Would you like to read a comic book where the title character barely shows up and doesn't say a single line of dialog? Would you like all the other dialog to be incredibly stilted? Would you like a comic that has graphic violence but needlessly sensors swear words?
If you answered yes to these three questions then you just hit the jackpot with The Punisher #1.
The "All New, All Different" has taken Marvel in some interesting creative directions. Sometimes those changes are a bit unwarranted and a bit superficial as well. In this case, however, the "New" and "Different" can mean "bad" and "worse."
Is there a story? I guess. The DEA seems to be setting up a massive sting operation involving taking down a gang of drug dealers (a favorite villain in Hollywood... circa the 1980's). An ex-marine named Olaf takes a job protecting the shipment of super soldier drugs (that are in red bricks for some reason). Before the DEA can spring their little trap, The Punisher kills everybody and has a face off with Olaf... who he allows to leave because... ex-marine ties.
The DEA shows up and figures out The Punisher was there. Meanwhile, drug kingpin type guy is hammering peoples faces into plaques. Yup.
I loved Becky Cloonan's writing for Gotham Academy; it had a charming naivete that suited the material. It does not suit The Punisher. It reads like the dialog from a Christian movie that doesn't seem to know how the DEA operates or how gangster talk. It uses "#@$%" as stand in for swearing at the rate of two per page yet it depicts Frank Castle murdering people with a cinder block. I'm not really sure if this is an indictment of our popular culture's penchant for graphic violence but potty mouths offend our delicate sensibilities, or that Marvel's editors told Cloonan that a bloodthirsty mercenaries can't be seen saying the word "pussy" or "cunt" or any other vulgar stand in for a woman's genitalia. This is legitimately distracting.
Unfortunately, Steve Dillon's art is not much better. All his characters appear wooden: mannequins captured just after Tom Hanks leaves the room. The lines are clean, the stubbly beards are detailed, but every person looks like they were modeled after a Hasbro action figure from the mid 90's.
The only real good thing I have to say is that at least Frank isn't a resurrected angelic agent again. While the trench coat with access to celestial weapons was cool, it wasn't what The Punisher is all about. This comic does capture, in the briefest glimpse, of how brutal Frank Castle should be... it just can't cover up the bad story telling.
Rating: 2/10 curse bleeps