Panels From Beyond the Grave #16

Parts Unknown will arrive on your doorstep tomorrow. Today, part-time Random (comic book) Reviews contributor Bob Ignizio is offering a panel from beyond the grave. Read on as he dissects the latest issue of The Punisher. I know, I know...technically, this is a non-horror title, but I think it fits the tone of the site. Frank Castle is all about violence and so is RR Inc.!

Click HERE to visit Bob's uber-cool movie blog.

THE PUNISHER (#9, April 2012)

Since his first appearance in 1974, Frank Castle (a.k.a. The Punisher) has been Marvel's answer to the sort of vigilante anti-heroes popular in movies like Dirty Harry and pulpy “men's adventure” novels (The Executioner, The Destroyer, etc.). He's sort of like if Charles Bronson in Death Wish decided to wear a goofy-looking costume and occasionally had to deal with super-powered adversaries along with the usual street scum. To be honest, that kind of mix never really appealed to me as a comic book fan. Still, when writer Greg Rucka took the reins for a relaunch of the character last year, I was willing to give it a chance. I'm glad I did because this latest incarnation of The Punisher is one of the best comics currently on the stands.

Since the beginning of his run on The Punisher, Rucka has focused almost as much on the supporting cast as he has on the titular anti-hero. Foremost among these other characters is female Marine Sergeant Rachel Cole-Alves, one of the few survivors of a massacre that took place when two rival gangs decided to shoot it out at her wedding ceremony. Her husband wasn't so lucky. Since recovering, Rachel has set out on her own path of vengeance which just so happens to run parallel with Frank's.

Until now, Frank and Rachel haven't come face to face, but in issue nine, Rucka finally brings them together to take on The Exchange, one of the gangs involved in the wedding day massacre. The Exchange are former super villains who figured they could avoid trouble by committing crimes that wouldn't draw the attention of guys like Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. With both The Punisher and what is essentially his female counterpart joining forces to take them down, it's starting to look like they figured wrong. They probably would have been better off staging a full-frontal assault against The Avengers than having these two after them.

The things I like about this issue are the same things I like about the series as a whole. There's a gritty, realistic tone to this book that makes it feel like a pulpy crime novel. At the same time, he makes sure the reader never loses sight of the fact that this book is taking place in the Marvel universe. References to S.H.I.E.L.D. and a bunch of bad guys who show up dressed in sci-fi garb could spoil the tone, but Rucka manages to integrate these elements seamlessly. This issue also sets up a cross-over with Daredevil and Spider-Man. It will be interesting to see how Rucka handles those more overtly fantastic characters here.

The art for this issue is handled by Mirko Colak filling in for regular artist Marco Checchetto. Colak has a cleaner, less physical style than Checchetto, but for this particular chapter of the story, he's a more than adequate substitute. It also helps that regular colorist Mark Hollingsworth's efforts provide some consistency with the rest of the series. The only reason I'm giving this four Savages instead of five is that this issue is a bit light on the action. It's more about getting the characters in place and setting up the next chapter. In the context of the overall story, that's necessary, and I appreciate that Rucka trusts his readers not to get antsy, but if you're a new reader looking for a place to jump on, you might do better waiting 'til next month.

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