09th Oct2018

‘The Punisher #1 & #2’ Review (Marvel Comics)

by Phil Wheat

Written by Matt Rosenberg | Art by Szymon Kudranski | Cover(s) by Greg Smallwood


You can take The Punisher out of the War Machine… Punisher no longer has the War Machine armor, but he retained his newly acquired taste for big game, and he’s hungry for more. However, the paths to such perilous pursuits are fraught with dangers bigger than any Frank has faced before, and this lone wolf could use otherworldly help on his way up to the world stage. Matthew Rosenberg continues pushing the boundaries of the Punisher, and now joined by acclaimed artist Szymon Kudranski (American Vampire, The Evil Within), this is the book Punisher fans will be talking about for years to come!

Whilst I haven’t read an ongoing Punisher book in a looong time, it was actually The Punisher that got me reading American comics on a regular basis – after Marvel UK released a magazine-sized comic in August 1989, a book I bought religiously until it’s cancellation with issue #30 (if memory serves me). That run, with its back-up of Vietnam drama The ‘Nam, will always hold a special place in my heart. Which is – honestly – probably why I haven’t kept ready Punisher titles over the years: nothing ever really measured up to that run which, as a kid, felt like something of a taboo. After all Frank Castle had no qualms about killing anyone, in grisly fashion sometimes too; something you didn’t get in comics like The Beano, or Dandy, both of which I’d grown up reading.

However there was a buzz about this iteration of The Punisher, which touted a return to the gritty roots of the character, something akin to the Punisher Max titles. Then one of the toy collecting YouTubers I watch on a regular basis, Cincy Nerd, mentioned it in one of his haul videos – saying it was a perfect book to get back into the character; and together those two factors were enough for me to buy my first PHYSICAL Punisher comic in over a decade (I have been reading the odd title digitally, mainly when they tie into, or spin out of bigger Marvel stories (case in point The Punisher: War Machine – which spun out of Secret Empire).

And I was NOT disappointed.

Coming off the back of Secret Empire and The Punisher: War Machine mini series that preceded this book, it’s interesting to see how much the events of that huge crossover book have revitalised the character of Frank Castle. Castle has always taken on thugs, mobsters and all-round bad guys. But sometimes I felt that those kinds of characters were never really any challenge for The Punisher. Which is why this book is so exciting… Frank Castle is now p*ssed, really p*ssed. So much so he’s now taking on ALL of Hydra, a huge organisation made up of soldier and supervillain alike. Which certainly up the ante in my view – both in terms of danger for the character but also in scope for the story. The fact he was used in the manner he was in Secret Empire, betraying his own principles (no matter how screwed up they are), has given the character of Frank Castle a much needed kick in the butt, a fresh motivation, a new reason to kick arse.

Plus, by the end of issue #2, Rosenberg has thrown Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil into the mix, making this feel very much like a return to a street-level hero book rather than the more superhero-esque take on Frank Castle a la the War Machine mini (which was inevitable given that in this book Castle is now sans powered suit). That gritty street level hero story is matched perfectly by Szymon Kudranski’s artwork – which brings a much-needed darker edge to this already bleak tale…

In conclusion: believe the hype, this IS a fantastic new story in the Punisher mythos and this IS the perfect time to jump on board what is a new, yet familiarly brutal, tale of Frank Castle, The Punisher. If ever a comic lived up to the title this is it!


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