When you’ve spent three issues having The Punisher seek violent retribution on the scum of the Earth without saying more than a few words, what do you do with issue four? A less creative writer would have used the fourth issue as some big reveal, the one where The Punisher, aka Frank Castle, spells out his plan or breaks down or does something in the form of a big pay off. If you’re Greg Rucka, a true storyteller, you switch things up, you delay the arrival of The Punisher as a plot device by laying the groundwork for the world he’ll play in. Punisher #4 continues Rucka’s reinvention of the character by bringing back the humanity and raw street level vibe it’s been missing for so long.
Punisher becomes the backseat man for this issue. Most of it is told from the point of view of Norah Winters, a reporter trying to find the connection between Frank Castle the man and the driven killer he has become. Issue 4 is broken into two main sections, Norah Winters trying to decide if the Punisher’s story is one that should be told and the two detectives trying to pursue him. It’s a genius stroke on Rucka’s part. The first three issues have riveted us to what the Punisher is doing, so now it’s time to meet the cast. This not only allows the anticipation of the Punisher to continue, it lets readers get to know the supporting players.
Norah’s section is the lengthiest. It begins with her attempting to write about Castle and his tragedy. She talks to Ben Urich, no stranger to the costumed hero world, about ethics and recalls the tale of how she assisted the Punisher the night before. Rucka uses some nice touches in this flashback. I was particularly entertained by Norah’s reaction when she realizes the warehouse she’s in is filled with weapons the Punisher has taken off of his victims. The staggering number allows Norah’s (and our) imagination to run freely. That’s infinitely more interesting than just a random high number of kills. Meanwhile, the two detectives are hot on the trail of the Punisher, though the younger of the two is unnerved by his older partner’s obsession. The stories merge when the older cop tries to get Norah to spill the beans about where the Punisher’s hideout is. It’s here that you realize you’ve been just as wrapped up with the these characters as you were with the Punisher.
The story that Norah ultimately decides to tell is a nice touch, one that shows the line between not feeling bad for who Frank Castle kills but also not seeing the Punisher as a hero. Once again, Rucka’s masterful storytelling works wonders in recreating a character many had long thought lost to stupid plot twists and writers who confused machismo with drive. The art from Marco Checchetto is still great. He has the Punisher looking a little younger than I’d like but I can overlook that. The story is brought to life in a very cinematic way. During the Punisher scenes, the art is done with a muted blue overtone, very dark, while the other scenes have vibrancy to them, more color involved. Everything here remains within the noir ideal; but Checchetto’s art is pushed further by Matt Hollingsworth’s color work. Four issues into this reinvention and Greg Rucka and his team have done more to breathe new life into the Punisher than any one has in decades.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 9.5/10