The Punisher: Police Action (#73 – 75) – Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning

3 out of 5

They’d set the stage in a couple of prologue issues, and then writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and artist Dougie Braithwaite were ready to unleash some heavy-duty Punisher action.

…Except it was kinda back to normal.

Police Action is fun but weird on the backs of those preceding books, feeling much more rushed and short-sighted. Because the duo were off the book for a few issues after this – and because the 75th issue went double-sized as an “anniversary” issues – it makes me wonder if there was some editorial fiddling regarding the pacing of things; the mash-up of local government agency V.I.G.I.L. being sicced on Frank alongside Castle’s takedown of drug confluence “The Warehouse” feels exactly like that: a mash-up, causing neither storyline to get the space it needs. Stretching out Frank’s planned attack would’ve been fun, but it boils down to just one night of research and then guns blazing, with a pointless mob boss figurehead as the operation’s main baddie; V.I.G.I.L. come out of nowhere to be immediately noteworthy “adversaries,” rendering their competence strictly through what we’re told and not what we see. The moral quandary Abnett / Lanning try to have Frank talk us through at story’s end – what could be seen as the writers m.o. for how they wanted to approach Punisher – is very, very rushed.

So it felt like we were going to get a uniquely tweaked version of the character, and then it was business as usual. Which, more positively, is not unentertaining: Braithwaite maintains his strengths as an artist for the title, and the balance between gritty gunplay and helicopter-dangling stunts is nicely balanced; Dan and Andy may not effect the smoothest pacing, but on the flip-side, the issues are all business, not suffering from the talkiness of Eurohit.

The anniversary issue includes a couple of shorts: Roger Salick gives Val Mayerick a platform to draw some sweet and brutal fist-fights; the story is complete fluff for that purpose. But then!…: Simon Bisley draws The Punisher. It’s essentially a gag strip. It’s perfect.