Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Punisher #2

Cover by Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, Paul Mounts

The Punisher #2 (August 24, 2011)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Marco Checchetto
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

I guess I was super out of it when I read The Punisher #1, or perhaps Rucka thoroughly improved as a writer between issues (I shall go with the latter option) but I actually completely understood what was going on in The Punisher #2 and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The much-appreciated backstory first page by Marvel put everything into perspective for me and I was able to finally keep track of all the characters and their personal objectives and functions in the story.

So far, what I am really enjoying about these comics is the literal absence of Frank Castle; while he appears rather sparingly in the comic, his presence over hangs through out the entire issue and is felt by each character. They know he’s out there, watching and therefore, the reader knows as well. His actions can be predicted or dissected by the other characters but ultimately, they are all at his mercy, even the good guys.

I am also enjoying Rucka’s dependence on a gritty realism for the suspense and conflict (well, that realism lasted just until the final page which I will get to in a bit). For this and the last issue, Castle wasn’t dealing with supervillains, but genuine and dangerous thugs. While Castle is, in himself, a rather over-the-top conception of a vigilante, he is nonetheless grounded in a sense of authenticity. Then I got to the final page.

When I completed the comic, I realized the ending had been hinted at earlier in the issue and I should not have been so surprised. The introduction of a rather nonsensical-appearing villain about to down our anti-hero was a distinct abandonment of all the realism that Rucka had managed to build earlier. And the sheer silliness of the villain contrasting with the grim, silent Castle was so surprising and rather amusing, that I know that I just have to read what happens next. How could this possibly make sense in a storyline about gang wars and innocents caught in the crossfire?

Checchetto’s art, meanwhile, was rather beautiful albeit in a gruesome and decidedly non-cartoony way. He did a fabulous job illustrating the tense atmosphere of a New York City caught in a clash between extremely powerful gangs. I could definitely feel the humidity and hear the sounds of New York at night by Checchetto’s panels. Furthermore, I liked how detailed his characterizations were; they all looked like different people, for once. I was impressed.

In terms of the violence, I was not deterred by it or even surprised. The amount of violence was not overwhelming and instead, fit into the storyline and atmosphere of this comic. This is a violent world that the Punisher inhabits and it would ring false if there were no depiction of the outcomes of gang wars. I really think Rucka and Checchetto did a great job balancing the grimness of the storyline without sensationalizing or exploiting it. I am definitely looking forward to the next issue and have high hopes that it won’t delve into silliness.

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