The Punisher (#71 – 72) – Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning

4 out of 5

Abnett and Lanning immediately get to work post their Eurohit vacation – which was by no means unfun, but also sort of weightless and hand-waivey o’er unnecessary story and action clutter – mirroring the way they have Frank eager to clean up his town back to a comfortable status quo that’s slipped in his absence. 

These two issues also act as prologue to what’s to follow, which is also why it lands: yes, Eurohit provided a lead-in, but it still felt like a side story; here, Dan and Andy more clearly settle in as ongoing scribes. While the actual plots are business as usual – see crime, stop crime – the writing is just so much more succinct and on-brand, and the street-level tussles a better match for Dougie Braithwaite’s jangly lines, which are somehow rendered seamlessly, despite multiple (four!) inkers in the mix. 

Our writers do bring their voice and flourish into the mix: Frank going after some crims sans weapons, on a tear as soon as his flight lands feels really brutal – good character work – and the Sinister Dexter riff that is an enforcer Castle takes on in the second issue could’ve been a total lark, but beyond a winky design, they give him a stand-out identity that makes him a worthwhile foe. 

A couple story / art beats still feel just a tad off – Braithwaite again gets too cinematic in some panels, missing a choreography cue or two, and Abnett / Lanning occasionally sacrifice character / story consistency for the sake of keeping things exciting, or moving along. None of these are really notably sinful, but they’re minor knocks preventing full marks.