Punisher: Enter the War Zone – A Review

So, I picked up this book which was just released this week, in trade form.  So a quick summary of what happens.  Spoilers ahead as well folks.

It opens with Spidey catching up with Frank Castle, the Punisher and being all like ‘Dude, why do you gotta keep killing people and all that.  And what are you using my stuff for?’  So they tussle a little and in the end, Punisher gets away.  Spidey goes back to Avengers Mansion/Tower assembling everyone and says they have to take Punisher down, because enough is enough.  They agree, some reluctantly.

Wolverine tracks Punisher down first before everything gets going and is basically like, ‘Bro, you gotta get outta here.’  Punisher agrees.

Meanwhile, Punisher-apprentice, Rachel Cole-Alves is in prison awaiting trial for allegedly killing a bunch of cops and whatnot, when really she and Frank were framed for it.  They want her to blame Frank – she wants to take all the blame on herself and will not give him up.  Once a marine they say, always a marine.

So, Frank is on the run through different countries, taking down criminals and leading the Avengers on a merry chase.  Black Widow is the first one to catch up to him, they scrap, and Frank takes off, all the while setting Black Widow up with a diversion to keep her off his tail.  Back on the run, Thor catches up with him, Frank does the same little duck and dodge but, in the end Thor takes him out.

Frank wakes up, him and Thor have a couple of beers and Thor is all, ‘What about your honour man?  Stop fighting and go take care of your partner Rachel.’  Frank thinks it over and decides Thor is right.

So, the Avengers know that Frank is gonna bust Rachel out and so they create some diversions all the meanwhile, Frank is already thinking 10 steps ahead of them and he creates some of his own.  He rescues Rachel, embarrasses Iron Man and Wolvie gets Rachel out of the country while Frank takes on the Avengers.  In the end, Frank gets locked up with the Avengers wondering if he could’ve taken them.  There’s always next time.

End of summary.

So… fantastic book!!  Greg Rucka has written one of the best Punisher runs of the last decade – and there have been some great Punisher runs.  Ennis, Aaron, Remender and now Rucka have done the character justice.  Loved that one of the things Rucka did to differ his book from the others was to give the Punisher a partner.  And I’m not talking about Microchip either.  Frank got a real partner, someone who in a better life could be his friend or more.  Rachel Cole-Alves is a great, strong character who could support her own book if enough people purchased it.  I, for one would.

The other cool thing Rucka does is to make Frank seem just a little bit more human.  Frank seems a bit frailer this time around, a little tired.  But still, the war rages on and what else can a soldier do?  That was the really interesting thing about introducing Rachel was she gave Frank another reason to keep fighting.  She provides a little bit more motivation, not that he really needed it.  To see himself mirrored in someone else was an eye-opener for him and put him more in touch with his inner demons.

Even so though, Frank kicks a lot of ass in this book and the sixteen issues preceding it.  No matter how old, or how tired, no matter the circumstance, Frank kicks ass and takes names wherever he goes.  And it’s awesome.

Carmine Di Giandomenico is a fantastic artist.  His characters all evoke the proper emotions when needed, whether in a quiet scene or when all hell is breaking loose.  Giandomenico’s Punisher is commanding when the stakes are high, thoughtful and introverted when all by himself.  Beautiful art and truly fine craftsmanship by a truly fine craftsman.

My only negative, which isn’t really a negative, is I would have liked Marco Checchetto on art as he has become to my mind, the definitive Punisher artist.

If you can get the original issues, or the trade paperback, I cannot recommend this book enough.  Grab it.  Read it.  Savour it.

5 out of 5 stars.

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