Review: Punisher #8
Finally picking back up with the Punisher and the Bride facing off at the fireplace, the latest issue of The Punisher moves the plot forward in several ways. But it does so without fixing any of the frequent problems I’ve had with this series. Perhaps, like Teen Titans, I should just accept certain problems as part of the story and move on. Because if you overlook those issues, there really is a decent Punisher story here. And the twist ending is very exciting.
We might finally get to see the Punisher doing some punishing next issue!
Comic rating: 4/5: Good.
The Punisher himself remains a quiet phantom, there’s no changing that. But at least we get appearances from all the other major players, we even learn a bit more about a lot of them. Not that this ‘bit more’ really adds anything, especially to the villains. As far as I’m concerned, The Exchange has fallen flat on their faces as bad guys. Adding a bit of tension between them means zilch at this point. But it’s better than nothing, I suppose. I enjoy plot progression at least.
But when is he going to lose that stupid eye patch? Did Punisher lose his eye or what?
Synopsis and spoilers after the jump!
Sadly, we have to start, once again, at the recap page. For whatever reason, writer Greg Rucka likes to include a lot of little details in the recap pages that we did not learn in the previous issues. For example, the male co-leader of the Exchange, Christian Poulsen, is not just an ex-SHIELD agent, but he also has feelings for fellow co-leader Stephanie Gerard. I don’t remember any sexual tension between them before (in the few scenes we’ve had with them), but you better believe it’s all over this issue. Heck, it becomes the defining factor of their partnership.
Anyway, so there we are in the ski lodge in Upstate New York where the Punisher came gun-to-gun with the Bride at the end of issue #6.
After a tense moment, she drops the phrase ‘blue on blue’, which means friendly fire. Punisher acknowledges her meaning and they both lower their weapons. I’m not sure if he recognizes her as the bride, but there’s definitely no way she’d miss his awesome white outfit and black skull design. The two of them head into the room where all the killing was done and each grab a laptop computer. You may recall last issue that both detectives Clemons and Bolt were curious that the laptops were gone. Well now we know what happened.
The two then go their separate ways without nary a word about the Bride being his sidekick.
Then we cut to Queens, where Stephanie Gerard, co-leader of The Exchange, arrives at a run down U-Store-It facility. It’s snowing, with plenty of snow on the ground. We’re still in the dead of winter. As she approaches, she hears a sound behind her and turns, weapon drawn!
It’s just Christian Poulsen, ex-SHIELD agent who has the hots for her. But we already knew that. Poulsen is kind of creepy when it comes to flirting with Gerard, since she seems to have zero interest in him. He holds her arm for a little bit too long, gives her creepy glances. She’s pissed off that he sacrificed 18 people up at the lodge on his mission to get the Punisher. She’s not down for any of his creepy flirting.
Poulsen tells her to stop worrying about a bunch of mid-level Exchange troops, they’ve got plenty more in the wings that can get promotions to fill those slots. Poulsen starts punching in a code to the storage unit. Gerard tells him that the Exchange was formed to dispute those very ideas. When criminals work for HYDRA or A.I.M. they at least know the Avengers won’t kill them if they’re caught. But Poulsen points out that M.O.D.O.K., leader of A.I.M. will definitely kill some henchmen even if they work for him.
Poulsen explains that it was all a trap for the Punisher, one that had to be baited with blood. He leads her to the back of the storage unit, where there’s an even more secretive door and a super secret room inside.
Poulsen has access to one of Nick Fury’s many secret stashes. Gerard is impressed, and he tells her that he’s wiped the security files on a few stash houses before leaving SHIELD, so they’re safe. Besides, Poulsen says, “It’s not like Fury was using it.”
While looking through the gizmos in this safe house, Gerard picks up some little devices and starts murmuring technical jargon about it. She seems very technologically minded. Poulsen remarks that if he knew this is what got her excited, he’d have brought her to the safe house long ago. Remember that sexual tension? Yep, it’s all of a sudden everywhere. Gerard tells him off with a witty, ‘oh snap!’ sort of putdown and tells him to catch the Punisher by the end of the week. Then she leaves.
Cut to an old, run down fix-it shop in Manhattan, which the Punisher uses as a base. He’s still recovering and running a program to break into the Exchange laptop he stole. He gets in and reads a memo about a meet-up in a building downtown. Just what he was looking for. Also, the Punisher seems to be building quite the collection of superhero memorabilia.
Across town, the Bride is hacking into her own Exchange laptop when she gets a visit from our favorite detectives, Clemons and Bolt. They wander into her apartment talking about the case, and Rachel says that she thought the case was closed because the Punisher killed everybody. The detectives ask if she’d be OK with that, and Rachel tells them that she does have a problem – she wanted to kill those bastards herself.
Clemons asks if she’s had any contact with the Punisher. Frank Castle also used to be a Marine, and they have loyalty, right? Rachel tells them that she was home alone in her apartment the night before, not out killing Exchange goons in a ski resort. But she can’t confirm that because all of her friends and family were killed, remember?
Clemons spots a Marine blanket placed suspiciously over a chair. He pulls it up to reveal…nothing. Was he expecting to find the stolen laptop? Because he sure didn’t! Rachel tells them to get out.
Cut to the meet-up that Punisher discovered on his print out. He spies the place with binoculars, confirming the address. Then a ‘cleaning guy’ enters the building in the middle of the night, making his way past security. Upstairs in the officers, the cleaning guy pulls out a shotgun and starts searching the joint. But this was Poulsen’s trap. He’s watching the Punisher’s heat signature move through the building. Poulsen zaps Punisher with the building security.
Poulsen, speaking through the PA system, starts gloating as his security drones start zapping the Punisher. The orbs are bullet-proof, so Punisher can’t fight back. Poulsen gloats that to defeat the Punisher, you misdirect him, engage him at range and deny him his shot. Then you take the Punisher apart. Poulsen is a badass, remember, so he’s pretty good at this.
But wait! That cleaning guy? It was really the Bride! She’s the one trapped by Poulsen’s security. But he can’t see that, because he can only see the heat signature!
So where the hell is the Punisher?
Hells yes! Finally, Rucka gives us a stand-up-and-shout moment of pure excitement in his Punisher series! This is the kind of darkly sinister yet wholly rewarding scene I want in my Punisher comics. There are few things more badass than the Punisher’s skull logo appearing out of the shadows. And Rucka and returning artist Marco Checchetto nail it to the wall and leaving it dripping!
So I’m definitely excited about next issue. A lot happened in this one, the plot has started moving forward a little better and that cliffhanger is a thing of beauty.