent character inspired and influenced by the Punisher. That construction project reaches completion in "Punisher War Zone" #5. Punisher was the title character of Rucka's run, but the overall story truly belongs to Cole-Alves.
Di Giandomenico's art is edgy, but off throughout much of the issue. The storytelling is solid, but some of the details and designs are off. Thor's face through his helmet seems asymmetrical, as though he's seen from an angle, despite the fact that he is drawn straight on. The convenience of having Black Widow and Punisher fight in a mud pit (although it is heavily tinted orange through the work of colorist Matt Hollingsworth) is uninspiring, despite the focus it places on the characters. Beyond the mud pit, a number of settings are off, leading to some odd depth illustrations in numerous settings. Di Giandomenico doesn't achieve the same level of detail and expression as former "Punisher" artist Marco Checchetto, but there is no denying the energy present on the page.
In the end, Rucka has certainly left the Marvel Universe with a deeper definition of the Punisher, including new characters, but he also leaves behind a pair of shoes that the next writer of Frank Castle doesn't really stand a chance to fill. For me, the Punisher's story has wrapped up. Sure, there will be more adventures featuring Frank Castle, but they are going to have a hard time measuring up to what Rucka has delivered.