Hey, look at that, a comic book that spends the entire issue telling us stuff that the solicitation for the issue already explained: “The Punisher always knew he’d die on the job. But he didn’t know he’d have an expiration date. After busting up a slave ring in downtown Philadelphia, Frank Castle has been tricked, trapped, gassed, strapped to a table and injected with a serum that will turn him into a 220-pound corpse by dawn — six hours from now. The people who grabbed him want him to do a simple little job and then they’ll give him the antidote — simple, right? Guess again. The Punisher is nobody’s errand boy. There’s only one thing he wants to do before he dies: Take as many bastards as he can with him.”
So, thank you, Marvel Solicitation Writer for telling me everything I need to know about this comic and, possibly, saving me four bucks. Even the credits/recap page tells us what’s coming!
Now, had this issue actually delivered this plot in a stronger or more effective way than the above sentences, I would be more forgiving, but it doesn’t, it just goes through the motions and moves from point A to point B so that we can move onto Point Frank Castle Kills a Whole Lotta People in the next five issues. Really, this issue is three or four pages of story, at most, drawn out over 22 pages. It’s high concept and, as such, getting to the concept as soon as possible is a must. Reading this issue, the question of when Castle is going to be poisoned always looms and the wait is tedious.
Duane Swierczynski adds some nice touches, like Castle breaking into an “at-risk juvenile learning center” that is really a front for drug and sex trafficking or the “fanboy” love of the Punisher that the doctor who poisons him has. But, the skill with which Swierczynski writes these moments is constantly battling against the desire to just get on with the story already. Maybe it will read better as part of the whole story, but, as a single issue, it is
As I said, the doctor who poisons Castle is a fun character and the scene where he talks to Castle and tells him about his six hours to live unless he kills a specific criminal is very well executed. Michael Lacombe maintains a fixed point of view, Castle’s perspective, and uses wide panels stacked atop one another, which is very compelling visually. The added touch of the doctor wearing a Punisher t-shirt under his lab coat is fantastic.
Lacombe’s action scenes are well-executed, but his figures sometimes look a little posed. Countering that is the body language of the doctor, which is the best art in the book. Lacombe may have a few panels that are stiff, but he shows a lot of promise and his work at the end of the issue is a lot stronger than the beginning — you can almost see him improve page by page.
A fresh reader who doesn’t know the solicitation for this issue may not mind the slow pacing as much and it will almost certainly work better when collected, but that it takes an entire issue to get to the point is a big flaw here.
(Michael Lacombe draws pretty pictures in CBR’s preview! Check it out!)