R.I.P. Frank Castle's Facial Hair
I was expecting worse.
Mostly because of the creative team (Daniel Way is probably one of the few people able to write a popular book for over 4 years and remain almost universally criticized by just about everyone), but honestly what got me upset about this most of all was the inclusion of the Punisher. Castle has a reputation of being an often over-used character that few writers are able to get right. In fact, I'd argue the only time I truly felt he was used to full effect was in Greg Rucka's most recent arc. So I had my doubts knowing that he would be partnered up with someone like Elektra, a character who, while known for being a complex anti-hero, is pretty much defined by her taste in ultra violent, unrepentant crime.
So far, though, I haven't really found much wrong with this book. Mostly because at this point in time, none of the team has been together at once, so issues with how Punisher will interact with the people he clearly hates didn't need addressing at this point. While that does mean this book started slowly doesn't mean there was anything bad with the pacing.
I was actually quite surprised with how well each character was handled as Ross was recruiting them. Each character seems to respond appropriately and realistically, so this book doesn't feel like a bunch of ultra-violent characters thrown together to appeal to testosterone-dripping alpha-males. Deadpool's section especially had some real strong moments to it, which is surprising considering Way's usual complete lack of subtlety in writing him these past few years.
Unfortunately, I still wasn't sold on the Punisher. Castle lacks a lot of his presence in this book, and as a result just doesn't feel all that impressive, especially when just a month ago we had such a fantastic interpretation of him running around. He wasn't poorly written, just not quite exciting or interesting, which is a shame because the book is centered around his conversation with Ross, and even though the Thunderbolt himself is well written, and their discussion is meaningful, it still made those sections drag for me.
Another issue with the Punisher was his overall design. I much preferred the smeared white paint skull over bulletproof armor over that terrible, outdated costume he wore in the past, and I can't help miss the beard. In fact, character design, and art overall, is the books main weak point. Dillon draws all the men with the same face and expression, with only a little variation, and the art simply doesn't fit with the overall mood of the book.
Overall, this issue was well written, and definitely does a little to redeem Way in my eyes. At the same time, the art is poorly done, and Frank still presents a problem that may need fixing in the future. However, there is still promise, so it may be worth a look if you were undecided.