Merry Christmas, Frankie Brown Castle! Or at least close enough in that kind of “horseshoes and hand grenades” sort of sense. You know all about hand grenades, don’t you Frank? Of course you do.

Issue #6 of The Punisher finds Frank Castle continuing to follow the trail of the shadowy, yuppie criminal outfit, The Exchange. The trail takes him to an exclusive ski hideaway inn somewhere in upstate New York – where Exchange management is having some sort of winter spa retreat to discuss the “emerging Punisher threat”. How evil! And, yet, relaxing! I wonder if the rooms come equipped with Jacuzzis? Because that would be awesome! I totally want to work for these guys.

Or, do I?

Spoilers which may or may not incorporate mayhem, sausages and ketamine after the jump!

Greg Rucka picks up his story with a Frank Castle who is one month further into his recovery. He’s stronger and seems to have solidified his leads and his arsenal de la criminal ass-whuppin’. But he’s not the only one making a play for The Exchange. Rachel Alves has been utilizing her connection with reporter Norah Winters to secretly crib Norah’s notes from her news investigation related to the Punisher/The Exchange. And, if I may, our monthly glimpse into the notebook of Norah Winters, as drawn by Matthew Southworth and Matthew Clark, is always good for a chuckle. Behold:

Also, call mom, promise to visit Sunday, and duck questions about "meeting my boyfriend" and "those eggs that won't fertilize themselves".

With both Frank and Rachel on-route to North Creek, NY and snowy, ski bliss (if you like that sort of thing…or aren’t distracted by an agenda of vengeance) the situation looks bleak for Up With PeopleThe Exchange. For example, in addition to the fact that the badness due unto our hapless, evil corporate ex AIM baddies will involve sausage, guns and ketamine (I’ll let you read the story to find out which order those may occur), there will also be this:

Not Bigfoot. Bigfoot's zipper goes in the back.

The art in this story, with Matthew Southworth and Matthew Clark on pencils, and Matt Hollingsworth on color, is a festival of the rugged and the bleak, punctuated by vivid gore soaked panels whenever Frank or Rachel let loose on the bad guys. One gets the sense of the funeral that continues to march around Rachel’s heart, as much as the need to met out stone cold punishment to those she feels have wronged her. Interestingly, where Rachel is drawn in sharp detail, Frank is drawn with a slightly blurry quality in many of his panels. I’m not sure if it was intentional or an effect of the white balance in the coloring, but it gives the sense that Frank is the perpetual graveyard ghost whose killing work will never be done, whereas Rachel is sharply focused to this one particular task at hand – kind of like Lumen in Dexter Season 5.

Or, maybe I’ve had one too many dirty vodka martinis and can’t focus my damn eyes on the page and am reading too much into things. It’s been known to happen before.

We’ve seen a Lady Punisher in Punisher canon before. I don’t know if Greg Rucka is looking to revive this concept and hang the mantel on Rachel. My gut is that Rachel will be a short run character through the duration of this storyline, laying down her guns once The Exchange has been defeated and vengeance put paid. In the meantime, I continue to recommend this book and will be following it to see how Rachel’s story is resolved.

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