Written by Becky Cloonan
Art by Steve Dillon, Frank Martin, Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: May 4, 2016

The Punisher #1 features the adventures of Frank Castle in much the same way that Jaws featured the adventures of a shark. He’s there, but this story is less about him and his journey and so much more about the impact his presence and actions have on the world around him.

Written by Becky Cloonan and drawn by Steve Dillon, The Punisher #1 establishes Frank Castle as a boogeyman, monster-under-the-bed entity, investigating an aspect of the Punisher that works well for this introductory issue. His would-be victims describe the Punisher in exaggerated statements, like campers around a fire whispering in hushed tones about the cryptids lurking in the shadows of the woods around them.

Like those little seen unknown forest creatures, the Punisher is scarce in his own title. Clocking in at twenty pages, the Punisher appears in less than half of those pages. His presence, however, is unmistakable, as the introductory paragraph on the credits page reminds readers, “Now, there is only the Punisher.”

In my experience, the Punisher works best in controlled doses – his original miniseries, Greg Rucka’s run, and artist Steve Dillon’s original tour of duty with then-writer Garth Ennis. Stories that are finite. The Punisher is a character prone to fits of predictability or stories that seem retread. Cloonan avoids that by reducing the Punisher’s appearance in The Punisher #1, introducing a foe (for at least this arc), mining Frank Castle’s history, and introducing the prototypical supporting adversarial cast in a pair of D.E.A. agents named Henderson and Ortiz. Both are relatable and border on likable, even though Cloonan only provides them enough real estate within this first issue to establish them as role players.

The Punisher #1 opens in a drug warehouse, setting the scene and giving readers all they need to know to jump in. A crimelord named Face explains a new drug to his lackey, Olaf, and the reader as well. That drug, EMC, beefs up the consumer, and presents a surprising challenge to the Punisher when he comes calling.

The art is predictably solid, filled with clean, crisp figures and dynamic storytelling, both through the procedural and the battle. Dillon’s expressions aren’t as wide-ranging as Kevin Maguire’s, but he does give readers a fine array of pain and agony on the faces of the unfortunate and a variation in the body types as they fall. The nit I need to pick, however, comes at the cross-section of artwork and coloring. The blood spurting takes on a bizarre, foamy appearance that gets a signal boost in the wrong direction from the ketchupy hue in Frank Martin’s color work.

Beyond that, the two artists collaborate wonderfully, with Martin’s earthy coloring grounding the story in The Punisher #1. The D.E.A. agent appearances are believable and clean, making the firefight all the more disturbing by comparison. When the Punisher does arrive on-panel, he steals the spotlight, as he should. If he wasn’t beforehand, Dillon should become the Punisher artist of record from this point going forward. After all, Frank Castle won’t be limited in every issue, and when he finally is given the space of an entire issue, there is no doubt Dillon is really going to shine.

Overall, The Punisher #1 is solid, but not amazing. Like Jaws, it has enough to catch your attention and keep you locked in during the initial phase of the story, but so much more is lurking under the water, teasing fans to stay tuned. I cannot wait for Cloonan and Dillon to deliver.

The Verdict: 8.0/10



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