Daredevil vs. Punisher #1

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Good Deeds, Bad Seeds

Written by: David Lapham
Art by: David Lapham
Colored by: Studio F
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Warren Simons
Publisher: Marvel Comics/Marvel Knights

I’m not a Punisher fan, not really. I know, I know: “Why bother picking this book up then, Tim?” Well, I might not like the Punisher, but I do love DD and have a great affection for the relationship these two characters have. From the moment Daredevil put a bullet in poor Frank through Dead Man’s Hand (“The time will come with this will end with the blood on my hands not being my own”) up to Pun threatening Hornhead for his “Kingpin” role in recent history, it always struck me as sort of a shattered vision of the Superman/Batman dichotomy over at the Distinguished Competition (no disrespect intended). Thus, this title was, I figured, a natural fit for my interests.

Sadly, it appears I am wrong. Out of the gate, this is Frank’s show. Daredevil shows up for a few pages, but the narration is all Frank’s (except a brief third person reflection on the Daredevil/Punisher animosity). Unfortunately, as you may remember, I don’t much like Mr. Castle.

Sadly, Lapham’s voice for Punisher does little to change that. Much like the choices JMS made with Dream Police a few weeks back, the voiceover takes me completely out of the flow of the book. For some reason, Castle’s “voice” feels like a series of clichés strung together. It’s like a reheated bit from any and every “vigilante” film you’ve ever seen. The situation is not aided by the attempt to give Frank an emotional depth through a waitress that bears a striking resemblance to his deceased wife. It is meant to illuminate how haunted Punisher still is, but I think the skull shirt and the pile of bodies he seems to leave everywhere conveys that message quite nicely on its own. This may be a “good” Punisher story and I’m just not familiar enough with him to know it, but it does not feel that way to me.

On the other hand, when we step out of self-reflection mode, the book has its moments. The fight between Pun and DD is fast and brutal and it is the one point where the first person narrative works. The later subplot of a protection racket produces some nice tension (in the diner) and a good amount of carnage in the aftermath of Frank’s “justice”.

A lot of complaints have been leveled at Lapham’s art, specifically in reference to how the coloring robs of it of something. It seems to me that it is all much ado about nothing. The art here won’t blow you off the page, but it is functional. You could argue that it is a bit flat at points, but it is never glaringly so. I’m much more concerned with how Lapham’s writing has fared in the transition from his creator owned work to Marvel’s characters than what happens to the art when it meets colors.