by Nathan Edmondson (Writer), Mitch Gerads (Artist)
The Story: Now located in L.A, Frank Castle continues his war on crime.
The Review: Like any human being, I am full of contradictions. While I do enjoy cosmic and high adventure tremendously, I still have a soft spot for lower settings, for the more mundane stories with a more realistic approach. Preferring ambitious stories instead of more traditional ones, I still find ways to thoroughly enjoy the adventures of characters like Frank Castle and the noir approach of certain writers like Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka.
Thus, it’s a rather welcome sight to see the Punisher getting a new ongoing, with a creative team that has shown it can handle military, espionage and warfare very well in The Activity. With the writer being rather good when it comes to realistic settings and to a more nuanced approach to violence and war tactics, this could be very well the beginning of a very beautiful thing. However, does Nathan Edmondson provides the necessary spark to begin a new chapter in the life of Frank Castle, a character that has been touched by a plethora of talent in the past?
If the first chapter of this new volume is any indication, this ought to be good, as Nathan Edmondson dives right into the heart of the matter, giving new readers and fan a good take on the character without forgetting to add to the character. There has been many different interpretation of the character, with Garth Ennis driven and rather stoic Punisher, the more bombastic and pragmatic one from Rick Remender or the more silent and professional version that was Greg Rucka’s. Edmondson version is his own, with a more talkative personality and a certain penchant for conversation and repartee that is not unlike Ennis or Remender, yet it is dialed down to a certain approach to his work that makes this an elegant amalgamation of three distinct voices without being defined as just that. Distancing the character from the loner perspective that has been his in the past, there are a few supporting characters with which Frank might interact with in further details down the line, cementing this as not just being the ongoing war on crime that Frank is in, but perhaps something more. It is a certain diversion of what the character is known for, yet it is not one that remove or destroy anything from the character. As far as alternative versions goes, this one isn’t bad at all.
Of course, liking a character isn’t enough to make a comic satisfactory. Thankfully, Edmondson does provide readers with a nice introduction to the new area in which Frank Castle will evolve and fight crime in. Balancing things well enough with a touch of the violence and lack of mercy of Frank Castle with a depiction of where he goes, who he interacts with and how he might proceed from now on, there is a lot of setup and a good number of introductions made, yet it’s done in a way that feels natural to the storytelling. There are conflicts, there are moments where the main character and the cast are properly defined and there is a certain direction for the first story set in, which is good enough as far as first issues can be. It’s nothing particularly exciting or bombastic, yet it is highly competent, which is always nice to see.
Still, books can sink or swim based on their artistic merits, with some good stories getting drowned in bad art or with a visual direction that does not match the tone at all. It is a good thing then that Mitch Gerads is talented here, with a good visual pacing, a good sense of anatomy and a terrific balance between overloading the panels and making them empty, making sure every panels have just the right amount of elements and details to make them count in the larger prospect of the book. Sure, some lines are a little blurry and some faces a bit wonky in terms of expressions, but the body language, the attention to specific details and the panel composition makes up for it generally. While a bit unrefined at times, the storytelling is good and clear, which makes it so the readers can follow everything without missing anything important, which is always an important factor in sequential art.
Where Gerads shine a bit more, though, is in his approach to colors. Using cold and warm colors smartly, he is able to make the violence on display even more striking thanks to his use of colorful backgrounds and character approach, always making sure something is distinct from another element to make it more visible. Showing some excellent shading as well as a good range in terms of diversity, the colorization also makes up for some of the rougher aspects of the art, making it much better looking.
The Conclusion: Presenting a competent approach to the character and to the manner in which he approach his goals, Nathan Edmondson crafts an enjoyable tale that is also rather well illustrated thanks to the talented Mitch Gerads. It isn’t the most impressive and explosive of issues, yet it is done with a certain confidence and talent that makes it hard not to enjoy, which bodes well for the series in general.
Hugo Robberts Larivière