Punisher War Zone #1: Avengers Assemble

I have a lot of faith in Greg Rucka. Using that faith has allowed me to get through the rather lackluster kick off to his last hurrah as the man behind the Punisher. Thus far, Rucka has been nearly flawless in his reboot. He’s humanized Frank Castle without stripping him of the killer instinct and he’s allowed for a certain clarity in Castle’s mission. That clarity has elevated The Punisher from wild card to man with a plan.

The problem with Punisher War Zone is that it feels ever so slightly forced. Punisher is on the run, from every cop in or out of uniform, for his supposed blitzkrieg operation ending in the death of fellow officers. After setting up Rachel Cole-Alves to be taken into custody rather than kill herself, Punisher is trying to make tracks. War Zone #1 opens not with Castle, but with Spider-Man. Apparently, Castle used web shooters to swing from building to building and escape the authorities. Spidey is pissed and hunts Punisher down. They fight, which never works for me. As badass as Frank Castle is, he has no super powers. One punch from Spider-Man and it’s broken jaw knock out. In War Zone, they go back and forth until Castle surprises Spidey with a concussion bomb.

Here’s where it gets wonky. Spider-Man flits off to Avengers Headquarters, where he demands the Avengers take in the Punisher. After a bit of deliberation, Captain America makes the final call that they do have to take Frank Castle down. What’s confusing here is that Punisher has been doing this for decades and the Avengers never saw fit to bother with it. It also makes no sense that they’d believe Punisher killed cops, they’ve all worked with him before.

I also found it shaky that so soon after all the crap with Avengers vs. X-Men and it’s fallout, the Avengers would brush it all off and start chasing down Punisher. Rucka’s work has always followed a certain logic, a pattern that’s indicative of good storytelling. Here, logic is being replaced by shoe-horn-in-a-reason-for-an-event-book. Perhaps this poor editing choice is one of the reasons Rucka has decided to split. Regardless, the man is a professional so I’m assuming he’ll handle the last four issues of the War Zone series better than this one.

The art from Carmine Di Giandomenico is not helping the situation. For lack of a better term, the pencils are flimsy. There’s no weight or presence to the artwork and the colors make it look like everyone had suntan oil rubbed on their faces. The jerky motion of the characters, coupled with the bad color job and flimsy lines, makes it hard to get behind this story.

Punisher War Zone #1 is not a great start to Rucka’s swan song, but, like I said, I have faith.

(3.5 Story, 2 Art)