by Greg Rucka (writer), Mirko Colak (art), Dan Brown & Jim Charalampidis (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Detective Warren Bolt comes clean about his relationship with the Punisher after a crazy night with Frank in Times Square killing….zombies?

The Review: There are two ways of reading this comic.  On the one hand, you can look at it as a comic where Warren Bolt talks a lot and kills zombies with Frank in Times Square.  Pretty ho-hum, right?  On the other hand, if you come in with an open mind, this comic rewards the astute reader with a more psychological reading.

Rucka has given us an issue with a real interior focus; all the events are narrated from the perspective of Bolt with no one, as his interviewers later admit, to contradict his story.  As such, it’s all up to him and, given his background as faux-hero, you’re left wondering about the reliability of what he’s relaying.

Now, I’m not saying that this issue is entirely a figment of Bolt’s imagination; it most likely isn’t.  We know SOMETHING went down with zombies in Times Square.  However, I couldn’t help but get a real Tyler Durden/Fight Club vibe off of this issue.  Bolt and Frank’s unique relationship, with Frank doing the dirty work that Bolt is too afraid or too inept to do himself, leads to the two being inextricably linked to one another.   In a way, watching Bolt and Castle run about killing zombies in Times Square (a situation which, in itself, is so ludicrous that it only facilitates the surreality), you’re almost waiting for the Fight Club twist: Frank was never there.

Of course, that most likely isn’t the case.  Frank really was there.  But it shows the genius of Rucka’s take on the character: Frank is less a fully realized character than he is a spectre, hanging over the lives of Rucka’s excellent supporting cast.  Frank and his bloody deeds have so enmeshed themselves into Bolt’s life that it’s gotten to the point where, to the public, Castle’s deeds have become Bolt’s and the only one to contradict this is Bolt himself.

The result is a claustrophobic feeling of entrapment for Bolt that it’s hard not to sympathize with.  Frank, despite being a real person, has also become an inner demon of Bolt’s made flesh and, as we discover by the end of the issue, Frank has become so tied to Bolt that Bolt will never be able to rid himself of the Punisher.

All told, it’s a fantastic, smart read by Rucka that really makes you think.  Frank and Bolt are, obviously, two separate people, and yet Frank is so a part of Bolt’s life that the two have become so inseparable that they may only be (very) different sides of the same coin.  Already, the two have become so melded that what one does is attributed to the other.  Thus, the issue ends up being a brilliant play on identity.  As the Punisher hangs over Bolt, Bolt is gradually becoming immersed in the Punisher and while HE may know who he is, his public identity is gradually becoming eroded as a result.

On art, I was much more impressed with Mirko Colak this month than in his last outing on the title.  He’ll always suffer from falling under Marco Checchetto’s shadow (he’s similar, but just not quite as good), but the art is satisfying regardless and while I’d still prefer Checchetto given the choice, Colak leaves little to be desired and nothing to really complain about.

Conclusion: A fantastic, psychological read of how the Punisher myth erodes one man’s identity.  So far, the smartest read of the week.

Grade: A-

-Alex Evans