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Review: Punisher #2

With the second issue of the new series, writer Greg Rucka continues his tale of the wraith-like, silent Punisher and the investigation into the wedding massacre. Once again our focus is on NYPD detectives Celmons and Bolt, split with the continuing adventures of the killer, who is being stalked by the Punisher. We get a peek at the people behind the massacre (I think), but we’re no closer to discovering why everybody at the wedding had to die. Still, the series is rich, dark and fun to read.

Punisher #2

Until they blow the cliffhanger with a frankly silly new addition to the story!

But more on that later. For now, let’s start with the Punisher. Once again, Rucka gives us a Frank Castle who doesn’t say a word and doesn’t have an inch of internal monologue. Though no longer as spectral, thanks to the art, he still doesn’t say anything. The Punisher goes about his killing in utter silence, and there’s a lot of killing this issue. But I’m already getting tired of the silent act. The supporting characters are good so far, at least the detectives are. But I want to read about Frank Castle, not a bunch of nobodies.

Hopefully the villain they inject into the cliffhanger will at least get the Punisher to speak next issue. If only it wasn’t such a lame villain.

We start off following the killer from the first issue, the goateed guy who gunned down people at the wedding but survived the Punisher’s club massacre at the end of issue #1. This guy is running like hell through the streets of New York, trying to go to ground. But nobody’s willing to put him up. So he just keeps running through the dark, grimy streets of New York City. We’re treated to narration by two people named Stephanie and Christian, who we see a bit later standing on a rooftop with a group of other people. They’re dressed like rich people and are talking about the killer, and how the only reason the Punisher let him live is to track him, which would lead the Punisher to Christian and Stephanie.

And sure enough, that’s exactly what Frank Castle is doing. Though still in the shadows, Punisher is now drawn in such a way that we can clearly see his face. He’s no longer a stealthy ninja, as in the first half of the first issue. You may remember that issue #1 was split into two parts. In the first part, Punisher only appeared in shadow. In the second part, he was in the light. In this issue, all one story, he’s in the light again.

Because of my love of the Garth Ennis Punisher series, in which Frank Castle was a hard man pushing 50 with a lot of years on him, I’m not a fan of this young, handsome Punisher. But it’s not a big deal.

Handsome chap

Stephanie and Christian aren’t worried because they’ve hired someone to take care of the Punisher. We see this person only in shadows for now, and he has claws and glowing red eyes. Someone badass perhaps? Just you wait and see!

We jump to the daytime, with detectives Clemons and Bolt investigating the club massacre that ended the first issue. Oscar “Ozzy” Clemons is the Morgan Freeman guy, and he’s convinced that the Punisher is responsible. The kills are far too clean, far too precise. That’s Special Forces training right there. So now they’ve got the Punisher to deal with, messing up their case. They’ve got a job to do, doesn’t the Punisher understand that?

Speaking of jobs to do, in comes Norah Winters, a reporter for the Daily Bugle and a supporting character from Amazing Spider-Man. Now this was a fun cameo. One aspect of this Punisher series is that it’s firmly set in the Marvel Universe, complete with superheroes and mutants and whatnot. So it’s smart that, instead of making up some random reporter, Rucka just borrows an existing reporter character from Amazing Spider-Man. Norah’s fun and sassy in this issue, and has clearly worked with Clemons before. Unfortunately, their entire conversation is about Norah and we don’t really learn anything new about Clemons or Bolt. It’s an extended explanation into who she is and what she does. Hopefully that means she’ll be making routine appearance in this comic.

Being a newspaper reporter myself, having one as a character is always a hoot.

Young, perky and blonde; what's not to love?

Let’s stop here for a moment and look at that picture I just posted. This is a pet peeve that’s only going to bother someone like me, who is a crime reporter for a newspaper in real life. Just like most jobs, Hollywood and other media tend to exaggerate a reporter’s job. I realize that Norah is supposed to be a sassy and edgy reporter, but she’s all over the place in this issue. I realize she may just be joking with her friend Clemons, but when a homicide detective tells you that you can’t quote him on the details of a murder investigation, you don’t quote him on the details of a murder investigation. You have to maintain sources as a reporter, and to do that you have to maintain their respect. If they tell you something ‘off the record’ and tell you not to quote them, you don’t do it. That tends to piss them off. Bad enough she snuck past the police tape into an active crime scene.

Honestly though, I’m probably just being silly. It’s comics, not real life. And my dinky little city isn’t New York City, so maybe it’s different there. Still, it’s one of those things that will only make someone in my specific circumstance stop and shake his head.

This scene is awesome, though, because it name drops Phil Urich. Longtime readers of my blog will know that Phil Urich was one of My 6 Favorite Comic Book Characters. His current comics status quo is that he’s a cameraman for the Daily Bugle, who is making some cash and fame by filming himself as the villainous Hobgoblin and selling it to the Daily Bugle. Exactly like Peter Parker did when he took pictures of Spider-Man. So it’s awesome that Phil gets a mention in a Punisher comic. It means Marvel is really pushing him as a character that will stick around. What’s silly, though, is that Phil is being treated like a TV cameraman. They say that Phil is filming Norah doing her reports. I know the Daily Bugle is mostly an online newspaper now in comics, but do they really do more video than newspaper reporting? Norah can easily make the leap from anchorperson to writing reporter? Those are two rather different fields, especially when it’s clear that Norah prefers the writing.

Kind of an odd sort of crossing of wires in terms of what the Daily Bugle is doing these days. Still, woot Phil Urich!

But I digress. Back to the Punisher!

After the extended introduction to Norah, we jump back to the Punisher chasing the goateed killer. His name is Liam, by the way, and he’s found a brothel to hide in. The owner kicks him out on the street, tossing him into the gutter. Oops! Punisher’s right there, right outside! Liam scrambles to his feet and keeps running, while the Punisher decides to pay the brothel a visit. In silent fashion, Punisher lets himself in and starts blowing away the druggies and the gang-bangers – but he doesn’t harm the girls. Punisher doesn’t kill prostitutes, especially ones that are hooked on drugs like these girls. But he does kill the owner, even when the guy tried to take a hostage, and he kills the ‘madame’, who was using drugs to keep the girls in line.

The blood will wash right out, the punishment will last forever!

The art in this scene is clear and easy to follow, if a little scattershot. The panels are not square and gridlike, with a few experimental angles. What works great are the colors. The scenes on the street with Liam are blue and black, while inside the brothel we switch to a fuchsia. The rooms are bathed in fuchsia, and soon blood. The Punisher’s kills are sharp and bloody. One is especially cool when they just show the silhouette of the owner (in fuchsia, not black) and he’s got the detailed, bloody bullet hole in his head. Punisher leaves and the drugged out girls in the brothel are free. I guess.

We jump back to Clemons and Bolt, who have gone to visit the bride in the hospital. She’s practically the only survivor of the wedding massacre, and she’s finally woken up. It’s a quiet, soft scene in which she tries to remember what happened. Then she remembers everything…

A brilliantly silent page

In the end, Liam has made it back to his bosses, though not Christian and Stephanie from earlier, just some other people who were working with Christian and Stephanie. One of them is a pretty redhead named Dove. She kills Liam with a shotgun, and the Punisher watches from afar through the scope of his sniper rifle. Once Liam is dead, Dove turns to look up Punisher’s scope to tell him that she knows he’s there and she’s ready for him.

Enter cliffhanger villain…the new Vulture!

Are you KIDDING ME!??

What is this crap!? This character is a guy named Jimmy Natale, who used to be a mafia ‘cleaner’. But then the mob turned him into a murderous bird monster-man who now wants to get his revenge on mobsters, or something. Sometimes he works for the bad guys. He fought Spider-Man a few times as some kind of vicious freak. He has no connection to the classic Vulture though, nor to the Punisher. He’s just some monstrous new take on the classic villain created during the period when Marvel wanted to give Spider-Man some new villains to fight. But the point I’m trying to make is that this is the lamest, one-note, bottom-dwelling super-villain that they could possibly throw at the Punisher. They build up this hidden, surprise super-villain…and it’s the new Vulture?

What a chump!

I can only hope they needed to find some bargain bin super-villain for the Punisher to kill. For you see, that’s the problem with bringing the Punisher into the normal Marvel Universe. If you want to have him go up against costumed super-villains, he’s going to want to kill those super-villains. That’s why Garth Ennis’ Punisher took place in its own separate world. And why when they brought Punisher back to the Marvel Universe during Civil War, he almost immediately killed Stilt-Man.

R.I.P.

So I guess Marvel’s just throwing out some lame super-villain who, in theory, will be able to put up a fight. The character of the new Vulture is that he’s vicious and monstrous. So it could very well be a brutal battle in issue #3. I’m sure he’ll definitely give the human Frank Castle some problems. He’s just a laaaaaame villain.

All-in-all, it’s a good second issue. The story continues along on both fronts, though not very far, I’m afraid. We meet the bride who survived, and we meet the people who were behind Liam and the killers. So the story is moving. Unfortunately, we don’t get to really know anything more about the protagonists. Punisher remains silent, ‘speaking’ only with his guns. He kills and moves on, as the Punisher does. He continues to be badass, but this silent treatment isn’t going to be as much fun if it continues much longer. Detectives Clemons and Bolt are back, but their character development is brushed aside so that we can be introduced to Norah Winters.

While it’ll be fun to have Norah in the book, if she sticks around, we didn’t really get to know anything more about the two detectives, who we know will be the main protagonists. Bolt, especially, was in the background this issue, while he was the main character in the last issue. So while the story may have progressed, the characters did not.

At least the art was once again phenomenal. The right mix of action and gritty, street-level talking heads. I love realistic art in my comics, as opposed to silly superhero fantasy, so I’m enjoying the art. This is definitely a book to keep reading. I’m going to try to keep going with every issue, since I’ve had the luxury of starting with issue #1.

What do you all think? Should I keep reviewing the Punisher?

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About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on August 28, 2011, in Comics, Marvel, Punisher, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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