Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Punisher #1

The Punisher #1 (August 3, 2011)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Marco Checchetto
Colorist: Matt Hollingworth
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, Paul Mounts

Frank Castle/The Punisher is another character that I have long been interested in reading. My rather superficial understanding of the guy was that he was a meaner, grittier and deadlier Batman; a pissed-off vigilante that suffered a terrible tragedy in his personal life and therefore has dedicated himself to eradicating criminals. Based on this introductory issue, I don’t think I’m that far from off with this assessment.

After reading so many Batman comics in my life, I assumed I would be rather nonplussed with Castle’s merciless vendetta against criminal activity. But this was like Batman with the breaks off. Upon initial reading, I was too busy being confused as to what was going on to really appreciate the plot and characterization. Furthermore, I was surprised by the graphic violence; it drawn by Checchetto in a very realistic manner by comic book standards. It wasn’t until I finished the comic that I realized how very different Castle is from Batman and also how very grim this series will be.

Another surprise was the overwhelming lack of Castle in most of this comic; I don’t believe he had a single line of dialogue in this issue (I’d have to go back to verify this but I believe this is true). He was even more silent and brooding than Batman usually is, which I frankly was not expecting. I always thought he was one of those bang-the-door-down-guns-blazing kind of guys but Rucka portrayed him in a very tall, dark and silent way.

In fact, Rucka focused most of the plotline on other characters: the police officers and mobsters tailing one another. Castle’s presence, however, was felt strongly throughout the comic by Rucka’s implications that, much like Batman, Castle is always observing and knows exactly what’s going on and when. He's very much a character that's in control.

In terms of my feelings to this comic as a feminist, I am in no hurry to write this comic off. The extreme violence fit the overall theme and plotline of the comic. The only element to The Punisher #1 that deterred me was that, once again, I was presented with a main male character whose motivation for action only occurred because of the death of his wife (and children in this case). It should be noted that Frank Castle is not a character that I’m supposed to necessarily like; he’s not a hero,  in fact he’s barely an anti-hero. The writers portray him as an extremely damaged and dangerous man, not at all someone to root for. While this intrigues me, it does not negate the fact that once again we are dealing with Women in Refrigerator Syndrome.

At this point in my comic book reading career, I am not at all surprised by this repeated trope. That does not mean I am resigned to this. Rather, I am all the more anxious to find comics that do not employ this element.

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