The Punisher #2 spoiler review.
Nathan Edmondson, Mitch Gerads
“There is a strata of villains too dangerous for the cops but not big enough for the super heroes.”
That idea comes early in The Punisher #2, and gets repeated again near the end. It’s clearly important to what Edmondson is trying to do with the title – the Punisher as a man protecting people on a more intimate scale, from everyday threats that affect us all in the real world, but that have been overshadowed by world-saving feats of derring-do in most superhero titles. It’s not a bad idea, really, if you’re going for a more empathetic take on the character, and the set-up in The Punisher #1 was solid: A Mexican drug cartel is making a major push into America, and Castle has learned they’ve acquired just the weapon to do it. That weapon, in an absurd twist from The Punisher #2? C-list supervillain Electro, who is both big enough to draw attention from super heroes and small enough that he’s barely even a feasible threat to a city the size of LA.
The Punisher is a book with good ideas but bad execution. The major exception to that, thus far, is Mitch Gerads’ art. Sadly, Gerads doesn’t get to show off quite as much here as he did in the slightly stronger debut issue, but he remains the book’s strongest asset by a considerable margin. Gerads does fantastic job selling the Punisher’s new world. It’s a sun-baked landscape, brighter and more dried-out than the typical NYC-set book. Gerads also has a talent for military action – gun battles and explosions are crisp, easy to follow, and exciting, something few comics artists can say. But a late-issue shift towards more traditional superheroic action finds Gerads struggling a bit.
I think the source of my discomfort with the book sits with Edmondson’s attempts to turn the Punisher into a superhero. Much like The Following‘s attempts to mine minor family drama from gruesome serial killers, there’s a degree of cognitive dissonance in seeing noted mass murderer Frank Castle make friends, dispense advice, or get a cute pet sidekick. The Punisher #2 pushes us even further in that direction, but without adequate set-up, it ends up feeling forced. I applaud trying to make the Punisher a more empathetic character, a quality I believe is vital, but Edmondson doesn’t seem to be particularly playing up that element. Rather, he’s merely playing down the character’s darker streak. It’s going to take more than that.
Which is not to say that it could never be done! Five years ago, I’d bet dollars to donuts most of us thought a lighter Daredevil book would never work; ten years ago, I suspect few of us thought a noir epic Captain America was possible. Is that what Edmondson’s attempting here? If so, I haven’t yet been convinced that the Friendly Neighborhood Punisher is quite as coherent or grounded as Waid’s Daredevil or Brubaker’s Captain America were in both a coherent worldview and the character’s own history. Edmondson’s take on The Punisher doesn’t have that, yet. Outside of some excellent work from Mitch Gerads and a major brand name on the cover, it doesn’t have much of anything yet.
Rating: 2 / 5