by Marc Guggenheim (Writer), Leinil Francis Yu (Artist), Sunny Gho (Colorist)
The Story: Frank Castle goes and gets himself captured, on his own initiative, by the police as they put him on trial.
The Review: In the wake of Marvel Now!, it was not the best of times to be a fan of Frank Castle. With the excellent run by Greg Rucka being cancelled and the character being put on a team with no solo book of his own, the Punisher seemed to have been delegated to a lower situation than what the title was used to. While Thunderbolts is decent enough with Charles Soule at the helm, it may not be exactly enough for those who rather enjoy the violent adventure of this gunning vigilante. Thankfully, it seemed that Marvel was aware of this as a new mini-series is now in store, featuring Frank Castle as the solo star and focus of the whole plot. Is it any good, though?
Surprisingly, there’s a lot to like here, as Guggenheim makes some smart choices in his depiction of both the Punisher as a force in itself and as a man with mysterious motivations. Guggenheim isn’t a writer that had impressed or even particularly pleased readership in any lasting way, but his handle on the violence and the presence of the Punisher shows an understanding of the character that is not only spot-on, but thoroughly entertaining throughout the issue. His Frank Castle is a calm and calculating man, one that knows very well how intimidating he is and what he can do in any circumstances, showing a side that is not always the most popular with writers.
The court procedural is also entertaining enough on its own, albeit the lack of focus on the whole thing hurts the comic in small ways. It provides a setting that is compelling enough on its own and it serve the pacing and the progression rather well, yet it is overridden a tad by the Punisher and his narration, which is clearly more entertaining than the whole courtroom debate. It’s not badly written by any means, yet there could have been a greater division or at the very least a better meshing of the whole trial and Punisher aspects.
There are several moment where Guggenheim reach closely the potential this series has, as the question of insanity is pushed forward, which is an angle that had been covered by other writers tackling Frank Castle. It’s not the most original approach, yet it’s used effectively as it provides material to show the more violent and almost psychotic side to the Punisher. As the witnesses go on with how they perceived Frank Castle at work, there is a strong case about if he can be deemed psychologically unstable as the more gruesome details of his methods are described at great length. Guggenheim understand the brutality of the character, which is shown in a context that is pretty new to the character. Considering the amount of stories featuring the character, that’s something highly commendable.
However, what’s most commendable is the art by Leinil Francis Yu, which is phenomenal here. Even though he is currently handling the Avengers parts of Infinity with its clearly cosmic vibe, Yu shows he can definitely handle grim and gritty with style here. The Punisher has a presence here, a strong and intimidating one that makes him stand out very much in pretty much every panel he’s in. The violence, whether active or subverted on the page, is also quite efficient, putting the more realistic depiction that is the normalcy for the character to the forefront while staying true to the appeal of the character. The backgrounds and various elements are also done well, depicting a courtroom, prison cell and many of the locale related to the judicial system in a believable way. Where he falters a bit, though, is with the expressions on the face of his characters. There is not a great amount of diversity on display here and some of these faces are a bit ridiculous when analyzed further, with some of them showing more in common with simians rather than human beings. Still, there are some genuine moments in the comics when the faces are good enough with the context on display, so it’s not a complete loss on that front for Yu.
Sunny Gho’s colorization is commendable too, albeit it’s perhaps a bit too subtle in much of the issue. There is a lot of color uniformity in the pages, with a color always been preeminent above the others, which allows a certain ensemble and a connection to be made by the readers, yet it’s not the more diverse palette around. The colors are used wisely enough to provide more fuel for the grim story that is akin to the Punisher, which it serves well, yet it seems to be much more a work of degradation and subtle touches here and there rather than apparent and bombastic like other works he did with Yu. It’s efficient, even beautiful at times, yet just a touch more of diversity couldn’t have hurt the issue as a whole.
The Conclusion: There may be some missteps here and there with the use of certain elements in the art and the story, yet there is no denying that it is an effective and fun Punisher story, showing what made the character work to begin with. It’s entertaining and even gripping at times, yet it could have a better balance some of the various elements. Over all, recommended.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière