(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written by Nathan Edmondson
Artwork by Mitch Gerads
Lettering by VC’s Cory Petit
Nathan Edmonson and Mitch Gerads came out very appropriately with guns blazing on their first issue of the brand new Marvel Now Punisher series but, the obvious question is, as good as that inaugural issue was, does the second issue maintain the intensity and even more importantly, build upon the momentum generated by the brilliant first chapter of Frank Castle’s west coast story? I say a resounding yes to both and add that in this second issue, Edmonson raises the stakes by introducing a familiar villain, not necessarily a Punisher villain but a big-time Marvel baddie nonetheless, at the end of this already action packed issue in which Frank is battling the drug cartel at the same time he is covertly being followed by The Howling Commandos all while adjusting to a three thousand mile coastal relocation. Who says The Punisher isn’t a super hero?
One of the things I love most about Edmonson’s Punisher is that he has a bit more of a human side; he interacts with people in a way that borders on friendship. Frank’s relationships with Tuggs, his military munitions connection, certainly has an element of camaraderie that goes beyond the fulfillment of his need for weapons, then there is Lou, the owner of the little coffee shop where Frank seems to spend a good portion of his down time, Officer Stone appears to hold a special place in Frank’s pantheon of new acquaintances mainly due to the fact that she is the only woman in his life at this time but on a deeper level she could very easily turn into a love interest and finally the newest and furriest edition to this group is Loot, the rescued coyote. The additions of a potential pet and girlfriend allow for speculation into areas of Frank’s life that has been largely overlooked by previous writers. These are key elements in Edmonson’s exploration of a kinder, gentler Frank Castle. They also allow for a more dynamic, multi-faceted characterization which has been lacking in many incarnations of The Punisher. Edmonson has very successfully struck a balance between Frank’s humanity and his commitment to his objective. This Punisher is not a one dimensional killing machine, instead Edmonson gives us a man with a purpose and the drive to persevere in obtaining his goal however his inspiration comes from that human side and allows him to feel and relate to others in a way that is really quite unprecedented for the character. It is that kind of complexity of character that allows the violence to co-exist with the compassion inside Frank Castle.
Another intriguing addition to Edmonson’s Punisher narrative is the antagonistic role of the shadowy Howling Commandos. The implications and potential for future story arcs are limitless but in this early stage of the story their presence really heightens the suspense and adds an ominous air to the events that they are experiencing from a voyeuristic standpoint. This is an extremely effective plot device that could be used to set up big things for The Punisher in the current state of the 616. All of these elements are working in concert to give this book a feel and a tonal quality that no other Punisher series has had. Everything about this book, including Mitch Gerads art is unique. His fluid style of storytelling gives a cinematic sense to the action and provides a perfect fit for Edmonson’s energetic pace. Gerads’ conventional approach to page composition works well with the subject matter as well as with his kinetic imagery and tendency toward a somewhat sketchier line quality. I also really like his character design for Frank; Gerads gives him a good bit of personality even depicting Frank in a Hawkeye t-shirt in one scene. These kinds of details go a long way in fully fleshing out this character and bringing him to life in a way that is endearing, relatable and perhaps most importantly likable, after all Frank Castle is the hero of the story and if we don’t like him why are we going to read the book? (4/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.