Total credit to the folks at the Gaithersburg Beyond Comics. They ran out of Punisher #8, but had a fresh copy for me the next day from another of their stores. Great service. Thanks folks.
And what an issue.
Spoiler alert Spoiler alert Spoiler alert etc.
This was an issue dominated by the tour de force storytelling of the creative team. Greg Rucka, in the lead as writer, has control in every panel, despite many being without dialog. Some will say Rucka did not work so much this issue because there are relatively few verbal exchanges.
They are so very wrong. All you have to do is look at the twice a week draft scripts that go up on www.ineffableaether.com for the web comic Rucka writes and publishes with two collaborators twice a week, and you will see how much thought and detail goes into the writing that is purely visual. This is not to slight the amazing work of his artistic team. Rucka candidly admits he can't draw worth a damn. However, as a "director" he tells his artists his vision in detail. The results are then a dialog and synthesis of Rucka's vision merged with the artist and the colorist. Checchetto and Hollingsworth turn in terrific work that provides excellent visual storytelling which only happens in this way in this art form.
What results is the latest chapter in the compelling opening Punisher storyline for this run of the character.
The Punisher and Sgt. Cole-Alves (survivor of a mindless massacre at her own wedding which killed her husband and her family and friends) start out weapons drawn and pointed, in the midst of a slaughter each has wrought. The Punisher is working his way through The Exchange, an organized crime group made up of henchmen from other "Super" criminal organizations in the Marvel Universe (Hydra, AIM, etc.) as part of his latest offensive in his never-ending war on organized crime. Cole-Alves has started her path of vengeance, with a certain sense that the Punisher is doing work she should be doing. While this is just another offensive in his war, this is her vengeance.
Still, each recognizes that the other is not the enemy and with a declaration of "Blue on blue", they call a truce and each look to capture intelligence and leave the scene of their latest fight. The Punisher warns Cole-Alves "Stay out of my way." They may both be marines, but when it comes to the vengeance business, he is the professional and she is the amateur.
Next, there is a somewhat parallel story of The Exchange leadership. It turns out that one of the directors is an ex-SHIELD agent, who has left back doors into SHIELD technology caches around New York. The deaths of 18 Exchange operatives was a gambit by him to draw out the Punisher and set him up. He promises his partner results.
The rest of the issue follows first detectives Clemons and Bolt as they follow up Clemons determination that there were two shooters at the scene of the latest bloodletting for the exchange. Clemons guesses that Cole-Alves is the second shooter. Cole-Alves sets him up to test how far he is willing to go to try to get evidence of that. By the end of the scene we know that he knows that she knows that he knows, but there is no evidence for an arrest.
Finally, we get to The Exchange's trap. I won't spoil the end, but there are some twists and turns. The theme of the issue is misdirection and deception; getting information by laying traps and stalking horses (Blue on blue indeed). It is a great next chapter in this building story. All the creators are to be commended.
I highly recommend it.