If I could have circled the release date of the first issue of "Punisher" on a calendar when I first heard that Greg Rucka would be writing it, I would have. I'm not a very big fan of the Punisher, but I am a very big fan of Greg Rucka's writing, and if anyone would be able to get me interested in reading about the Punisher, it would have to be Rucka.
The first issue exceeded my expectations. It was dark, brooding, gory, and violent, but incredibly engaging and powerfully compelling. Rucka brings the awesome in this issue, upping the drama, the violence, the excitement, and the pacing. Rucka's writing doesn't slow down, even though there are more than a few panels without any words in them. In actuality, it is those panels without words where Rucka shines as a writer. He knows when to stay out of the way of the story and, unbelievably, already seems to know the strengths and abilities of his artist, who has been working with Rucka for all of two issues.
Marco Checchetto goes nuts in this issue, with ink spattering everywhere, as blood, grit, bullets, and debris litter every scene. Checchetto doesn't let the noise overpower his work, but rather uses it to accentuate the story beats. Punisher takes down a thug with a single bullet to the brain and Checchetto and his colorist, Matt Hollingsworth, make it almost palpable - in silhouette!
This book is not for the squeamish, nor is it for those who expect a brooding, introspective, yet revealing walk with Frank Castle. In the two issues that we've seen, the Punisher hasn't said one word yet. Amazingly, I don't know that he'd ever need to. Rucka has stirred up that much faith in me with two simple issues.
What this issue does do, however, is drop the Marvel Universe in around the reader, ninja-style. Completely unexpectedly (at least from me), Rucka and Checchetto bring in a Spider-Man foe. And Norah Winters, a Spidey supporting character, shows up. Sure, I knew Punisher was going to be in the Marvel Universe, but to lock him in with characters like that takes some gumption. Mind you, Norah and the villain aren't the most untouchable of characters from Spidey's supporting cast, but they are unmistakably Spidey's. Where Rucka takes them from here is something I'm itching to see. And quickly.