Review: Punisher #7
Greg Rucka throws us a curveball in this issue, writing a darn good character piece while solving none of the problems I’ve had with the series so far. If anything, this issue makes those problems worse. The story doesn’t move ahead at all. We learn nothing new about the villains, their motivation or anything, really. And neither the Punisher nor the Bride even appear! Instead we get the reason why Detective Ozzy Clemons dislikes the Punisher. That’s it.
Still, it’s a well-written character examination. And the art of guest artist Michael Lark is to die for.
Comic rating: 3/5: Alright!
The problems with this series do not weigh down this issue, as they have previous issues. Rucka is clearly still going for style over substance, and with this issue, he does a very good job with it. Of course, I’d give the issue a higher grade if anything actually happened story-wise. As I said, the Punisher doesn’t even appear. It’s the Ozzy and Bolt show, as the two have a long talk about various topics (mostly the Punisher) on their way to the upstate lodge where Punisher and Bride did all that killing last issue. I’m a sucker for a good character exploration.
So hopefully I can explain why I’m cool with this issue, despite it not fixing any of the series problems, moving the story forward or providing much depth. Synopsis and spoilers after the jump.
Thankfully, the recap doesn’t give us any new information this issue. I’ve previously pointed out how the recap page, designed to get new readers up to date on the story, had revealed key information about the villains and the plot, information that should have been delivered in the story itself. So we can bypass that problem already.
We start with Detective Oscar ‘Ozzy’ Clemons, our Morgan Freeman stand-in, sitting on top of his desk at One Police Plaza. Ozzy’s flicking a knife open and closed and is, frankly, obsessing over a crazy-person map of New York City.
A police captain comes in and tells Ozzy about the murders at the ski resort upstate, so Ozzy and his partner need to ship out. Sounds good to Ozzy. When the captain asks about the map, the photos and the string, Ozzy tells him it’s the Punisher. Always the Punisher. I think Ozzy has a crush.
The art of Michael Lark is evident from the get-go. If you’ve never heard of him, Lark did some work on Daredevil, but I know him best from Gotham Central at DC Comics. That title is one of the best in the history comics, in large part to Lark’s grim, realistic artwork. The man is great at drawing people, especially world-weary ones like Ozzy.
So Ozzy and his younger partner, Detective Walter Bolt, hop into a car and drive upstate. Ozzy wants the passenger seat so that he has time to think. Ozzy also does a lot of talking to himself, counting up 41 dead since the wedding massacre from issue #1. He mumbles a bit about what started the Punisher, and whether or not something like that would ‘start’ himself. Bolt calls him out on his mumbling.
A bit of chatter later and Clemons reveals that he knows about Bolt’s interest in Carlie Cooper. It sort of implies that Bolt and Carlie are having an affair…which is weird. I know Carlie has broken up with Peter Parker, but really? Bolt? I’m not sure what to make of this scene. Is Bolt cheating on his wife? Or does Ozzy just know that Bolt has a crush on Carlie?
At any rate, Ozzy wants to stop for coffee. At the rest stop, Bolt asks Ozzy why he doesn’t like the Punisher, considering other police officers want to give him a medal for killing criminal scum. Ozzy brushes him off and they hit the road again.
Later on, Bolt mentions that they’ll never solve the wedding massacre. The only IDed shooter, Liam Malloy, was killed by the Exchange several issues ago. The other shooters are probably dead at the Punisher’s hands. Bolt says that the Punisher is “doing us a favor.”
Ozzy responds with the name ‘Alfred Coppersmith’, and we dive into a flashback for why Ozzy doesn’t like the Punisher. It was a case several years ago, with his old partner Caitlin Leigh, in which Coppersmith murdered four people by spiking their Aspirin. Ozzy and Leigh went to Coppersmith’s apartment and found out they weren’t the first to arrive…or the second…
Big time superhero brawl!
Ozzy can only watch as Punisher dukes it out with Daredevil. Punisher wants to kill Coppersmith, Daredevil wants to bring him in, and Coppersmith doesn’t want either. The fight ends with costumes escaping, while Ozzy captures Coppersmith. They check out his apartment, but the place is trashed. They can’t tel which stuff belongs to Coppersmith and which belongs to Punisher or Daredevil. Attorney Matt Murdoch tries to get Coppersmith to take a plea, but Coppersmith doesn’t go for it. He knows that the case is crap.
Since the evidence is tainted by the Punisher, Coppersmith goes free. Case dismissed. Though as Ozzy points out, that doesn’t go well for Coppersmith.
They arrive at the ski resort and have a little confrontation outside the car. Ozzy says that Punisher doesn’t do anyone any favors. While the two of them serve the law, the Punisher only serves himself.
And to that end, Ozzy knows that Bolt has been passing information to the Punisher, which we’ve seen a few times in this series so far. Ozzy tells Bolt that it stops now, and that’s that. Ozzy heads inside the resort while Bolt hangs outside for a bit.
Bolt chats with a local sheriff and we get a lot of information about the ski resort. Total dead: 18. A bunch in the main room, several upstairs, and then there were the guards outside.
Both Ozzy and Bolt notice that all of the laptops are missing, even though there are a bunch of laptop extension cords. Curiouser and curiouser.
Bolt joins Ozzy upstairs, who is looking at the bellman costume that the Bride used to infiltrate the resort last issue. The gears in Ozzy’s head are spinning and he comes to a realization!
The issue ends with a close-up of the knife that Ozzy has been playing with for the whole issue. The flashback revealed that he found it in Coppersmith’s apartment, and the close-up reveals the Punisher’s skull logo. It’s the Punisher’s knife!
So there you have it, a pretty good issue of a comic series that does not feature the title character, does not progress the plot in any meaningful way and only sort of features a surface scratching of one of the main supporting characters. Still, it’s a pretty good issue. The dialogue is good, we learn a bit more about Ozzy and the art, as I said, is fantastic!
The style is definitely tops in this issue, even if the substance is lacking. So I’m giving it the ‘Alright’ grade based purely on that. I’d be more than willing to grade it higher if it actually featured the Punisher and actually moved the plot. We already know all those people are dead, we knew that last issue. We also already know that both the Punisher and the Bride killed them. So this issue is spent catching Ozzy and Bolt up to the rest of us. That was incredibly not necessary! Couldn’t that have been done in flashback?
It’s no fun watching Ozzy follow the clues if we already know where they lead.
So basically this issue just deepens the character of Ozzy Clemons, clearly someone very important to Rucka’s tale. Where will he end up? I don’t know. But in this issue we learn that Ozzy is sort of obsessing over the Punisher and he’s very, very smart. He knows about Bolt and Carlie Cooper, he knows about Bolt passing information to the Punisher and he quickly deduces that someone else assisted in the ski resort massacre. So…I don’t know. I have no idea where this is leading, or what it might mean for the series or the character.
Is Ozzy going to catch the Punisher…or become the Punisher?
I guess we’ll find out!