Punisher #1 is published by Marvel, written by David Pepose, with art by Dave Wachter, colors by Dan Brown, and letters by Cory Petit. A new man wears the skull and crossbones, but the quest for punishment remains the same.
Starting a brand new era, a very similar plot begins but with a completely new set of circumstances. Joe Garrison hunts down the man who killed his family in just as brutal a fashion as Frank Castle’s was. Beyond that, it is a brand new story and wastes no time flinging Garrison into a firefight.
The action is fast-paced and in-your-face, but the violence is relatively tame compared to previous Punisher runs, That is only an introduction however, as Punisher #1 gets more grizzly and disturbing as the book progresses. The exposition is done so quickly, which is impressive, allowing the action to move rapidly and for the pace to maintain momentum. The villain is a surprising callback to a character not seen in a while, and it is a brave decision to show what happens to them. It demonstrates a ruthlessness to Pepose that is needed for a character that is as hardcore as it gets.
Replacing Frank Castle is extremely daunting, but Garrison is a fine new character. Joe’s emotions have been killed in the same way Frank’s were, but is much earlier in that journey. Being haunted by faces and having to burn your soul in order to complete your mission is something that is sometimes forgotten about due to how many years the original Punisher had been slaughtering criminals.
The exposition is phenomenal, executed efficiently and effectively. Almost everything you need to know about Joe is revealed swiftly. There is confidence in how he moves and a recklessness that can only be found after losing everything. His backstory is also very fascinating, with a previous line of work that is much more entwined with the Marvel Universe than Castle.
But that is not to suggest that there’s nothing left to find out about the new character after Punisher #1 concludes. Persisting with the crusade will require resilience, with many more harsh decisions to make. Plus, very little is known about Triple-A, Garrison’s tech support, and how she will take to the violence that will be inevitable.
The art is brilliant, drawing a clearly good man into a gritty underworld of crime fighting. Garrison’s cause comes from an eerily similar tragedy to Frank’s, but his history alters both who he fights and how he fights. Castle rarely came up against existing villains and criminal groups, but Garrison faces both an established foe and a gang that has been seen throughout Daredevil and Spider-Man comics.
In addition, Garrison uses a lot of tech, with innovative weapons that are far removed from the ballistic warfare Punisher entered a killing floor with. Wachter terrifically illustrates these fight scenes. Big set-pieces are superbly controlled, with Joe’s every move able to be followed across the page as he cuts through swathes of scumbags. His guns have intricate details that highlight how different they are. Every individual is unique within the art style, even extras within a crowd. There are some fantastic mask designs early in the book.
As mentioned before, for most of the comic, the gore and brutality are not as extreme as they can be, with almost no blood visible. But some imagery, including a revolting, repulsive conclusion to the villain’s appearance, demonstrates a book that is not for the faint-hearted. The new Punisher design is a slight modification of an iconic concept, and it is jarring to see someone else with the skull on their torso. But the stoic, emotionless face with visible scratches and scars of war are symbols of similarities to Garrison’s predecessor.
This is a very colorful book, which is surprising considering the character and the subject matter. The energy powering many of the weapons paired with fire and other destruction causes some bright displays of carnage. The city itself can be bathed in neon and gentle city lights, whilst Joe’s base is a sickly green and yellow blend. When Punisher first enters the issues, he is largely hidden by a vibrant red background coming from the door behind him. Using an extensive color palette can be just as significant in conveying danger as a more minimalist approach. The letters are extremely easy to read.
Punisher #1 is a worthwhile experiment. Legacy characters are prevalent in comics, and it’s never truly been ascertained whether the Punisher can be one. Pepose is willing to take that challenge, questioning whether the Punisher is a symbol or a man. Or is it a mission? Can someone simply wear that skull and have a brutal idea of fighting crime and instantly capture the essence of the name?
It’s also a fantastic action comic with some innovative sequences. Both faithful and futuristic, it is very unnerving to see someone other than Frank Castle carry that costume. But it’s a concept that is not completely alien, especially to this writer who has already sampled this experiment in a previous series. Ultimately, the comic warrants picking up to ask the same questions for yourselves.
Punisher #1 is a worthwhile experiment.