Wednesday, August 10, 2011

That Creepy Smile Made It All Work--Punisher #1

The Punisher #1
Since having been made into one of the weirdest comics ever by Rick Remender (I liked Franken-Castle, but everyone seems to have hated it) and then having all of Remender's plots wrapped up in a mini-series, Greg Rucka starts The Punisher series anew with a whole different style. This a Punisher we barely ever see as more than a dark blur of vengeance, who we don't hear the thoughts of, we just see his actions. This is a Punisher that is quite frankly one dark, serious comic that I thought I was only somewhat enjoying until that one scene that sold me on the issue, that single little panel...that eerie smile.

Not to spoil the whole story this issue, but the Punisher has a new police contact--we see how they met in the back-up strip that makes me not feel cheated by this comic's $3.99 price-tag--and there's a big wedding shooting that went down and its a mystery why things turned out the way they did. The comic has an interesting Law and Order type police-procedural style to it and Marco Checchetto turns in some stellar and moody artwork. You rarely see Frank Castle in this comic, but his presence is always felt as a sort of overshadowing figure in what is arguably the comic's main character--the policeman--Walter Bolt's life.
Everyone else may not know why things turned out the way they did at the wedding, but the Punisher does, and at the end of comic--I'm entering spoiler territory here but preview art for the comic gave it away too--the men who shot up the wedding are all taken down except for the leader, who is utterly freaked out as the Punisher approaches, cocks his gun...then does the creepiest smile and walks away.
Why did the Punisher leave this man alive? I don't know, I presume the series will tell us why he just walked off on the last page The thing that sold me on this comic, and sold me on this series that I wasn't sure was going to work as the 3rd time in I think half a decade they've re-launched this series, is that smile. I'm reminded of the Garth Ennis Punisher Max run--which I hope doesn't seem like a back-handed compliment to Rucka who is trying to make something unique, I mean it as a full compliment. I'm just reminded of the line in Ennis' run where The Punisher says how, "Every night I go out and make the world sane." This is a Punisher who is less of a person in this comic, and more of a violent force, the only time we see any emotion from Frank Castle this whole comic is in that little scene with that smile. This is a Frank Castle who seemingly can only feel anything anymore by going out and killing those he feels deserve to die (not new)...and it brings him a sort of twisted pleasure (that's kinda of new). The Punisher Max version of Frank Castle was a man; he had emotions for a female character--maybe even loved her, cared about his daughter he discovered he had, and maybe even barely had what could resemble friends. This new Punisher is just death.

The front of this comic says Frank Castle died with his family, and he is now simply the Punisher. With this new interpreation by Rucka I would agree that is what we are seeing, something dark and evil that is only contained by the fact that it kills other monstrous beings (in its eyes) instead of "good guys". This isn't  Frank Castle, a man, who goes out to make the world sane, this is a Punisher  that knows the world can't ever be sane, so he might as well take whatever pleasure he can in a mission that will never end. At least, that is what I got from that single panel, that one smile. It's just my way of thinking of things, but it really did make the whole comic for me. Let's focus in on that smile, shall we?
Man, that is creepy.
The fact that this series takes place in the main Marvel Universe means eventually The Punisher will bump up against Marvel heroes, and woe be to them for going up against a Punisher like this.This was a great comic, it was easily 3.5 out of 5 stars, but thanks to the smile which I wrote about in more detail you would have thought humanly possible that alone for me just bumped it up to
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Hopefully the next issue will be just as strong.

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