by Nathan Edmondson (Writer), Mitch Gerads (Artist)
The Story: Can you harm electricity with bullets? I suppose Frank will find out soon enough as he fights Electro.
The Review: It must be tough to have a handle on a popular property. When a writer gets to write another chapter in the continuing adventures of a highly known and liked character, there must be a high amount of pressure. There’s a need to stick to what makes the property well-liked in the first place, but also a need to add something new all the same, to integrate a new voice all the same to the continuity.
It’s what Nathan Edmondson has to struggle with in this latest volume of Punisher. With some definitely highly-regarded stories done by reputed storytellers before him, the writer has the challenge to match them but also distinguish himself from what came before, which is a tough task with a character as singularly-minded in his appeal as Frank Castle. While past issues did their best to make it so this new volume has promise, does the third issue shows the same promise is the premise faltering?
Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a weaker offering this time around, despite some good ideas being thrown around to make things interesting. The explanation of what the weapon that brought Frank to L.A is, the arrival of Electro and the pretty solid amount of action is definitely a plus for the book, putting forth a good amount of what the character is appreciated for as well as a certain amount of depth to the first story arc.
What’s also good, but also different, is the manner in which Frank acts and operates with his mission. A bit more open to other people, yet not without his tactical approach to wholesale slaughter of criminals, this is a new type of Punisher that is quite fun to read. The contrast in how he talks to Tuggs in this issue and how he simply blast his way through henchmen is a rather simple, yet effective one that do send the message that Edmondson knows who Frank Castle is well.
Where the books doesn’t work very well, though, is in how the book is divided, both in its scenes and in its focus, with several pages that don’t really amount to much in terms of progression of a single issue. While some scenes do establish some important facts, such as the progress of the Howling Commandos in their assessment of Frank Castle or how the police of L.A reacts to his arrival, they are unfortunately much too brief to actually work very well in making those developments interesting. While the information the writer wants the readers to know get sent to the readers in about a page, both of those events unfortunately makes the flow of the issue a bit weird and chaotic.
It isn’t however just these scenes that contributes to this weird pacing and division, however, with plenty of moments in the issue where the focus and the time jumps without any clear transitions from scenes to scenes. In one page, the focus is on Frank and Tuggs in a bar, the next is on the Howling Commandos, the next is on the street gang and Electro and then it’s back on Frank torturing a criminal, with some other pages progressing thus at a chaotic pace. It doesn’t make the story unreadable, far from it, yet it is generally distracting and does not allow for a fluid storytelling progression.
Still, despite these problems, the art is as good as it was in the first two issues, with Mitch Gerads presenting a good clash of superpowers and normal warfare. The fight between Frank Castle and Electro is a solid introduction to the issue, with the depiction of the super villain’s powers on the page permeating the action and the consequences very well. However, it is but only a part of the action here, with Gerads showing more of Frank’s gunning very well, presenting the fast-paced yet consequential violence very well through a good progression of panel-to-panel movement.
It’s actually that dedication to a sense of movement and progression that makes Gerads very good here, with the evolution of many scenes being especially well done in terms of smaller or bigger movement. With a good attention and a certain balance between little and bigger details in some panels, the artist is able to make everything moves without adding too much superfluous elements in his pages, baring it down to the essentials. This results, however, in some backgrounds and the general setting to be a bit empty, though, which is a bit of a downside from what he did in previous issues.
Where he seems to be quite good, though, is with the colorization, going from one extreme to the next without hurting the issue and its general tone. With scenes featuring some heavy amount of bright colors like the one in the bar or the fight against Electro clashing against the darker and more nuanced scenes with Tuggs or when Frank assault the gang he’s looking for, Gerads knows when to switch, yet does not do so in ways that contrasts negatively with the previous and next scenes. Using his colors to detach the unusual from the traditional, there are moments when the switch in colors is used to present a drastic change in the situation, or to just make some characters or elements stand out more. It is elemental in terms of colorization, yet Gerads use it effectively here to great effect in some pages.
The Conclusion: The division of scenes makes for a problematic pacing and some of the elements aren’t very well integrated to the structure of this issue, yet the good amount of action and the quality work of Mitch Gerads makes this an acceptable and enjoyable reading experience nonetheless.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière