Punisher War Journal #11
Writer: Matt Fraction
Pencils: Leandro Fernandez
Inker: Francisco Paronzini
This is Punisher in normal Marvel continuity for better or worse, but Matt Fraction has supposedly been doing quite interesting things with the character and is getting rave reviews for Casanova among other books so this is worth a look.
Okay, this is good. We have three stand alone stories about lives the Punisher has greatly affected, while discussing heroes and villains and, of course, what separates them. The entire issue is talking heads, and it’s handled marvelously.
The story that’s given the most space here is GW Bridge being offered his SHEILD job back by new director Tony Stark. Bridge reveals a lot about his character and he’s grown amazingly since he was an early 90s joke in X-Force. He’s a torn character, forced to acknowledge the Punisher’s effectiveness, while hating what that evokes within himself as a man who has been on the straight and narrow for so long. It’s an interesting character piece, particularly when placed beside Tony Stark, the man most responsible for the Civil War event wherein Stark caused a war between heroes that villains profited immensely from, making him an interesting counterpoint to Punisher for Bridge. The only flaw in this, is not a real flaw, just a subtle questioning of why Bridge makes the decision he does, because of his feelings for Punisher or because he’s still trying to do the right thing.
The second story is a man who suffered great loss and was saved by the Punisher confronting his issues with a psychiatrist. The psychiatry is highly unconventional, and that’s revealed why in an interesting manner in the finale. This is the part that’s easiest to spoil and where the spoiler would do the most damage, just suffice it to say, there’s more going on than is readily apparent.
The final part is Bucky confronting the Punisher over his Captain America suit last issue. This is handled well, as the heroism and symbolism of Cap is quite potent. Both of these characters have checkered pasts and Cap means very different things to them, just like America means very different things to different people. This quiet, tense seen, was very well handled and featured great characterization. The motivation of each adds to the characters motivations in a small yet tangible manner, as does the mixture of threat and respect with which they view each other.
The art seems to play up on shadow to create a claustrophobic feel. This is beautiful since the overriding theme seems to be that hero and villain are often much closer than we’d like to imagine. The storytelling is easily followed and the tone the art sets meshes with the book perfectly.
This is one of the better self-contained super hero comics I’ve read in a long while, with only Fell making me add the above qualification. This draws on character’s rich past, allowing that to enrich the story, not create a burden. The theme of heroes and villains being closer in fact than they appear is built by both the story and the art to a satisfying climax in each story and there is still plenty of places for this to go. Great issue.