The GoodIt's unfortunate this is only a limited series because I really want to see more than 5 issues with this creative team for the Punisher. While Greg Rucka's run mostly presented Frank Castle as a force of nature through the eyes of others, 'Nightmare' dives back into Frank's mind during his missions.
First and foremost, the art is a perfect fit for the anti-hero. The pencils by Mark Texeira and colors by Frank D'Armata are rough around the edges, exceptionally detailed and fantastically vivid. The panels are all laid out in a fairly simple manner but there's one standout page that makes creative use of his (bloody) logo. I was shocked by how impressive the sky looked during the Central Park scene. There's a beautiful contrast of a shaded family in front of an amazingly good looking sky behind him.
It takes something special to avoid making the Punisher's tales feel like another "mob shoot 'em up" story. While this does once again fall into mobster territory, writer Scott M. Gimple (writer/producer for The Walking Dead) has created an emotionally powerful story. Castle has always been confident in his actions, but when a fellow veteran suffers a similar tragedy, the man's unique story makes Frank begin to (hesitantly) second guess himself at times. It's something we don't see frequently and it gives a nice sense of vulnerability to an often Terminator-esque character. The "investigation" that follows is immensely entertaining and laced with some mandatory (and thoroughly interesting) exposition about the victim.
The BadOverall the art is great, but I do have my complaints. In one scene, Frank is exiting through a door in a diner and the outside looks 2D. So, in my mind, Frank pretty much just walked right into a studio set wall. Kinda takes away from the moment, does't it? In the end, he has a rather silly and overly expressive look on his face. His expression puts the "dumb" in dumbfounded. Finally, I know the panel of his family getting shot should make us feel his torment and suffer his tragedy, but if you crop it properly, it could totally look like the family was enjoying a ride at Disney World's Splash Mountain. Arms up! Weeeeee!
Frank was shockingly incompetent during the final action sequence. It's difficult to swallow the idea that shooting two men from a rooftop would be a difficult feat for him, or that he'd miss over and over again as they attempted to flee. It was really a poor showing for him and I imagine that's something that'll irk his fans.
The VerdictSimply put, PUNISHER: NIGHTMARE #1 looks excellent and is a very solid start to a hopefully superb story. The art almost perfectly conveys Punisher's dark and gritty world and the script kept my eyes glued to the captions. I also love the way it's paced, diving back and forth between Castle's investigation and learning about the Central Park victim, Jake Niman.
Right now, this book comes as a double-edged sword. It's off to a great start, but it's somewhat depressing to know it has an expiration date. I just hope the next 4 issues lure me in as much as this one did.