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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Punisher Issue #11-Thoughts and reviews

Hey, another month, another Wednesday, and Greg Rucka has another issue of The Punisher out.

Once again, I picked it up from my local place, Beyond Comics.  While my nearest gaming store is not so near, I am fortunate to have a great comic book place not so far.

So, I have a few thoughts.  The short review is probably not surprising.  I liked the issue.  After the conclusion of The Omega Effect crossover, it tooks us in a new and unexpected direction, while still keeping the storyline going.  I recommend the issue, and the entire run so far.

To discuss in slightly more detail I need to mention . . .

**************SPOILERS**************

So, as you may have read in the reviews (including mine) of the end of the Omega Effect, the big transformation was not in what Daredevil did with the Omega Drive, but instead in the effect of Spiderman, Daredevil, The Punisher and Sgt. Rachel Cole-Alves forming a temporary alliance had on those characters.  Chief of which was Cole-Alves.  It seemed that Daredevil had perhaps convinced her to step off the path that Frank Castle had walked, and to choose a new destiny.

So, we get neither Cole-Alves directly, nor anything to do with the Omega Drive (or Megacrime) in this issue.  Instead, we get a very interesting story about Detective Bolt and some major changes for him and his relationship to The Punisher.  However, hidden in plain sight in the story is also the evolving storyline of Cole-Alves and The Punisher, but we get distracted by the Zombies, so you might not pick up on it at first.

Yes, Zombies.

Actually, as gonzo as it seems, it is actually a great set piece, which really works for the character development that Rucka is putting forward.  Detective Bolt starts the issue in an interview room, talking about a shooting in Times Square.  However, he decides to come clean and admit that the earlier shooting in which he was involved (Punisher #1) did not go down the way he had described.  He admits that all the bad guys he supposedly shot were killed by The Punisher using Bolt's gun.  He admits to covering it up and accepting the praise for actions he did not take, and he explains that the encounter had turned him informant for The Punisher.  He explains that this is why Frank Castle approached him in Times Square, while Bolt was on a date, but before he can respond to Castle's demands for information . . . Zombie Attack!

As it turns out, some nutty supervillain/necromancer, Black Talon, from New Orleans is hoping to take on the Avengers.  Instead, Punisher systematically blows away about 20 Zombies with Bolt watching his back, mostly afraid to shoot, concerned with hitting civilians (he admits to taking down maybe one zombie at most).  Then, when Black Talon starts monologuing, Punisher puts a couple of round sthrough his chest.  End of bad guy.

Punisher exits the scene in the ensuing confusion, and Bolt ends up making his statement and confessing his past misdeeds.

Then, the twist. 

Despite serious misconduct, Bolt was on the scene and did do his duty (albeit with the lion's share of the work done by Punisher) during a supervillain attack.  The brass in the department decide that sweeping things under the rug and putting a good face on things is better in Bolt's case than going after his badge.

Bolt completely expects to have thrown his career away, but at least he won't be living a lie.  At the end, when they toss him back his badge, you can almost taste the bitter ashes in his mouth.  Things did not go the way he thought.

This is a great character piece.  I really liked it.  Also, there were, for me, some key nuggets of how the Exchange storyline may develop, especially in the wake of the Omega Effect.

Bolt says that they were looking at Cole-Alves as a suspect in some of the deaths of Exchange members, however, the fact that The Punisher wanted files on her, had made Bolt reconsider whether they might be working togehter.

I don't think that is a mistake on The Punisher's part.  I think at this point, he would like to see her out of it all.  First, she has proved to be an unreliable ally, given her departure from their plan during the Omega Effect.  However, he may, in some way, share Daredevil's hope that Cole-Alves can get out of the revenge game and escape Frank Castle's fate and mission.  One way he can do that is by covering her tracks and muddying the waters of any investigation on her.

Of course, the narrower interpretation would be that he just wants to find her again after she disappeared at the end of DD #11.  However, that would contradict what he said to DD and Spidey, which was that she would be found if she wanted to be found by him.

I am intrigued by what it all means for the future of the long term story.

Gripes
I don't pick to much on the nits with things I like, even when they are imperfect.  However, I did want to get on record on a few things.  First, this month, and almost every month, the cover of Punisher either has nothing to do with the contents of the book, or even when related, is not great art.  There have been exceptions in the last 11 issues, but they are the minority.  It bothers me, even if it is unrealistic to coodinate cover art, because the guy on the cover has pretty much nothing to do with the character as portrayed in the book.

Second, the art is not great.  I don't mean any disrespect to Mirko Colak and the color artists, but I am totally spoled by the way most of this run has totally rocked out to the art of Marco Checchetto.  Colak is fine, but not up to the task of really making the visuals sing the way Checchotto has, and that is a disappointment in an otherwise good issue.

So, don't just take my word for things.  Here is what some others are saying:

Read/Rant (B+) "I feel like I should put this to a beat and sing it for you by now, since it seems to be the week’s theme, but… not bad, but not the best the series had to offer. It does resolve, or at least begin to resolve, one of the book’s ongoing plots, albeit in an appropriately cynical manner, and it does so using zombies and sudden, unpredictable violence."

D&J Comics (Book of the Week) ". . . Rucka gives us a perfect jumping on point for new readers with a fresh story arc.  Just like Frank, this series is methodical and will hunt you down."

iFanboy (Story 2/5 average, Art 2/5 average) "Disappointed. There was almost no relation to what was solicited or hinted at in the recap page to what was present in this issue. . . . Punisher is a great comic because it feels grounded. Even with the intro of characters like Daredevil and Spiderman, Punisher feels very street level and crime-focused. To suddenly have him randomly shooting zombies with zero questions asked before, during or after felt out of step with the previous tone of the book."

More as I find them.

Update May 11

IGN (7.5/10) "Overall, while the art doesn’t exactly do much for the visual tone of the series, Rucka crafts another engaging – if out-of-left-field – story that illuminates the world of the Punisher within the regular Marvel Universe like few have done in the past."

Punisher Central (B+) "The issue isn’t extremely entertaining but it does a decent job at keeping the reader engaged. The dialogue flows well and the decision for Rucka to tell Bolt’s story through the flashback convention, while being interrogated is an interesting one. Not all issues can be full of action and can move story forward at a lightning pace. Sometimes it is essential to have an issue here and there that provides backstory or setup for things to come. In that regard, this issue performs that purpose admirably."
The Comics Journal (no rating; unfavorable) "The comic ends with one of a Ruckan staple–undergraduate political skepticism, drink it in–but not before he rips off the best gag in that War Zone movie, strips it of its timing, and uses it to fill up two full pages of comic. Speaking of pages, the Punisher speaks on only two out of the seven he actually appears on, so at least there’s a bright side: you can finish reading this issue very quickly."

The Gathering (included on the Buy These Books list) "Greg Rucka has been writing what may be the best 616 run on Punisher ever."

Geek Hard (no rating; favorable) "I don’t like Marvel. I don’t like the Punisher. There I said it. But you need to read this book. Greg Rucka is on fire here."

Update May 14

Weekly Comic Book Review (A-) "A fantastic, psychological read of how the Punisher myth erodes one man’s identity.  So far, the smartest read of the week."

CBR (3.5/5 stars) ""The Punisher" is a consistently good series, and #11 continues that streak. I appreciated the end result of Bolt's encounter with the zombies and his subsequent outing to the police force; it provides a lot more story fodder for the months to come. This is a good example of a series that has found just the right pace, not only for collected editions but for the serialized format too. As always, "The Punisher" is a pleasure to read."

The Weekly Crisis (Verdict: Buy It) "This issue is kind of the perfect storm for me.  I really like Greg Rucka, I really like done-in-one comics, and I really like this iteration of the Punisher.  Taken all together, I can't help but ask what's not to love?  It's not quite as good as the Ozzy-centric issue, but it still makes for a great read."

Points of Impact (BULLSEYE!) " . . . one thing is sure: the framing device in THE PUNISHER #11 does more than bookend the story; it is a story in and of itself.
. . .
Sure, you can use a framing device if you want to present your story in a cool way. But why stop at that when you could have a consistent framing device instead and tell two stories (and be the envy of all the other comic writers)? All you need to do is make sure your framing narrative has more than a token presence throughout the comic, that it can stand on its own as an independant story and that its plot leads to long-lasting effect on the regular cast of the comic."