Into every comic, a little rain must fall. Well, not rain but lackluster storytelling that could derail an otherwise solid arc. Thus far, Greg Rucka has been absolutely killing it on Punisher. He’s revitalized Frank Castle and helped him come back from the over-used punch line he’d become. The first four issues of the most recent reboot have been nothing less than absolutely stellar. So when the fifth issue came out, I was a little disturbed by the sudden shift into cliché. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that all is lost, just that Rucka has introduced an element that could bring the whole house of cards down.
Punisher #5 comes in three months after Punisher’s battle with the Vulture. During this time, the kill spree against the underbelly of society has dipped significantly. Now, Punisher has returned with a full beard and carrying a big gun. Murdering a house full of people connected to the underworld has our two hero cops back in the thick of trying to find Punisher, and it has the corporation trying to kill him all atwitter about ending the job. The train rolls along nicely until Rucka introduces a random kid. Not just a kid, but also a child of two army soldiers currently overseas who tries to befriend the Punisher. Really? The old kid-gets-the-heart-of-the-anti-hero routine? It seems a bit beneath Rucka and certainly gives the Punisher a real Hallmark Movie feel.
I also grow weary of the uber-hot super-bitch emotionless head of the nameless corporation trying to kill Frank. Even our two cops get into the action. The one that seems on the take has a beautiful family, while the “good” cop sits at home alone, no doubt estranged from his family. Up until now, Rucka had kept most of the easier plot tricks to a minimum. In issue five, he decides to dump them in like so much meat into jambalaya. It just feels forced, like Rucka is trying to get us to feel for these characters really quickly so when tragedy befalls them we’re invested in the results. I have faith that Rucka will pull this out, it just took my by surprise since the last four Punisher stories have been so rock solid.
Rucka is up against a harsh wall when it comes to writing the Punisher. Go too far into him just killing everything in sight and it gets boring; drag it down with too many peripheral characters that are supposed to add depth to the story and it becomes convoluted. The Punisher needs to remain cold, he needs to be the Punisher and those around him need to remain transient until a few years go by and Frank’s mission has grown stale. Rucka should focus on him dueling with the enemy and going against incredible odds. I can deal with the sappy cop thing but please, please, take the kid off the table.
The work by Marco Checchetto is awesome. Especially the winter scenes. He conveys the isolation of winter very well, which mirrors Frank’s soul. I wasn’t a huge fan of Punisher with a beard. Though it was well drawn, Punisher looked like Eddie Rabbit and Keanu Reeves had a kid who worked out a lot. The rest of the book held that noir sensibility, but Checchetto really wove in the entire idea of winter and how it affects people. Punisher #5 gives me cause for alarm, but only just so. I trust Rucka will pull this from the fire.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 7/10