Matthew Rosenberg’s recent “War Machine” arc was the farthest from what Punisher readers have become accustomed to with Punisher arcs. Regardless, the story was fantastically entertaining and will likely be remembered as one of the most unique Punisher stories told. This new volume of The Punisher, written once again by Matthew Rosenberg and drawn by Szymon Kudranski, returns the murderous vigilante to his gritty, vengeful roots, focusing on the backlash surrounding Frank Castle’s involvement with Hydra. This second issue of the new run is, like the opening issue, an wonderfully scripted story brought to life by absolutely fantastic art that excellently captures the trapped feeling of being hunted by the Punisher.
As good as a writer Matthew Rosenberg is, and he truly is fantastic, what really stands out in this issue is the incredibly versatile art from Szymon Kudranski. Whether it be hand to hand sequences, gunfights, or establishing shots, Kudranski’s art is simply a spectacle to behold on every page. Kudranski shifts from an omnipotent perspective to a first person perspective with ease yet can also detail a swift hand-to-hand exchange over six crisp panels.
Whatever perspective he’s drawing from, Kudranski once again does a tremendous job of showcasing the Punisher as a fierce, frightening, and overwhelming force of righteous violence. This is most exemplary in the opening pages of the book, where astute readers will notice notice Frank creeping up in the background before wreaking havoc upon the nameless Hydra goons he’s hunted. Frank doesn’t come off as a gung-ho, gun toting, vigilante killer here. Instead, he feels like a methodical hunter or villainous stalker, menacingly closing in on his prey before delivering a killing bow.
Kudranski’s pages are just so damn crisp and clean, too. Occasionally the first issue was so overloaded with fire and explosions that it was hard to track the action, but here everything is wonderfully illustrated in a clean, presentable fashion that helps the story move along effortlessly. The moments of action are particularly good, like Frank wrestling a Hydra agent in a subway terminal or going to-to-toe with the Immortal Iron Fist.
All this art is supported by a wonderfully paced script that embraces the violence and unending action that makes a great Punisher story. There’s little time spent on exposition or grandstanding, instead Rosenberg seamlessly moves the narrative from fight to fight while succinctly dropping necessary narrative bites whenever necessary without bogging down the action. The narrative progression of this adventure flows as effortlessly as the action does, making for a fantastic read from start to finish.
Most importantly, Rosenberg’s direction of Frank Castle exemplifies the core tenant of the Punisher — unfettered, final justice no matter the cost and devoid of remorse. There’s no glorifying what Frank does or an attempt to make him a hero — he opens up on a pair of Hydra agents in the middle of Times Square, for f--k’s sake. Yet rather than walk away unscathed and on to the next target, Frank immediately faces repercussions for his actions, being chased down both by the NYPD then by the Defenders. Placing Frank at odds with New York’s finest, both uniformed and costumed, juxtaposes Frank in a way that doesn’t glamorize his actions. He may be hunting bad people, but that doesn’t mean what he’s doing is right.
There is one minor area that Rosenberg misses the mark. It’s infrequent, yet notable — the quips he writes into Frank Castle’s dialogue. Previous issues in the “War Machine” arc had elements of humor to it, but the majority of the time it came from other characters. This issue has some great quips from Frank, especially when he bumps into Daredevil, but they feel so out of character. Comedy has a place in The Punisher, it just shouldn’t come from the Punisher himself.
The Punisher #2 not only continues Rosenberg’s fantastic run on the character, but continues Marvel’s string of awesome relaunches following the “fresh start” initiative kicked off earluer this year. This is an issue, and a series, firing on all cylinders due to a fantastic script with incredible art piled on top of it.