Punisher isn't the easiest character around to write. Sure, he isn't exactly a complex character -- he's pretty much an anti-hero and has basically declared a war on crime. But bringing something new and refreshing into his violent world isn't an easy task. There's so many stories where it feels like we're just seeing more of the same with Frank. With this issue, co-writers Nathan Edmondson and Kevin Maurer give Frank's world a little variety by focusing on his military training. Yes, we've seen the dude come up with grand plans and take out enemies with lethal accuracy, but having Frank bump into a Special Forces team makes his training come straight into the forefront. It's no longer just running and gunning. He's applying tactics as he faces well-armed and numerous targets and, seeing as he has to communicate with an ally, he's keeping us in the loop. It isn't a whole new direction for the book, but it's just enough to give us a slightly different look at his struggles and keeps matters intriguing.
Much to my surprise, there isn't a big showdown between Punisher and Crossbones. A conclusion -- for now, at least -- is reached between these two, but when you have two characters that are this badass, you can't help but want to see them get brutal because it's loaded with so much potential. That said, I do understand why this direction was taken. I have some gripes with it -- I'll explain in "the bad" -- but considering the condition Frank is in and what it meant for someone else, the resolution is a somewhat understandable one and is clearly intended to open the door to the upcoming story with Black Widow.
Artist Carmen Nunez Carnero, colorist Antonio Fabela, and inker Terry Pallot get a few moments throughout the issue to really impress. Firstly, they're constantly switching up the perspective to make sure we always get a good view of the shooting. They know that's the biggest element in this issue and they make sure we're always getting the best look possible at what's going down. Secondly, there's one explosive moment that really leaves a mark and allows Fabela to hit us with some incredibly strong coloring. Prior to that, I was enjoying the visuals and they kept me engaged, but nothing really dropped my jaw. Then I reached that page and it totally blew me away. I also appreciate how they gave us a bird's eye view once the big shootout began. You can't help but gaze at pages like that and it really brings the scene to life as you imagine how each and every character is reacting.
As I said above, I'm left with mixed feelings on the encounter between Crossbones and Punisher. I get Frank's been through hell, but an encounter like this has so much potential and honestly, we've seen Frank endure much worse. I know we'll see more of these two in the months to come, but a little more could have gone a long way and it feels a little odd to have Frank go along so willingly, especially when his peer has a firearm and Brock's back is somewhat turned. I understand why Frank did this and the implication is Brock is so tough that they don't stand a chance, but based on how everything was presented, it seemed like there was an alternative. Also, considering they've displayed Brock's strength, I think it's safe to say the villain can stop Frank without killing him, but that's just me. Sure, Frank's a tough cookie, but Rumlow has what it takes to knock him out and then he could cuff him.
Minor gripe:If you're going to focus on how well trained these individuals are, it feels odd to have the character then blatantly miss Crossbones -- especially when the foe's not in motion. I get that ripping Brock Rumlow apart with a SAW would bring the story to an abrupt halt, but it seems odd to make the guy totally miss with so many shots. To me, it would have made more sense just to have the character open fire on the other goons and that way no one is sold short.
This issue basically focuses on Punisher doing what he does best. He's facing an uphill struggle, yet he's still finding ways to systemically take down the bad guys. This isn't just Frank running through the jungle like a mad man and blasting everyone in his way, though. He's in poor condition and the creative team focuses on his intellect and tactics as a soldier. It's not bringing anything drastically new to the table, it's just a slightly different approach to what we usually see him do and the visual team presents it well. After having such an action-packed issue, the conclusion seems a little abrupt, but it's still a gripping ride and I'm excited to see where this book will go next.