3 out of 5
John Wagner, given his years writing Judge Dredd, seems like a natural fit for Punisher, a guy who could probably be equated to good ol’ Joe in temperament and, to a degree, methodology. However, such a statement is ignoring not only the 90,000 other titles / characters Wags wrote just as well – stories of all types and tones – but also that he’s proven so good at Dredd because of the way he fleshed out the world and the judge himself, not just writing him as a one-liner spouting tuff cop.
And while Die Hard in the Big Easy is, ultimately, a pretty slight story, requiring N’awlins voodoo stereotypes and hop-skip-and-a-jumping through easy logic to get Frank to NOLA from NY – oh, this drug pipeline starts there; time for a road trip! – the brutal and expressive touches and dark humor John brings to the book give it flavor beyond that stereotype, and also makes Frank his own version of the character: focused as always, but also rather human.
Phil Gascoine’s art starts out incredibly cinematic, but as things go on, both Phil and John seem like they start to rush things – the look and writing get looser. Something adjacent kind of naturally happens with colorist Steve Buccellato, who’s moody and muddy look grounds the early pages we and then feels without much variation early on.
So it’s a fun story, worthy of a read and then easy and fun enough for rereads, having notable personality in both character and setting; it’s also just another Pun tale, either a bit too long given its same-old story, or too short to give the details enough room to shine, resulting in a more hurried second half.