Review: The Punisher #1 by Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto

The Punisher #1
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Marco Checchetto and Matt Hollingsworth

Frank Castle returns, and like Daredevil’s return a few weeks ago, Marvel’s “back to basics” approach works well for it. That’s in no small part to author Greg Rucka, who wields Frank Castle as deftly as Castle wields a weapon.

We know the score, it’s a tale as old as time itself: Frank Castle a decorated Marine Corps officer returns from duty to have his wife and children stolen from him in a rancom act of savage violence. Now Frank Castle’s sole purpose is to the punish the wicked. He is the Punisher.

Greg Rucka is no stranger to characters like this. There’s the first hand experience Rucka brings as a trained fighter and EMT, cementing his detail work. There’s his Attic Kodiak series of novels about a bodyguard who finds himself embroiled in some hard boiled situations. And while comics fans most likely know his work on DC’s Gotham Central and Checkmate and Marvel’s Wolverine (perfect pedigrees for The Punisher), it’s his Whiteout and Queen & Country comics from Oni Press that have me excited for this stretch of Punisher.

The books focus on independent, strong characters, in very tense and grounded real world situations. The sense of clawing for survival permeates these types of Rucka stories, and the action is quick and nasty. That’s the approach with The Punisher.

We open with a Marine Corps wedding, suddenly interrupted by an armed gang. A shootout ensues. Nearly everyone is massacred; the bride survives. Barely. We’re introduced to Detective Walter Bolt and Detecive Oscar Clemons, newly partnered cops assigned to the wedding shootout. Things aren’t as they seem as they investigate.

Detective Clemons isn’t as he seems either.

As they follow their leads, someone is beating them to the important people. And as the murderous gang celebrates the victory in their petty gang rivalries, another gruesome massacre ensues.

The Punisher makes his presence known. Loudly and clearly.

There’s a follow-up story detailing Detective Clemons’ origins, which will be important to the story as Rucka is setting the players up.

For a first issue, The Punisher #1 does most everything right. Rucka wastes no time re-establishing a character even the most casual fan can recite from heart. As usual, Rucka throws you into the deep end but you never feel over your head, piecing together the cast and details as you go. The script is heavy on action, and in fact several pages are straight silent shootings, so the book clips along at a speedy pace, and I often found myself going back to make sure I was visually interpreting happenings correctly. The script is solid, and while the opening salvo doesn’t truly have a hook, the tone of the series is sketched out very clearly, leaving you wanting more. Rucka paces his Punisher, and while fans of the more recent Punisher series might be taken aback, this title is all the better for it.

Marco Checchetto is an excellent parter for Rucka. He isn’t drawing a super hero book, he’s drawing a grounded crime series. Everything from the main characters to the backdrops to the most insignificant background character looks distinctly like a person on the street, their clothes lived in, their environments well worn and used.  Checchetto has a wonderful eye for storytelling, with clever perspectives and cuts and focuses, complimenting Rucka’s verbal tension. When The Punisher goes into action, he gives us just enough of that bad ass indifference, the calculating balletic shootouts that make the Punisher such an iconic antihero. There’s a scene in the back up story, a glorious full page shot of him striding forward, casually pulling his piece – the eyes have a focused, executioner’s stare. This is iconography in the making.

Checchetto is supported by Matt Hollingsworth, who has colored way too many varied titles to even get into. I’m a fan of his coloring, so I was excited to see how he’d approach this book. He didn’t disappoint. The world comes to life with his stark but elegant coloring work. The bar shootout in particulare is a testament to Hollingsworth’s eye.

There’s a lot of blood spatter, and the artists collaborated wonderfully if you stop to appreciateit. I don’t mean that in a morbid way; they found the perfect balance of realism and fiction. Oh, and I can’t be alone in thinking the two detectives are ringers for Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en, am I?

It’s not an amazing first issue, but it’s pretty solid. The pacing was a little quicker than I would have liked, at least for a first issue, but looking back on it, the breakneck pace was necessary. Rucka is in his element here, and it shows, and I have to give the book praise just on the potential alone. Checchetto and Hollingsworth are the perfect artists for this run, and if anything, Hollingsworth is a bonus to my experience, because my favorite Rucka stories are always printed in black and white. I tend to tune out the normal Marvel books and events because I always found myself more engrossed in their other characters. After raising my expectation bar with Waid’s Daredevil, they managed to clear it with this second relaunch of a character I often enjoy.

The Punisher is a wonderful addition to any pull list looking for characterization and action; Rucka looks to be bringing a bit of Queen & Country and Gotham Central, which should expand the experience. If you’ve been turned off to the Punisher because of prior characterizations and series, grab this issue and see if they got the formula right for you.

Frank Castle returns, and like Daredevil’s return a few weeks ago, Marvel’s “back to basics” approach works well for it. That’s in no small part to author Greg Rucka, who wields Frank Castle as deftly as Castle wields a weapon.

We know the score, it’s a tale as old as time itself: Frank Castle a decorated Marine Corps officer returns from duty to have his wife and children stolen from him in a rancom act of savage violence. Now Frank Castle’s sole purpose is to the punish the wicked. He is the Punisher.

Greg Rucka is no stranger to characters like this. There’s the first hand experience Rucka brings as a trained fighter and EMT, cementing his detail work. There’s his Attic Kodiak series of novels about a bodyguard who finds himself embroiled in some hard boiled situations. And while comics fans most likely know his work on DC’s Gotham Central and Checkmate and Marvel’s Wolverine (perfect pedigrees for The Punisher), it’s his Whiteout and Queen & Country comics from Oni Press that have me excited for this stretch of Punisher.

The books focus on independent, strong characters, in very tense and grounded real world situations. The sense of clawing for survival permeates these types of Rucka stories, and the action is quick and nasty. That’s the approach with The Punisher.

We open with a Marine Corps wedding, suddenly interrupted by an armed gang. A shootout ensues. Nearly everyone is massacred; the bride survives. Barely. We’re introduced to Detective Walter Bolt and Detecive Oscar Clemons, newly partnered cops assigned to the wedding shootout. Things aren’t as they seem as they investigate.

Detective Clemons isn’t as he seems either.

As they follow their leads, someone is beating them to the important people. And as the murderous gang celebrates the victory in their petty gang rivalries, another gruesome massacre ensues.

The Punisher makes his presence known. Loudly and clearly.

There’s a follow-up story detailing Detective Clemons’ origins, which will be important to the story as Rucka is setting the players up.

For a first issue, The Punisher #1 does most everything right. Rucka wastes no time re-establishing a character even the most casual fan can recite from heart. As usual, Rucka throws you into the deep end but you never feel over your head, piecing together the cast and details as you go. The script is heavy on action, and in fact several pages are straight silent shootings, so the book clips along at a speedy pace, and I often found myself going back to make sure I was visually interpreting happenings correctly. The script is solid, and while the opening salvo doesn’t truly have a hook, the tone of the series is sketched out very clearly, leaving you wanting more. Rucka paces his Punisher, and while fans of the more recent Punisher series might be taken aback, this title is all the better for it.

Marco Checchetto is an excellent parter for Rucka. He isn’t drawing a super hero book, he’s drawing a grounded crime series. Everything from the main characters to the backdrops to the most insignificant background character looks distinctly like a person on the street, their clothes lived in, their environments well worn and used.  Checchetto has a wonderful eye for storytelling, with clever perspectives and cuts and focuses, complimenting Rucka’s verbal tension. When The Punisher goes into action, he gives us just enough of that bad ass indifference, the calculating balletic shootouts that make the Punisher such an iconic antihero. There’s a scene in the back up story, a glorious full page shot of him striding forward, casually pulling his piece – the eyes have a focused, executioner’s stare. This is iconography in the making.

Checchetto is supported by Matt Hollingsworth, who has colored way too many varied titles to even get into. I’m a fan of his coloring, so I was excited to see how he’d approach this book. He didn’t disappoint. The world comes to life with his stark but elegant coloring work. The bar shootout in particulare is a testament to Hollingsworth’s eye.

There’s a lot of blood spatter, and the artists collaborated wonderfully if you stop to appreciate it. I don’t mean that in a morbid way; they found the perfect balance of realism and fiction. Oh, and I can’t be alone in thinking the two detectives are ringers for Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en, am I?

It’s not an amazing first issue, but it’s pretty solid. The pacing was a little quicker than I would have liked, at least for a first issue, but looking back on it, the breakneck pace was necessary. Rucka is in his element here, and it shows, and I have to give the book praise just on the potential alone. Checchetto and Hollingsworth are the perfect artists for this run, and if anything, Hollingsworth is a bonus to my experience, because my favorite Rucka stories are always printed in black and white. I tend to tune out the normal Marvel books and events because I always found myself more engrossed in their other characters. After raising my expectation bar with Waid’s Daredevil, they managed to clear it with this second relaunch of a character I often enjoy.

The Punisher is a wonderful addition to any pull list looking for characterization and action; Rucka looks to be bringing a bit of Queen & Country and Gotham Central, which should expand the experience. If you’ve been turned off to the Punisher because of prior characterizations and series, grab this issue and see if they got the formula right for you.

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