Thursday, January 5, 2012

DAMN Good Comics -- THE PUNISHER #7

A year ago, I was of the opinion that after Garth Ennis' definitive run on The Punisher for Marvel's MAX mature readers line, there wasn't anything left to be said about the character of Frank Castle and his neverending mission to "punish" criminals.

I don't think I feel that way anymore.

Over the past six months, writer Greg Rucka has managed to make the Punisher interesting again, mostly by giving him an equally interesting supporting cast of characters.  New York Police Detective Oscar "Ozzy" Clemons gets the spotlight this issue, in a low-key but fascinating procedural tale called "The String."  Obsessively clicking a switchblade hunting knife from beginning to end, Ozzy struggles to follow the string of the Punisher's actions and takes his partner Walter Bolt along for the ride.

Rucka rewards longtime Daredevil and Punisher fans by resetting a classic rooftop brawl between the two that took place in Daredevil (vol.1) #257 by Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr.  Reworking the events from Ozzy's perspective, Rucka ties this current series in with classic Marvel continuity while providing new details in the process.  It's a fun, clever idea, although it now seems hard to reconcile the Punisher that once wore a tightfitting black costume with white gloves and boots with the modern version that prefers regular clothes with a black t-shirt with a skull sloppily spray-painted in white.

The art for this issue is by Rucka's former creative partner Michael Lark, who provides his typically terrific work here.  Together again, Rucka and Lark capture the feel of their previous DC Comics series Gotham Central, mixing a gritty police detective tale with the world of costumed vigilantes.  Regular artist Marco Checchetto has been producing some excellent work on this book, but Lark seems to complement the tone of Rucka's script better and gives this character piece a bit more edge than it might have had otherwise.

And even though the Punisher appears only in flashback form, fans can be reassured that his presence is still felt everywhere.  Just follow the string.

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