In the last issue, after being lead into a trap while closing in on the criminal organization known as ‘The Exchange,’ The Punisher battled the Vulture in a thrilling fight, high above the streets of New York. After Frank plunged his knife into the Vulture, he took a plunge of his own – a nasty fall to the ground far below. He was able to escape the scene thanks to a ride from reporter, Norah Winters, who will be a familiar character to Spider-Man readers.
This issue opens with a short retelling of Frank Castle’s oh-so familiar back-story, which is portarayed on the page as an article being written by Norah. She gets fairly far into the introduction of her piece, then stops to say, “Norah Winters…Your writing sucks.” At this point the title page for The Punisher #4 appears and the actual issue begins. I found this humorous and wondered if it was a bit of commentary thrown in by new Punisher writer, Greg Rucka, about breaking conventions and trying not to rehash old territory. After getting the chance to recently meet Mr. Rucka at GeekGirlCon, and seeing him speak at discussion panels, I have a new respect for his great sense of humor and now see glimpses of it all throughout his writing. Let me just add that Mr. Rucka is a really nice guy, who not only signed all of my issues of his current Punisher run, but wrote little captions to each of the covers as well! Greg Rucka is the bee’s knees in my book, and I strongly urge you to check out some of his other work, like Stumptown and Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether.
It turns out that Frank was in such bad shape after his battle, that he allowed Norah to give him a ride all the way back to his secret hideout. He even let her come in! Now she is torn by her reporter’s instincts. She knows that there is a big story waiting to be written here, but should she write it?
Standing over the carcass of the Vulture, the police think it might be time to bring this Punisher guy in. Things are clearly escalating and events are tied together. ‘The Exchange’ are more than eager to eliminate Frank as well. If anyone saw Norah help The Punisher make his get-away, and the cops or ‘The Exchange’ find out, you can bet that they will want to talk with her for sure. In bad shape, with injuries and a broken leg, will the Punisher be able to stay one step ahead as the search for him closes in?
As far as the story goes, this issue was mostly about laying the foundation for what is to come next. You can see Rucka moving his pieces into place, like a chess player getting ready to go on the offensive. Marco Checchetto’s artwork seems to have really found its stride now, and looks great. Colorists are often overlooked, but Matt Hollingsworth really brings a lot to this title. His use of a cool color palette adds mood, and makes the bloody red exclamation points stand out in contrast. Some of the pages are just beautifully black, with the scene teased out of the darkness with blue inks. This whole title has a gritty, noir-like feel. It is great to have The Punisher back in such style, in what is quickly becoming a very strong title and one of my current personal favorites.