It’s the best time to be a Punisher fan. The hero’s profile has never been so high before, courtesy of Netflix’s imminent TV series. What’s more, Matthew Rosenberg and Guiu Vilanova are launching their new comic book series today and this time round, Marvel has something special planned.
Everybody knows the Punisher. He’s the man who lives in the back of a van. He doesn’t have many friends, but he does wield a terrifying arsenal. Now imagine what a man like Frank Castle would do if he got hold of the War Machine armor? That’s the basic premise of Rosenberg’s new Punisher series, which kicks off with #218. The idea left fans seriously excited, not least because this was marketed as “parental advisory.” It’s immediately reminiscent of the old Marvel MAX imprint, which included some of the best Punisher runs of all-time.
A typical Punisher story is bleak and dark in tone. This, however, isn’t your typical Punisher tale. Rosenberg’s script is superb, and his dialogue absolutely zings. He plays Castle against Nick Fury, Jr. (who’s based on the MCU version of Fury). The relationship between the two is a highlight of the issue, as Fury offers the Punisher a job he can’t refuse. S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone, and Fury wants a way to deal with some of the worst crimes in the world. In this case, he wants the Punisher to take out the kind of trash who’d target kids, and Castle is more than happy to oblige. Sure, Fury’s playing Castle, but the Punisher knows it. And frankly, the rewards of letting himself be played are high.
At the same time, Rosenberg and Vilanova take the time to assure readers they can handle the action. The issue kick-starts with the Punisher attacking an illegal arms deal in Brooklyn, and it’s a high-paced, adrenaline-fueled battle that’s truly memorable. The American group know who the Punisher is, and when Castle steps out of the shadows they want to flee. The Chernayan terrorists haven’t got a clue, and they unwisely choose to engage Castle in battle. It’s a smart dynamic, allowing us to understand just how dangerous the Punisher truly is. One early scene, in which the Punisher delivers a present, is absolutely tremendous.
Curiously enough though, it’s colorist Lee Loughridge who’s the real highlight of this action sequence. He switches colorschemes the moment the action begins, shifting from dark blacks and browns to dazzling oranges and blacks. The transition is sudden and shocking, creating a brilliant sense of fire and fury. Combine that with the calm, almost serene expressions on Castle’s face as he cuts a swathe through his enemies and it’s pure magic. It’s tremendous, really, and makes a final smile from Castle as he finishes cleaning up all the more chilling.
The Punisher #218 takes the series in an all-new direction, one that’s sure to prove a tremendous success. In a world of gods and monsters, it’s about time the Punisher picked up some heavy weapons. And let’s face it, right now he’s working with Stark-quality tech. That’s going to make him a truly formidable weapon. At the same time though, the series promises to up the scale dramatically. No longer will the Punisher deal with street thugs. Now he’s going after the bosses, the corrupt politicians, and even the tyrannic dictators. This is going to be one wild ride.
Rosenberg, Vilanova and Loughridge launch this series in style with The Punisher #218.