Punisher by Greg Rucka Volume 1 Review

It feels like every few years Marvel relaunches the Punisher in a new series, and this series by Greg Rucka is the most recent effort that Marvel has put out.  This is a decidedly different take on the character, especially compared to Rick Remender’s recent take on the character.  It’s still a reality-based book, but the Punisher makes far less appearances here than in Remender’s take, as he’s more of a force of nature felt in the world.  The world that Rucka constructs is very reality-based, less full of superheroes and more of criminals and police officers.  The defining moment of this mini-series is in the first issue, as a wedding is interrupted by armed gunmen, killing and wounding many of  the attendees.  Among the wounded is Rachel Cole, the bride, who loses much of her family and her fiance’s family.  This is a major feature in Rucka’s run on Punisher, because this book becomes just as much about Rachel as it does about Frank Castle himself.  This trade paperback collects issues #1-5 of the Punisher series, comprising the first story arc.

As already mentioned, this volume features the interruption of Rachel Cole’s wedding, which quickly becomes a bloody mess.  The Punisher soon becomes involved, even as two New York City detectives investigate both the wedding and Punisher’s involvement.  Norah Winters, investigative reporter extraordinaire also makes an important appearance, as she helps save the Punisher’s life.  What separates Rucka’s take on the character from prior takes is how it is so grounded in reality, and told like classic crime fiction.  There’s only one “super-villain” in this book, the newest incarnation of the Vulture, and even then the character is depicted as a force of nature himself, as he’s set upon Frank Castle, leading to a memorable and mesmerizing aerial battle, which ends in Frank Castle taking some major ocular damage.  The police detectives are the real leads in this particular volume, as one of them is compromised, secretly working with the Punisher as an informant.  This version of the Punisher is very much human and falliable, and not immune to injury or punishment, as seen when he starts wearing a patch over his eye, after the battle with the Vulture.  Rucka has a very precise way of writing the book, and by the end of this trade, you’ll be eager and anticipating the next volume of this series to be released.  Incidentally, the next volume is actually coming out next month.

The artwork in this collection is done by Marco Checchetto, with colours by Matt Hollingsworth.  Hollingsworth’s artwork is quite notable because it gives the book a very realistic visual tone, without being too dark and gritty, like Rick Remender’s take on Punisher.  It also gives this book a stark contrast to the last series, to help establish itself visually.  Furthermore, in future issues when other guest artists pitch in on the book, the overall sense of visual consistency is maintained because of the gorgeous colour artwork done by Hollingsworth.

Fans of crime fiction will really enjoy the complexity of this volume, although readers should be warned that this volume does feel like a first act.  It’s well-written and well-illustrated, but the story is just getting started here, and leads into future volumes superbly. This is a unique and singular take on the Punisher and his world, and I can’t recommend Rucka’s take on the character enough.  Highly Recommended!