By Rick Remender (writer), Jerome Opena (artist), Dan Brown (colorist)

The Story: The time for fun and games is over.  This is after all, the Dark Reign of villainy, and there is glorious, bloody work to be done.  Frank Castle knows this to be true, therefore he has restructured his crusade accordingly.  Armed with a newfound sense of purpose, as well as a high-powered Skrull sniper rifle accurate up to four miles, Castle is fully prepared to put a well-placed bullet through Norman Osborn’s head and be done with his brand of madness once and for all. But when the Sentry intervenes on Osborn’s behalf, Frank must decide fast if he’s willing to make a strategic retreat or go down fighting.

The Good: Remender is clearly distancing himself from Fraction’s work on the previous Punisher War Journal, giving us a more traditional portrayal of Punisher.  Here, he is grim and gritty, locked and loaded, and it’s totally appropriate within the context of Bendis’ fairly ridiculous Dark Reign premise.  And just like Fraction on Invincible Iron Man, Remender takes the writing direction he is given and makes it shine, and I’m grateful for it.  Opena has a great eye for action scenes, and isn’t afraid to beat the crap out of his Punisher if it will make the scene look good.  His Punisher looks like a regular human going up against super-powered gods; and when he gets smacked around by The Sentry, you can almost feel his ribs popping.

The Not So Good: For the first issue of a relaunched title, this was painfully light on plot, amounting to little more than a glorified chase scene.  This problem could have easily been solved if Marvel hadn’t decided to include an unnecessary thirteen page recap of Punisher’s history.  Also, I think Opena would benefit from having a professional inker go over his work as his own inked art looks scratchy and unfinished.

Conclusion: Remender and Opena are an interesting team to bring on to Punisher, and “Dark Reign” is an ideal story for the character, so let’s hope they use that to their advantage.  I’ll stick with this for awhile and see where it goes.

Grade: B-

-Tony Rakittke