First Impressions – PUNISHER: WAR ZONE #1

Originally I wasn’t going to tackle this miniseries. After all, Greg Rucka’s glorious run on the Punisher ended recently, and I assumed this was an unrelated story. But then I found out, despite Rucka’s plans to leave Marvel in pursuit of his own creator-owned work, he’s remaining on just long enough to finish the Punisher saga he started. It’s PUNISHER: WAR ZONE #1.

It’s perhaps a good thing I procrastinated on offering my retrospective on The Punisher #1-16, because the story there isn’t quite over. In the interest of getting people to read that ongoing, I won’t spoil things too much. Suffice to say the last issue…handled the story arc of Sargent Cole-Alves, otherwise known as the female Punisher. That business is over. But at the end, Frank Castle walked away, still a free man despite the press denouncing him a killer of innocents and (worse yet) of cops.

He didn’t do it of course – leave it up to Castle for at least restricting his war against criminals – but whether he did or not is inconsequential. The Avengers (Spiderman in particular) have had it up to here with the Punisher dispensing murderous retribution. He’s a wild dog let loose for too long, so they’re suiting up (some faster than others) to finally bring him in.

Naturally, our friend Frank has no intention of going without a hard, bloody fight.

It’s easy, over the course of Rucka’s seminal run, to forget that for all its grit and realism, The Punisher (aside from the MAX version) exists firmly in the Marvel universe. And he’s had a history with most of the heroes in it, especially Spiderman. For those foggy on the details, the Punisher first appeared as a hired gun for the Jackal in the pages of Spiderman, during the original clone saga. Marvel retooled him as a tortured ex-marine with a dead family and a desire for revenge against basically every criminal. This basic connection to the Webbed Wallcrawler remains to this day, such as the point earlier in the ongoing when he crossed over with Spidey and Daredevil in the Omega Effect.

Long story short, the Punisher got a hold on one of Spiderman’s web shooters. A device he used to take out The Exchange and be involved in the aforementioned death of some cops. It’s plainly obvious the informal truce between Spiderman and the Punisher is at an end, and PUNISHER: WAR ZONE #1 handles it perfectly. The saddest part of this whole affair is that, with Rucka leaving, this entire depiction of the Punisher ends. But that’s a story for the (now expanded) retrospective.

I have every intention of reading this entire miniseries. It’s the capstone to Rucka’s run, so I’d be daft not to see it through to the finish. Is it still available to those who didn’t follow the 16 issue series? Indeed it is, because we’re setting up for not just a culmination of the Rucka Era of Punisher, but perhaps the culmination of the character as a whole.

Though knowing comics, Frank Castle will be back in a few years. Or at least I’m hoping a few years. Anything after this era will feel like a step down, so a break is essential. Here’s hoping Marvel sees the sense of it enough to stay their hand.

Then again, we just got the Punisher IN SPACE. So what the heck am I talking about?

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