Can I Get Dental With That? – Review Of The Punisher #5

In the most recent reboot run of The Punisher series, Greg Rucka has chosen to take the tactic of letting Frank Castle’s actions tell the bulk of the story. As he told Comic Book Resources:

We’ve had so many people over the years do an amazing job of getting inside Frank’s head, it seemed to me that nobody needed my take on it because it would just be me aping somebody else really. We know Frank. He’s very straight-forward about what he wants, why he wants it and what he’s willing to do to get it. We ran with him not talking for as long as I think we could get away with in terms of the story. It’s not that we were trying to render him mute as much as, he’s a guy who doesn’t have a lot to say. He’s not the type to talk to hear himself talk. Plus, he doesn’t really surround himself with people that he’s going to converse with.

The rest of the story is told from the point of view of the characters on whom Frank’s actions have had an impact: a police officer, Walter Bolt, who receives a promotion after being perceived as a hero during a shootout in which Frank Castle actually was the one who saved Bolt’s life, a bride, Rachel Alves, who is the only survivor of a massacre that took place on her wedding day, and Norah Winters, who is covering Castle in an attempt to be taken more seriously as a reporter. It’s an interesting choice for Rucka; Castle is so involved in his one man war on crime that he either doesn’t care or have time to acknowledge the impact his actions have on the few people he has around him. Punisher #5 continues in this vein as the characters approach Thanksgiving in the 616.

Spoilers and small children after the jump!

As issue #5 picks up, Frank Castle has been recuperating for 3 months after a battle with an all new (but now all dead) Vulture. In the time Castle has been on the sidelines, a mysterious group called The Exchange has been taking over the New York City criminal underworld. The Exchange is made up of former henchmen from other evil organizations like Hydra and AIM who have been brought together by a couple of young go-getters full of fresh and exciting new ideas on how to run a secret criminal organization like, “no costumes”, “snitches get stitches”, and “free bagel Friday”. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t mentioned anywhere, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hand in it.

I'm not entirely certain, but I think I may have temped here.

However, it’s been 100 days and The Punisher has been itching to get back in the game and slap down some punishment on members of The Exchange. No matter how good their 401k matching program and health care co-pays are, they’re still evil and have to go. So, Castle invites himself to one the member’s dinner parties to drop some knowledge and by knowledge, I mean bullets:

See, Frank? This is why you never get invited anywhere.

In the course of the book’s events, Castle also meets a young boy who wants to befriend him. Like most of Castle’s relationships, it ultimately goes poorly, on an almost “and now you know that Santa isn’t real” kind of level. I’m not going to delve into specifics but, frankly (!), the book is worth reading just to watch how that plays out.

Marco Checchetto‘s artwork in the issue is well nuanced and expressive. He aptly conveys the aftermath of Castle’s violent rampages, as well as the rare moments of humanity Castle occasionally evinces:

And then we're going to IHOP! I love IHOP!

Greg Rucka is often at his best when writing crime stories and grounding The Punisher’s story by looking at his world from the viewpoint of the people he affects is a fresh take on a character who’s seen his storyline cover everything from fighting as an agent of heaven to FrankenCastle (yes, really). This book is going to stay firmly on my pull list.