The bad news first: “Punisher” is currently a little sillier under Rick Remender’s watch. As the resurrected villains try to hunt down and kill the Punisher, it’s hard to not roll your eyes at the sight of characters like Basilisk and Death Adder. They’re just dumb characters at their heart, and there’s a reason why there hasn’t been a burning desire to see these stupid-looking villains in years. Fortunately, Remender understands that. These are lame bad guys who are going down one by one, at the hands of the Punisher and his allies. But more importantly, don’t let them distract you from the bigger things going on here.
The best scene in “Punisher” #9 is the opening flashback as we see some of Punisher’s tech guy Henry’s past, and it’s a doozy. Not only is there a surprise appearance by a pre-existing character, it’s a disturbing (if slightly emotionally manipulative) scene. Remender writes this scene as a series of gut punches, and it achieves its goals. I think Tan Eng Huat’s art is at its strongest there, too; while it’s a cartoonish style, the lack of silly costumes and explosions lets Huat focus on the more human aspects of the scene and the end result is a tighter focus on the characters in the scene and their reactions to each other.
The rest of the comic is variable. Huat drawing D-grade villains is probably where the book falls down a bit; they just look so amazingly stupid that it’s actually a little surprising that anyone thought these costumes were a good idea back in the day. Drawing those bozos doesn’t play to Huat’s strength, and I hope future Huat issues will avoid the bad, dated spandex nightmares. Remender’s script, on the other hand, does a nice job of splitting between the Punisher, Henry, and Bridge as they all deal with the rise of the undead. The book moves quickly, and it was over before I even realized it, while still packing a lot into its pages.
This is probably the weakest issue of the relaunched “Punisher,” but even then it’s still a solid comic. Normally it’s just a bit better, more above average. Still, I can’t complain when an off issue is still better than most other serials on the market today. I might have been dubious when I’d heard that “Punisher” was getting relaunched yet again, but I’m cheerfully eating my words now. This is an entertaining comic. But can we get rid of the resurrected characters soon? That’s DC’s big crossover, after all, not Marvel’s.