Punisher by Greg Rucka volume 2 continues the brilliant adventures of Frank Castle under the pen of Greg Rucka, and really kicks the series into high gear. As enjoyable as the first five issues of the series were (collected in Volume 1), it isn’t until these issues where the series really develops, and takes on a whole new life and direction. With this collection, it becomes clear that the first five issues were mere prelude to where Rucka wanted to go with Frank Castle and Rachel Cole-Alves, and the direction he takes the book is extremely riveting and interesting. Throughout Frank Castle’s entire career as the Punisher, he’s had a few partners, but they’ve only ever been behind-the-scenes partners, like Microchip, helping him to coordinate his missions but never outright taking part in them, out on the front lines. In this collection Frank Castle and Rachel Cole-Alves finally meet face to face, with Rachel joining up with Frank, to carry out her mission of vengeance.
What has set Rucka’s take on Punisher apart from all other depictions I’ve seen in the past is how Rucka tells the story without ever getting inside Punisher’s head directly to unload exposition or narration on the reader. It makes Frank much more mysterious and deadly in his own book, and also gives the reader a greater sense of tension in every scene he takes part in, because we don’t know exactly what he’s going to do, as it isnt’t telegraphed by omniprescient narration. This volume collects Punisher #6-10, Avenging Spider-Man #6 and Daredevil #11. Issue #10 and the issues of Avenging Spider-Man and Daredevil in this volume make up the Omega Effect crossover, which was ostensibly about an item that Daredevil had in his possession, but by the end of the story felt much more like a Punisher-centric story, as Frank and Rachel took centre stage for much of the story. Greg Rucka is an extremely talented writer, and the way in which he plots his stories is well thought-out, with an eye towards long-term planning. Everything happens for a reason in this book, and the interactions between Frank and Rachel are the highlights of this volume. Frank is reluctant to take on a partner, but it feels quite different this time around, almost like he’s training a younger, female version of himself to be prepared for the war on crime. Rachel’s motivation is quite similar to Frank’s, and has a military background which makes her transformation into his partner all the more natural, and a good fit.
The only drawback to this collection comes in the artwork, not because it’s not good, but more because it’s wildly inconsistent, because there’s five different artists at work here. Punisher #6-9 all have different artists on the issues, but thanks to the colours by Hollingsworth the visual tone of the book remains consistent, which is incredibly important to help mitigate the fact that the artist keeps changing on the book. That being said, the artists who take a turn illustrating an issue are extremely talented, and make their respective issues visually pop.
Punisher fans shouldn’t miss out on this distinctly different style of Punisher storytelling, as it manages to hit on all cylinders, with each and every issue. This a well-written crime comic, from a writer with a fantastic pedigree in that genre, and the assorted artists involved manage to truly bring the story of Punisher and his new protégé Rachel Cole-Alves to life. The inclusion of Daredevil and Spider-Man is just icing on the skull-shaped cake. Highly Recommended!