Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Frank remains staked out in the desert, hanging around for flashbacks. Hate Monger glowers and threatens while a sniper picks off his storm troopers. Stuart Clarke sends a driven G.W. Bridge into the fray. Frank shows his true colors.
Commentary: It’s interesting that the writer of this current storyline is named “Fraction.” Interesting because issue by issue not a lot goes on and we’re given snippets and flashes of scenes along with slightly different perspectives on the same events. Somehow (unlike the recent issue of Moon Knight) Fraction makes it work and that’s good story telling and writing. This is helped by Olivetti’s cinematically clear painted visuals. I usually find painted artwotk unclear but not Olivetti's work. Punisher War Journal highlights these two creators at the top of their game. Fraction has made the Punisher interesting to me. This is all the more nostalgic for me because the only Punisher book I read back in the day was the original Punisher War Zone with John Romita Jr.’s lumbering and juggernaut-like Punisher and Chuck Dixon’s colorful and grim storylines. I’m enjoying Fraction and Olivetti’s run here as much as I did Dixon and Romita Jr.’s back then.
The character developments in the Punisher are some of the best if not the best ramifications resulting from the recent death of Captain America. We learned some more about Frank’s past and personality by using Cap as a foil. That’s welcome when all we’ve really seen over the years is re-runs of his family getting slaughtered and driving him to take up the ammo of the Punisher ad infinitum. His reactions to Cap in the past and Cap’s death in the present are fascinating. In the context of the current storyline we’ve seen Frank’s patriotic and (what passes for) noble sides. But then, he does something this issue which goes a long way to confirming our worst fears about Frank all along. He is unhinged and beyond redemption. He is mindless brutality without conscience embodied. You’ll have to read the issue for the incident I’m talking about. With that one unexpected scene our hopes for Frank’s redemption are dashed and something wrenched inside of me for him. Kudos to Fraction who actually made me feel for a fictional character. That’s hard to do. I find comics entertaining but usually don’t have rushes of feelings toward the characters.
Will Frank’s desire to honor the memory of Cap provide him some redeeming quality and semblance of humanity yet moving forward? That’s the question Fraction has left us with this issue because it sure looks as bleek as ever for Frank’s soul.
Olivetti gives weight and presence and expression to the limited confines of the few sets we do visit in this story. The desert, Clarke’s apartment, the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, Bridge’s room. Frank and Hate Monger's costume designs are well thought out in their simplicity and echoing of a hero much nobler and righteous than either of them could ever dream of being. Both are idealists in their own warped ways, but the color scheme and similiarity of the costumes indicates just what a fine line Frank treads from becoming a Hate Monger too. Let’s hope Marvel keeps Olivetti on for a long time on this book. He’s given it a distinctive look and feel.
Final Word: Fraction made me devoted to a character which for years has been "take it or leave it" for me. The Punisher War Journal is a riveting read for the time being.
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