Punisher: War Journal is another new Marvel title. I have always like Punisher, but I stopped collecting his title a while back. I decided to give this new title a try since this was a less realistic take on the Punisher and I figured that would appeal to me a bit more than his regular title. I am familiar with talented Argentinean artist Ariel Olivetti. However, I have never heard of Matt Fraction. I know he is helping Brubaker write Iron Fist and I enjoyed that issue, so I’ll take that as a positive sign. New unknown writers usually concern me since I am hard on writers and not easily impressed. All right, let’s go ahead and do this review.
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: The issue begins S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Sitwell visiting G.W. Bridge and telling him that S.H.I.E.L.D. needs his help. We then cut to the Punisher on a stakeout. He is watching a guy named Fulvio Morsella who is a child pornographer. Morsella is meeting with an FBI Agent about entering the witness protecting plan in return for his testimony.
Suddenly, the new Stilt-Man appears on the scene. Stilt-Man is here to take into custody Morsella. The Punisher feels that the Stilt-Man must pay for the years he has run amok destroying property. That acting as a “good guy” isn’t going to make up for that. And with that, the Punisher uses a rocket launcher and blasts the Stilt-Man’s mechanical legs off. The Punisher thinks how neither S.H.I.E.L.D. nor the cops will show up at the scene. That it has always come down to the Punisher to take care of scum like this. With that, the Punisher walks over to the Stilt-Man who immediately says that he surrenders. The Punisher responds that he doesn’t and puts a bullet into the Stilt-Man’s head. Punisher then turns around and puts a bullet into Morsella’s head.
We shift to G.W. Bridge reading a newspaper where the columnist is heralding the Punisher as a hero. That the Punisher protects the commons man while the so-called super heroes” destroy schools in their never-ending battled against one another. That the Punisher stops societal menaces that prisons could not hold and the law could not stop. (And it’s official. Marvel keeps asking you “Whose side are you on?” I’m with the Punisher.) Bridge orders S.H.I.E.L.D. capekillers into a tunnel system under the city where the Punisher is hiding out.
We cut to the Punisher in the tunnel system. It was used for smugglers and the Punisher has been using it for years to get from one point to another and to stash his ordinance. The Punisher ambushes the team of S.H.I.E.L.D. capekillers and quickly takes them out. The Punisher thinks that it is official that S.H.I.E.L.D. has declared war on him. That the Punisher has never gone after the law or killed anyone on his own side. And he sure as hell has never worn a cape. We shift forward to G.W. Bridge being informed by his team of beaten up capekillers that the Punisher was in the tunnels.
We shift to the Punisher at a rally in Stamford, Connecticut. The Punisher comments how you can purchase a shirt and a ribbon to show how you were personally affected by the deaths of Stamford’s kids. The Punisher is here because the Tinkerer is at this rally and the Punisher believes that the Tinkerer is who upgraded the new Stilt-Man. We see the Punisher tie up the Tinkerer in his car and then question him about the new Stilt-Man. The Tinkerer comments how his grandson dies in the Stamford tragedy. That the Stilt-Man approached him and said he wanted to turn over a new leaf. The Tinkerer thought if he did this then maybe morons like Stilt-Man would kill other of the same kind of morons. However, that was the Tinkerer’s only job. That anyone who is outfitting tech for thugs and ex-villains would have to be an ex-Stark employee named Stuart Clarke who was once called Rampage. The Punisher then stabs the Tinkerer in the back between his fourth and fifth vertebrae and leaves him there.
We cut to the Punisher entering Stuart Clarke’s lab. Clarke’s little baby Iron Man robots attack the Punisher. The Punisher tells Clarke that he knows Clarke has been upgrading a number of psychos to better declare war on the good guys. Clarke claims that Tony Stark is behind it all. That Stark is playing it at both ends. That Stark is busting guys out of prison to hunt down people that don’t agree with him. The Punisher doesn’t believe Clarke. Clarke says that Stark’s tech has a unique energy signature. That Clarke has a device that can detect it. That the Punisher can use it as a tracking device. Clarke tells Punisher to bring back some tech of a super villain and Clarke will tell him if it is Stark tech or not.
We shift to G.E. Bridge checking out the body of the dead Stilt-Man. Bridge gets a call informing him that the Tinkerer has been found dead.
We cut to the Punisher out on the prowl. The device suddenly starts tracking several figures down in the sewers. The Punisher rushes to the scene to find Spider-Man being chased by the Jester and the Jack O’ Lantern. The Punisher realizes that he is about to do something that is going to change his life forever. With that, the Punisher kills the Jester and the Jack O’ Lantern. The Punisher thinks about how his favorite sound is the silence just after a gun shot. The Punisher then picks up Spider-Man and heads out of the sewers.
We shift to G.W. Bridge telling Agent Stillman that he is quitting S.H.I.E.L.D. That Bridge can’t take down the Punisher with the law tying his hands. Stillman says that S.H.I.E.L.D. will hire Bridge as an impendent contractor specializing in the Punisher matter. End of issue.
The Good: Wow. Punisher: War Journal #1 was much better than I expected. Matt Fraction can write! I thought Fraction delivered an excellent debut issue. I really dig Fraction’s style. The pacing on this issue was just right. It wasn’t too fast or too slow. Fraction did a nice job mixing in plenty of drama in with the action to make this a balanced story. Best of all, Fraction didn’t bog us down with a lot of origin information about the Punisher. Instead, Fraction got this story arc going quickly and gets the reader interested in the Punisher’s new mission.
I dig Fraction’s take on the Civil War. Honestly, this has been the first Civil War tie-in issue that actually made sense to me. Oddly enough, Marvel’s resident psychopath is actually the sanest person when it comes to the entire Civil War debate. I have commented before that the Civil War has come across as nothing more than a clash of egos between super heroes who view themselves as modern day royalty. The fanatical zealot Captain America who believes that being a super hero means they can do whatever they want whenever they want to regardless of what the will of the people who demanded the Government pass the Act and the U.S. Government who is enforcing the Act. Then you have the arrogant Tony Stark who thinks his side is justified in breaking down doors and arresting people and locking them away in a prison in the Negative Zone.
Then you have the Punisher. He thinks both sides are out of touch with reality. The Punisher is the common man. The Punisher is you and me. He doesn’t wear a cape. He doesn’t fit idiotic morons in spandex. Super heroes don’t fight crime. They engage in their petty vendettas with super villains. These vendettas have zero affect on the common man other than the fact that these personal vendettas can cause massive collateral damage that we have to pay for to have cleaned up and repaired. Oh, super heroes also engage in intergalactic adventures which do nothing to stop crime for the common man. And I can’t forget adventures in parallel universes or time travel adventures which also do nothing to stop crime that plagues the common man.
Nope, that job is for the Punisher. The Punisher is getting dirty in the streets waging a one man war on crime trying to make life safer for the common man. The Punisher doesn’t view himself as superior to the common man. The Punisher isn’t part of some modern day aristocracy. And I like that the only reason that the Punisher is willing to help the anti-Registration side has absolutely nothing to do with the Act at all. It is only because the Pro-Registration side is employing known criminals to apprehend rogue super heroes. That’s it. No big philosophical reasons. Just that one side is employing known criminals and killers and the other isn’t.
The Punisher has always been a very appealing character to me. The Punisher is the average America who has had it with the massive amount of violent crime that plagues this country. The U.S. is among the highest among all developed countries around 5.5 per 100,000 people with rates in major cities sometimes over 50 per 100,000 people. The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration at 726 prisoners per 100,000 people. The U.S.’s murder rate is 4 times higher than almost all of the western European nations. Most criminals get a slap on the hand or manage to get off completely when they get arrested. The Punisher appeals to me because he embodies all the primal frustration that rages inside of me. That basic instinct that makes me wish murders would just be pulled aside and hot in the head. No money on tons of appeals, jails, food, cable TV and the such. Just a bullet in the head and move on.
Fraction clearly understands the Punisher’s character and manages to get across his views on crime. I love how Fraction makes Punisher look like the sane person and that everyone else around him is crazy. Fraction wisely used plenty of internal narration in order to give a new reader an excellent feel for Punisher’s character. This was an excellent idea. It saves old readers who know the Punisher from having to sit through boring scenes about the Punisher’s character and the internal dialogue while informative for new readers is equally as entertaining for old readers because it gives us a wonderful sense of how the Punisher’s mind works. I found it rather captivating.
I was also surprised by the amount of humor that Fraction injected into the story. Fraction managed to give the Punisher a nice dry sense of humor that made him a much more three dimensional character. Plus, it kept the story from being to dark and grim and becoming more of a parody like Lobo.
Fraction serves up some well done dialogue. Punisher: War Journal #1 is a well written and plotted issue that has a great flow to it. I am glad to see that Fraction is just as concerned with the psychology behind the Punisher as he is with providing action for the reader. My initial fear about this title was that it was going to be nothing more than a mindless “shoot ‘em up” action story. Fraction surprised me. Punisher: War Journal has a lot more depth than I expected.
Mi hermano, Olivetti is very talented. I like Olivetti’s unique style. It gives this title a distinct look. Olivetti has plenty of potential and is capable or cranking out some excellent work. However, his art on this issue is a bit inconsistent. Some panels are flat out incredible, while others are rather average. If Olivetti can become a bit more consistent, then I think he will be capable of cranking out some fantastic issue. I understand that Olivetti’s painted style is probably a love it or hate it style. Personally, I like his painted artwork. It works well with a “realistic” character like the Punisher. Plus, Olivetti draws one bad-assed Frank Castle!
The Bad: No complaints.
Overall: Punisher: War Journal #1 was the most enjoyable Civil War tie-in issue that I have read so far. I was impressed with Matt Fraction’s writing on this issue. Fraction is clearly a talented writer and he delivered a well crafted issue. Olivetti’s art is distinctive and may not appeal to some people. However, I like his style and thought it worked well on this title. I think that this title has enough action to appeal to readers who like plenty of brawling in their comics, but I also think that this title has enough depth to appeal to readers who like more substance to their comics. I certainly recommend giving Punisher; War Journal a try.