REVIEW: “Trial of the Punisher” #1

(Marvel Comics, 2013)

Review by John Monaghan

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Colours: Sunny Gho
Letters: Cory Pettit

The Trial of the Punisher #1 (of 2) is a ‘what if’ type story where the Punisher turns himself in to the police for the murder of a District Attorney and is put on trial. It’s obvious from the word go that Frank Castle isn’t turning himself in for the sake of turning himself in but it doesn’t become clear anywhere in this first issue what his motivations are, and Guggenheim draws the focus back to that fact on the final page giving us some motivation to pick up the conclusion. The big attraction of the book for me is seeing the Punisher transplanted into a court-room drama rather than a blood soaked shoot ‘em up. It feels like the comic doesn’t have a chance to totally commit to this though and the courtroom aspect comes off a little rushed. It’s a shame because one of the highlights of the issue is two witnesses testifying about murders they’ve seen the Punisher commit – a clever shift of perspective from a reader who sides with Castle to a fictional public that is terrified and intimidated by him. Guggenheim points to the trial being a public spectacle (“the media hasn’t drooled this much since O.J.”) but that doesn’t factor into his narrative, the focus remains claustrophobically fixed on the incarcerated Castle (a good thing!).

I think this is a good example of a comic that suffers because of length constraints. Guggenheim doesn’t have a lot of space to work with and that’s really what The Trial of the Punisher needs in my opinion. It needs space to drag on in imitation of imprisonment, to use the courtroom and solitary confinement cell as tools in a character study of Castle, to maintain a narrow, claustrophobic vision of an incarcerated Punisher, tension building, waiting to strike. Sadly the constraints placed on Guggenheim don’t allow for this and despite glimmers of what could be a great comic, The Trial of the Punisher comes off rushed and perhaps even a little superficial at times. I’ll definitely read #2 for the conclusion but I predict that the space restrictions won’t allow this comic to approach its full potential which is a shame.

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Follow John Monaghan on Twitter:  @deadlifts

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