Gotham Central

I don't know what to do with this new Punisher #1, not really. There are too many blank spaces, too many possibilities to really know how to evaluate it as the first part of a larger story. I have a guess, though: I think this Punisher volume is going to be a Marvel Universe Gotham Central, focusing mainly on the cops who pick up the pieces as The Punisher wages his war. That Greg Rucka is writing is key. The fact that Frank Castle doesn't utter a word is another part of this suspicion, as is the fact that he is mostly a presence and not really a character. In fact, the only of the book's various presences that I would call characters (rather than caricatures) are two cops, detectives Clemons and Bolt, one of whom is the titular avenger's unwilling informant. Still, mostly they're sketches: by the time you hit the staples, you've neared the conclusion of the first of two stories, and you know next to nothing about either of them. Maybe you have a feeling, but in order for a technique like that to work, the art has to speak much more effectively than Marco Checchetto's does here.

Although there's nothing wrong with his tendencies toward dark and sketchy, particularly in a book like The Punisher, Checchetto is not nearly a proficient enough storyteller to carry this tale. His faces are always wearing funny expressions, his backgrounds are clearly designed using photoshop, some central characters are almost visually identical, and some of his passages (particularly a montage at the beginning) are impossible to follow. There's nothing here to back up the writing, and the book fails because the art does. Still, the post-staples second story (although not being very much better than the first) piques my curiosity a little bit. If Greg Rucka's story ends up being about the cop and not the anti-hero, it will be something worth keeping an eye on. If not, though, it's going to lose readers fast, just like every other Punisher series from the recent past. Maybe Rucka's got something new in him (and I certainly believe he might). If he doesn't, though, perhaps it's time to end Frank Castle's misery, and move on.

Incidentally, Rucka has this sweet new webcomic, Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether. You should check it out; it looks like a pretty killer steampunk tale to me.

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