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This happens metaphorically in this comic. Literally, not so much.

This happens metaphorically in this comic. Literally, not so much.

Punisher: War Zone #3 (of 5)

Written by Greg Rucka

Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico

Colors by Matt Hollingsworth

Review by Joey Braccino

This week, Greg Rucka’s Punisher swan song reaches its mid-way point with issue #3, and, like the two issues that preceded it, the action of the Punisher: War Zone is decidedly downtempo and meditative. Last issue, the Black Widow hunted Frank Castle around the globe, only to be “tricked” into letting Frank go in lieu of liberating over 100 oppressed and abused child soldiers and slaves in Africa. In issue #3, Rucka nearly repeats this plot structure, replacing Widow with Thor and child slaves in Africa with illegal arms dealers in Indonesia. While this repetitive storytelling strategy might seem cheap or hollow, Rucka includes a brilliant character-driven conversation between Thor and Castle at issue’s end that justifies the “one-on-one” nature of the previous three chapters worth of “battles.”

Unlike issue #2, in which Widow’s hunt for Frank took up the majority of the issue before the big reveal, Rucka satisfies the fight between Frank and Thor within the first 8 pages or so, giving him plenty of time for the aforementioned conversation between the two “heroes.” The dialogue that follows—or rather, the lecture/plea that follows given Thor’s verbosity and Castle’s terseness—expands on all of the character-study and analysis that Rucka has been putting into his Punisher series for the last two years: what is Frank’s mission? Is it still relevant? Who is he without the mission? Who is he responsible to and for? Thor touches on each of these questions, and, along with a final tag with Captain America at issue’s end, we are left with a fuller picture of both Punisher’s metaphorical standing in the Marvel Universe as well as potential futures for him in the shifting superhero climate.

Carmine Di Giandomenico’s artwork has come under some criticism for the last two issues of Punisher: War Zone, but I personally have enjoyed his European-informed naturalism and kineticism. A lot of the criticism seems to be that he can’t quite match the moodiness of Marco Checceto’s artwork, and while that may be the case for some readers, I don’t think it precludes Di Giandomenico’s artwork from being amazing in its own right. In this issue, Di Giandomenico captures both Thor’s visually stunning combat style with brilliant lightning bolt designs and innovative panel layouts that follow Mjolnir on its warpath as well as the aforementioned talking-heads scene in the second half of the issue. The naturalism works in both segments, in particular the explosive climax at the weapons depot in Indonesia.

I’ve reviewed several Marvel books this past month, and at good portion of them have had Matt Hollingsworth on colors. The man is incredible. Seriously. The last two books I read that had him on colors were Hawkeye and Daredevil: End of Days. Visually, those two books come from two very distinct aesthetic styles, and yet Hollingsworth uses his color palette innovatively and uniquely on both. Well, add Punisher: War Zone to that list, as Hollingsworth inverts his solid-color washes from Hawkeye’s purples, pale blues, and yellows to Punisher’s oranges, reds, and shades of grey. It’s gorgeous.

Verdict

Buy it. Greg Rucka is a fantastic writer who is making the most of his final few issues with Frank Castle. The artwork is stunning and the story is weighty enough to push it past a lot of the other standard superhero fare on the stands. Aside from Spider-Man, who seems so utterly and  completely horrified by Frank Castle’s actions that he would probably punch out the Punisher for sneezing, the other Avengers appear to have a better grasp of both Frank’s relevance to the new Marvel Universe as well as what’s holding him back than Frank does himself. The final two issues should prove interesting.

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