Like a bloody Piet Mondrian/Andy Warhol team-up, the cover of "Punisher: War Zone" #1 takes all of the teaser images Marvel introduced for Greg Rucka's new Punisher story and makes them even better than they were individually. While the cover is the only contribution that artist Marco Checchetto provides for this issue, it doesn't suffer for it.
From the opening recap page that is formatted to replicate "The Daily Bugle" to the explosion that closes out the issue (not a spoiler -- this a Punisher comic after all), the art team of penciler Carmine Di Giandomenico, colorist Matt Hollingsworth and letterer Joe Caramagna absolutely brings this book to life. That recap page becomes a story prop and leads nicely into the tale of the issue proper. There's one minor coloring glitch that is corrected mid-story but otherwise, the trio brings their best work to this book.
While Punisher and Spider-Man have scrapped more than a few times, this battle incorporates all the magic and wonder of their animosity, from Punisher getting out of Spidey's webbing to Spider-Man cracking wise and thinking he actually has Punisher on the ropes. Di Giandomenico displays an innovative portrayal of spider-sense, which is keenly accentuated by Hollingsworth. The duo also collaborates on more slick visuals, like Spider-Man's webs and lingering smoke following the skirmish. If all of the words were scrubbed from this book or replaced with a foreign language, the message of the story, the critical components and the character motivations would all shine through very clearly.
As has been the case for his tenure writing the adventures of Frank Castle, Greg Rucka takes the Punisher and puts him in a situation that produces great drama, quick action and enlightening interplay. In addition to the already mentioned encounter with Spider-Man, Wolverine shows up to have a chat with Frank. Steve Rogers, Thor, Black Widow and Tony Stark have bits in this comic book as well, but the four panel conversation between Rogers and Wolverine has me pining for the writer to take a tour of duty with the Super Soldier. I'll take what I can get, though, and Rucka doesn't fail to impress here. While the larger story continues the narrative from the recently concluded "Punisher" series, this issue provides a quick recap of those proceedings, a fun battle between Spider-Man and Punisher and some defining moments of morality for members of the Avengers.
Readers of "Punisher" reviews here on CBR know that it's no secret that I enjoyed the living heck out of Rucka and Checchetto's recently-concluded "Punisher" run, but as Nigel Tufnel would say, this issue goes to eleven. Rucka and team craft a story for the ages here, one that will not only redefine Frank Castle, but also forever changes the footprint the Punisher leaves on the Marvel Universe. "Punisher: War Zone" #1 is a sample of everything Rucka brings to the character as well as a sign of his ability to write good stories with any and every character.