by Rick Remender (writer), Jerome Opena (art), Dan Brown (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Frank lays siege to the Hood’s big base in New York City in the conclusion of Rick Remender’s first story arc.

The Good: With every issue, I love Jerome Opena’s art more. It’s incredibly unique and a perfect fit for Punisher. He is simply one of the best artists that the Punisher has ever had. His work is exceptional in this issue; gritty as all hell, yet never feeling messy. It’s hard to have heavy pencil shading and thin inks without looking rushed or a rough draft, but Opena falls into neither of these traps, maintaining a hard-boiled feel while keeping an impressive level of detail. As a side-note, Opena still draws a great Hood and also does a fantastic job of making ridiculous C/D-string villains look genuinely scary.  Also, I have issues with Dan Brown’s colours in the first three issues; I find that they are at points jarringly washed out and bright. However, in this issue his colors work as he darkens things up a bi.

In the end, this issue is another solid effort by Remender, who clearly has a good understanding of the Punisher’s voice. Remender has hit a nice stride with Frank’s dialogue. He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does speak, it’s hard-hitting or witty.  Just about every word the man speaks is absolutely badass, while humorously dry .

As for the writing, Remender pulled it off. Bringing Microchip back from the dead has really been the one thing grating on me thus far about this series.  The dialogue here ALMOST made me buy into it.  The bizarre situation of Microchip offering to resurrect Frank’s family was really a very clever situation and a great means of exploring Frank’s psychology.  I hope this “offer” is explored further in later issues.

Oh, and rock on to the 3 Inches of Blood reference!

The Not-So-Good: Not enough Hood! I said it in my last review, but Remender writes possibly the best Hood next to Vaughn’s original.  Mean, nasty, and psychotic, yet somehow, his presence is muted/minimalized here, and we don’t really get that vicious craziness, which is a damned shame.

What’s worse is I think everyone anticipated some sort of fight between the Hood and Frank here, but we never get it. In fact, we don’t even get a conversation between them, only a distanced staredown, which left me feeling a little tricked and underwhelmed. The action was all a bit underwhelming as it made this issue feel less important than it should have been.

Also, Microchip aside, I’m not comfortable with the Hood suddenly having the ability to bring back WHOEVER he wants from the dead.  It just stinks of being a convenient plot device that can be returned to repeatedly. I hope Remender doesn’t resort to this crutch, but the potential is dangerously there. The dead never staying dead has always been an unfortunate cliché of comics, but when one character’s powers lead to him resurrecting people by the horde.. It’s just too much.  If we brought back Microchip, why stop there?

Conclusion: A very solid Remender Punisher issue with lots of action, hard-biting Frank Castle one-liners, and awesome artwork. With that said, while the action is explosive, those expecting a “final showdown” will be disappointed, as this issue really doesn’t resolve a lot. Rather, it lays seeds for the future. Of course, while I am a little miffed, it’s clear that Remender is setting the Hood as Frank’s continued arch-nemesis, which I like.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans