1 out of 5
I first read the Punisher / Daredevil / Spider-Man “Omega Drive” crossover within the context of Daredevil. As the drive (I believe) originated in that series, it was a bit more excusable to follow the story elsewhere, and Waid’s punchy tone (for that era of DD) translated well to SM, and played off of Pun acceptably. It wasn’t a great story, but it was acceptable.
Within the context of Punisher, however… it’s horrible. It comes out of nowhere – a truly last minute mention of the Drive in the lead-in Pun issue – and it completely derails the already minimal progress Rucka was making on his attempted addition to the world of Cole, the female (essentially) Punisher-in-training: her path from victim to revenger had comic bookery via The Vulture dumbing things up (distracting from and devaluing her storyline) in volume one, and then after a couple of semi-sobering issues, the same thing happens again with the Omega Drive. The tone of Greg’s run up to this point was already questionable, with his “sexy” Frank, thanks to artist Marco Checchetto, and a weirdly casual – for Greg – way of approaching Pun’s kills, but pairing up with DD for puns and jokes throws any semblance of grounded tone wholly askew. Add in Waid’s blank-faced moralizing from Daredevil, and the crossover becomes a very poor sidestep for a struggling series.
Preceding these issues, things take a slightly compelling step toward ditching the spandex antics and trying to logically intertwine Cole and Castle, but the whole thing still feels off: artist changeups issue by issue make Frank look distractingly different (especially a bandage over his eye, which I realize sounds like nitpicking but it’s a front and center detail), and I’m not quite sold on the necessity for spray-painting a black skull on your white camo, but whatever. Even bringing in Michael Lark for an Oscar and Walt (the Pun-adjacent investigating officers) focused issue feels way more lighthearted, banterwise, than is fit for the artist. When things start getting especially silly and confusing – as in, why are we doing this now? – is when the Omega Drive mention gets dropped. So it goes.
Greg Rucka’s Punisher is a weird beast. You can sense a classic Pun brooding in the writing that’s then masked by pretty artwork, and Greg’s way in to analyzing the character’s humanity – Cole – ends up being (thus far) a minor character who gets completely steamrolled ‘neath ridiculous comic book stuff. I have no way of knowing how much of this way editorial back and forth versus Greg’s plans for the title, but something definitely went awry with the final product.