Punisher by Greg Rucka Vol. 3 Review

Punisher by Greg Rucka Vol. 3 Review

Sometimes in the comic book industry it doesn’t matter how well-written or illustrated a comic book is, it ultimately comes down to sales and editorial, and if editorial decides to go another way and the sales aren’t strong, it can quickly be the death-knell for a comic. That seems to be what happened with Punisher under Greg Rucka. Greg Rucka set out to tell a very different Punisher story, and he most definitely succeeded. His writing on Frank Castle was often scaled back from what one would expect, at times with him feeling like a guest star in his own book, and this worked to build back up the mystique of Frank Castle, to make him feel more like a force of nature, which is normally a feeling reserved for when he’s making guest appearances in other characters’ books. This collection brings together Punisher #11-16.

The true story of this volume of The Punisher is about Rachel Cole-Alves, ostensibly Lady Punisher, for lack of a better name. This book, in such a short time span, managed to make me really care for this character, as well as other supporting cast members, including Detectives Clemons and Bolt, not to mention reporter Norah Winters, who has never been so nuanced and multi-layered a character as she is in this title. This final volume sees Rachel finally confront the evil responsible for her descent into Punisher’s world, and what happens next shatters her completely and believably. I loved her and Frank’s interactions, and I feel like under an inferior, lesser writer, there would have been some hackneyed relationship develop between the two, which would have been an awful choice. But thanks to Rucka, instead their bond is one of commander and soldier, as Rachel gets swept into Punisher’s world and lifestyle. It’s fascinating to see the toll that it all takes on Rachel, and the ending of the series is tragic and heartbreaking.

The artwork in this volume is handled by three different artists, all of whom bring something unique and interesting to the story visually. One thing I liked was that the change in artists made sense given each issue. Issue #11 is a flashback story about Detective Bolt, and has Colak providing the artwork. Issue #12 sees Checchetto return, with #13-14 showcasing Suayan as he takes the Punisher on a heist to procure important elements needed for the big showdown with the Exchange in issues #15-16, once again illustrated by Checchetto. Frank Castle himself looks phenomenal under Checchetto, and the detail in the artwork is breathtaking. The last two issues are absolutely action-packed, and yet the artwork never feels like it’s cramped or trying to squeeze everything in. The storytelling is simply exquisite.

This final volume of Punisher by Greg Rucka is actually a bit of a misnomer, as it’s not actually the end of Greg Rucka’s Punisher storyline that he started telling in 2011. In actuality the story continues from these pages into Punisher: War Zone, which will be coming out in trade in a few months, and puts a final pin into the story that Rucka was telling with Frank Castle. War Zone does feel different, however, as it’s about Punisher going up against various Avengers who try to take him in, while also showing the final fate of Rachel Cole-Alves, which makes for a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion. If you enjoyed this volume, you’ll want to pick up the War Zone trade paperback to see how it all truly ends. I can’t recommend this volume enough, it’s immensely entertaining, and one of my favourite Punisher storylines in quite some time, if not ever. Highly Recommended!

Punisher by Greg Rucka Vol. 2 Review

Punisher by Greg Rucka Vol. 2 Review

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!