3 out of 5
No longer distracted by Vultures and Omega Drives, Greg Rucka’s Punisher can finally (sorta kinda) start reading like a legitimate Punisher arc, accepting that Greg chose to drill down on Frank’s military background. Which, for a more practical-minded writer like Greg, is a wholly reasonable way to go, though it would have been nice to have that paced out and expanded upon somewhat, but the author’s run on the character read rather muddled from the start, and was then hijacked by nonsense in the middle, and so here we are, 11 issues in, and Frank commands his Punisher-trainee – Cole – with marine lingo, because she served.
Regardless, the last set of issues from Greg show some good focus, finally getting around to trailing down The Exchange gang members who put the hit on Cole, and offering a pretty legitimately Punisher-y reaction to Cole’s betrayal in the preceding arc, and her recklessness as she continues to unravel. Side characters get a short shrift – our Exchange baddies are faceless; the cops investigating crimes around the Punisher are interesting parallels of each other, but only get enough pages to come across as stereotypes – but nothing felt like a distraction from the finish line of the story.
I remain incredibly turned off by Marco Checchetto’s art. Even though he dirties it up a little here, downplaying sexy Castle and sultry-eyed Cole, his paneling and choreography feel off, capturing things with a movie camera’s eye instead of a comic book’s. Much, much better is Mico Suayan, whose two issues not only fortunately feature some of the story’s tightest moments, but also show how a bearded, pirate-patched Frank and his fellow assassin can be made to look grounded and tough, while maintaining Greg’s slightly lighter tone.
I, too, would’ve picked Greg as an intriguing writer for Punisher. But I think his run can ultimately considered an experiment, and one with middling results.