Only one week after the conclusion of the first volume of “Ultimate Comics Avengers,” the beginning of the second ships. Unlike the first volume where the threat was readily apparent with the team of Nick Fury’s Avengers already in place, this story begins with a focus on teambuilding without a known enemy — or, at least, not one that we’re told about. The first new recruit of Fury’s Avengers: Frank Castle, the Punisher.
There really isn’t much to this issue aside from Castle killing folks. The issue begins with pages of him slaughtering people any way he can. From there, Castle targets one specific criminal, a Russian mobster called the Red Hammer, and works his way towards him by, well, killing lots of people. He’s been working overtime to attract the attention of the Red Hammer, which has lead the mobster to think that it’s rival gangs in New York eliminating his men, unwilling to believe that one man could be doing it all, and has set up a meeting with heads of the other gangs to prevent a war. And Castle needs to know where and when to take out the Red Hammer.
From there, Castle switches tactics from killing to torture in his own interrogation room that he called Baby Guantanamo. It’s a logical progression for the character to use these means, something he’s rarely been shy about in other depictions, but Millar’s Castle doesn’t have the same voice as the Punisher we know. He’s not quite a solemn or subdued, more flashy and stupid. He seems less like a man driven to kill as many scumbags as possible and more like a Hollywood caricature of the cool killer type. Some lame jokes in favor of restrained prose.
Paired with Millar for this arc is Leinil Francis Yu whose frantic art should match the quick pace of the issue. Yu’s art is normally a little sketchy and unpolished, looking like he dashed off the pencils with high energy as he’s eager to move on, to keep drawing. Here, his work is more stilted, more posed, less dynamic. Maybe it’s simply a matter of details added by Gerry Alanguilan in the inking process, but the art is more stiff than Yu’s work usually.
However, his art still possesses his dark charm as he depicts the over-the-top violence of Frank Castle’s rampage. His Castle doesn’t look too different from the regular version of the character, perhaps a little younger, but not much. He’s definitely less restrained during killing, the regular Punisher often looking stoic during his killing, this one full of rage. It matches the tone of Millar’s writing.
The recruiting of Castle is accomplished through interesting means and leads to the return of a costume design no one thought would be seen again. That it shows up here as a somewhat serious change to the character’s appearance makes me wonder how much of the issue is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. It’s a slow start to this arc, more a Punisher solo comic without a lot of plot than anything else. Hopefully, things pick up next issue with the second new recruit of the team.