Comic Book Review: Punisher: War Journal #2

The Revolution enjoyed the debut issue of Punisher: War Journal. I had never read anything written by Matt Fraction before. I was pretty impressed with Fraction’s writing style. It is similar to Brubaker’s style. Fraction served up a very entertaining Frank Castle. I was also impressed with Olivetti’s art. I have a feeling that Punisher: War Journal #2 is going to be another pretty good read. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Ariel Olivetti

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with the Punisher bound up while Captain America questions him. Captain America disapproves of Punisher’s killing criminals. Punisher says that he and Captain America are both soldiers. Captain America retorts that he is a soldier. That the Punisher is a vigilante and a criminal. Punisher responds that so is Captain America these days. (Damn! Burn!)

Punisher says that criminals are planning events just like the tragedy at Stamford, Connecticut each and every day. That Captain America’s ways won’t work anymore. Punisher uses a WW II analogy and says the event at Stamford is like a little Poland. It keeps people wringing their hands while more innocent people die. Captain America says it is not that black and white. Punisher responds that it is not that red, white and blue.

Punisher then breaks frees himself from the straps that were keeping him tied up. Captain America and Punisher come face to face. Captain America says that he needs Frank’s help. That he needs Frank to serve his country as a soldier in Captain America’s army under his command.

We shift to the Patriot eavesdropping on Captain America’s and the Punisher conversation. Hem tells Luke Cage that the Punisher just told Captain America that he knows where Cap and the anti-registration side lives. Suddenly, Captain America punches Punisher through the wall.

Captain America tells the anti-registration heroes that the difference between them and the Punisher is that their sense of Patriotism and duty has made them criminals. On the other hand, Punisher is a mad dog gone feral. Captain America says can stay if he only uses non-lethal force. Punisher agrees to Captain America’s offer.

Luke yells at Captain America saying that Punisher is a serial killer. That if they lie down with dogs they will get up with fleas. Luke says they are better than the Punisher. Captain America tells Luke that he wasn’t asking for his opinion.

We cut to Bridge and his team of agents conducting surveillance outside of Stuart Clarke’s building. Clarke notices that he is under surveillance and figures that they are probably looking for the Punisher.

We cut to the Punisher and Captain America on various missions. Punisher proves to be a valuable asset. The Punisher realizes how Captain America is an incredible leader and could win any war single-handedly. Any war except this one.

We see Punisher and Captain America take down the Molten Man. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents show up and try to bring in Captain America and Punisher. Punisher tells Captain America that he doesn’t kill cops. The Punisher pulls off a non-violent plan stun the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents so he and Captain America can escape. On their way back to their headquarters, Captain America tells Punisher that he has done good work.

We shift to Punisher back at Stuart Clarke’s building. Punisher picks up some high tech equipment and a dampener suit that he uses in Civil War #6 to break into the Baxter Building to steal the blueprints to the Negative Zone prison. Punisher then tells Clarke to leave Bridge alone. That the Punisher will deal with Bridge later.

We then see Bridge enter the building and knock on Clarke’s door. Bridge tells Clarke that he is here to warn him about the Punisher. We cut to the Punisher at the briefing session for the anti-registration’s attack on the Negative Zone prison that we saw in Civil War #6. We see Captain America allowing known super villains Goldbug and Plunderer to join the anti-registration side. We then see Punisher whipping out his machine guns and killing both villains.

Cap attacks Punisher and calls him a murderous piece of trash. The Punisher tells Captain America that when you lay down with dogs you get up with fleas. Punisher says that he disobeyed a direct order, so Captain America can punish him. End of issue.

The Good: Punisher: War Journal #2 was a good read. We get a more detailed version of the story that we got over in Civil War #6. I am quite impressed with Fraction’s writing. Fraction serves up some great dialogue. Captain America talks just like he should. Each character has the proper external voice. The dialogue has a good flow and makes this issue enjoyable to read.

The Punisher’s personality is perfect. I love that Fraction is giving the Punisher a great dry sense of humor. Punisher is often portrayed as just a bloodthirsty psychopath. It is very easy for a comic book centered on the Punisher to become too serious and dark. Fraction does a great job of balancing the two sides of the Punisher. Fraction still delivers an insanely violent and pissed off Punisher. But, Fraction also gives us enough humor from Frank Castle that it keeps this title from getting too dark and stern and having the reader view it more of a parody than a serious comic book.

Fraction did such a good job examining the similarities and differences of the Punisher and Captain America that Millar didn’t need to waste the panel space over in Civil War #6 duplicating this plotline. Fraction creates some interesting chemistry between these two men. As much as Captain America doesn’t want to admit it, he and the Punisher are the same man. They are just from different wars and different eras.

What really intrigued me was when Punisher astutely pointed out to Captain America that they are now the same man. Captain America wants to delude himself into believing that they are two different men. Captain America views himself as a soldier fighting the “good fight” while the Punisher is nothing more than a criminal and a vigilante. Fraction does an incredible job completely filleting Captain America’s faulty logic. Captain America is just like the Punisher: a criminal and a vigilante.

Fraction has Captain America state that he does what he does because of his sense of Patriotism and duty while Punisher is just a mad dog. Captain America sounds like any other extremist zealot. Captain America wraps himself up in his sense of patriotism and duty as an excuse for him to blatantly violate a law that was voted on by the public and overwhelmingly supported by the American public. The law was then written and passed by the American government. However, Captain America rationalizes his breaking the law with such high minded principles like patriotism and duty.

However, the fact is, Captain America is doing the exact same thing that the Punisher does. The Punisher willingly violates the laws in America against vigilantism and the laws prohibiting murder. The Punisher does this because his own personal moral code dictates that the criminals in society deserve to be killed. And only by killing criminals can America truly be free of crime.

It is the same logic. Both men have their own personal moral code that compels them to break the law and fight the “good fight.” Both men view the laws that are contrary to their morals and personal beliefs are incorrect and, therefore, they can violate them with self-righteousness and impunity. Both men also refuse to kill law enforcement officers in their personal crusade that eventually leads them to clash with law enforcement agencies.

Fraction does an excellent job exposing Captain America for the hypocrite that he is. Just because the Punisher’s moral code and crusade does not coincide with Captain America’s then that makes the Punisher the mad dog and Captain America the patriot.

If the Punisher is a mad dog then so is Captain America. Both men willingly violate laws that conflict with their own personal beliefs and moral codes. Both men willingly violate laws in order to carry out their own personal crusades. Fraction does a great job showing how Captain America disregards every view contrary to his as wrong. Just like your typical zealot.

Fraction pulled off one of the most thought provoking Civil War tie-in issues that I have read. I’m really shocked. I thought that Fraction would follow the same route as the other writers at Marvel and portray Captain America as the source of everything that is true and right in America. What Fraction delivered in Punisher: War Journal #2 was a wonderful unexpected twist on Captain America’s personal crusade against the Registration Act.

I also dig the addition of Stuart Clarke into this title. Clarke is a great plot tool to supply the Punisher with the endless amount of hi-tech equipment that he is going to require in order to take on various metahuman villains. Plus, the chibi Iron Man androids are hilarious.

With the end of Punisher: War Journal #2, Fraction has ended his obligatory Civil War tie-in storyline. Now, we can proceed with Bridge’s plot to apprehend the Punisher and the Punisher one man crusade to take down metahuman criminals while the so called super heroes battle on Mount Olympus over the Registration Act.

Olivetti provides plenty of solid artwork. I dig Olivetti’s painted style. It is wonderfully rich in detail and texture. Plus, Olivetti draws one seriously bad-assed Frank Castle.

The Bad: No complaints.

Overall: I’m really digging Fraction and Olivetti’s Punisher. These two men make a great team and are delivering a well done comic book. Fraction has kicked off this new title with a fast start, plenty of action and strong dialogue and character development. That is the perfect formula for a successful new title. If you like your heroes with some attitude and enjoy some serious action then Punisher: War Journal is definitely a title you will like. I certainly recommend giving Punisher: War Journal a try. It is much more than your average action title.

2 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Punisher: War Journal #2

  1. great review as always, you nailed down a lot of points about this issue. Besides Civil War #6, I was expecting this issue the most and it wasn’t disappointing. I wonder what is in store for #3.

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