I never thought I could actually enjoy a comic book that follows the adventures of the Punisher in the regular Marvel Universe.
I was a big fan of Garth Ennis’ Max Comics version of Frank Castle; his take was pure — gritty, dark, violent and as realistic as a funny book can get. So the idea of the big guy with the skull on his chest running around with superhuman superheroes just seemed silly. And yes I know that’s how he started out — back in the pages of Spider-Man — but after Ennis amped up the real-world elements, I just couldn’t see the point of going back to “Fantasy-land.”
My trepidation about the wackness of a Marvel U.-based Punisher was realized when Matt Fraction launched his super-duper edition a year or so ago. Fraction played the book for laughs, but the lack of seriousness made it hard to care about the stories. Ultimately, it didn’t work.
These days, however, there’s another Punisher comic on the stands; this one is written by Rick Remender and the art is by Jerome Opena. And this one is actually good.
From a story standpoint, Remender’s approach to Castle is similar to Ennis’ … in that he’s stripped the character down to his purest form. The dialogue is sparse and to the point. His actions are portrayed as deliberate and methodical. His emotions don’t register. This isn’t the Punisher played for laughs. This is a “normal” guy on a mission to murder some abnormal bad guys. (It’s particularly cool how the Punisher uses some iconic Marvel-style weapons to battle a cadre of villains.)
From an art standpoint, Opena renders everything in a gritty, rough, shadowy style — and that further helps to ground situations that could easily turn ultra-fantastic. Honestly, Opena is one of the best artists drawing comics today. I can see this guy moving to more high-profile Marvel books soon. For now, you can enjoy his handiwork in these blood-soaked pages.