Frank Castle’s LA adventures continue to be highly enjoyable, although I am finding it strange how much more… human Nathan Edmondson’s take on the Punisher is than most writers. I suppose the change of scenery can be used to explain a lot of that, but still, would the Frank Castle of old really look after a cute little coyote pup? It’s not it’s out of character per se, but it’s going to take some getting used to.
After #1 basically dropped us into Frank’s new California life with no real explanation, this issue explains why and how he’s there. The Punisher had been going up against a Mexican Gang in New York, and he had followed them across the country, eventually all the way into Mexico, where he tracked them to a small town they’d been hiding in, only to find them already dead, killed by some kind of horrible chemical weapon. Frank works out that this gang had been killed by a rival, Dos Soles, and he needs to stick around in order to stop them. Given their use of chemical weapons, they aren’t your typical gang, so only he can stop them.
I love the concept Edmondson hits on here throughout the issue of there being a certain level of criminal that is too much for the cops to handle, but not enough of a threat for the superheroes to concern themselves with. This is the exact niche that the Punisher is needed for, and given that LA doesn’t have as many superheroes as other cities, he’s desperately needed. We see just how different from your average street-gang Dos Soles are from the weapons exchange Frank is spying on at the start of this issue. It’s not with some other gang… it’s with AIM. AIM open up their truck to reveal the new weapon, but it’s bright light blinds Frank, and causes him to make a noise. Two gang-members head out into the desert to look for the source of the disturbance, where they accidentally shoot a coyote, thinking that is what made the noise. Frank kills the two men, but the rest of the criminals escape, leaving him alone with the injured coyote.
The next day, Frank (who, awesomely is wearing a Hawkeye t-shirt) is back at the coffee shop and still flirting with the female police officer. His army contact arrives (his name is Tuggs) and Frank asks him to look after the coyote, who he’s named ‘Loot’ (short for Lieutenant). Tuggs is surprised that Frank is caring for an animal, so maybe the Punisher’s strange new attitude is just part of the story? It can’t just be the nice West Coast weather can it? The action picks up with Officer Stone and her partners in a shoot-out with some Dos Soles gang-bangers. The two other officers chase after the criminals into a building, but before they can get two feet, they are fried by a strange electrical jolt. Stone herself is about to be shot (by normal bullets), but it’s Punisher to the rescue.
Mitch Gerads’ art really comes into it’s own in these action scenes, his gritty style makes everything feel real, and I really liked the design of the Punisher’s new mask. It makes sense that Frank would wear one, when he’s attempting to live at least a somewhat civilian life, and it does look totally bad-ass and intimidating. Frank kills some more Dos Soles, but once again their secret weapon escapes, so the chase is on, until his motorcycle is hit by another bolt of electricity. The Howling Commandos are once again present in this issue, as they arrive too late at the scene. I like that their threat is a slow-burn, a nice contrast with the literal explosiveness of the Dos Soles. We also see that the Commandos are watching Tuggs, so that’s certainly an angle they can attack The Punisher from.
The issue ends with Frank driving along the PCH in his Breaking Bad RV, and once again getting zapped by the mysterious weapon, which turns out to be… Electro! So after all that talk about how some threats aren’t big enough for the superheroes, the villain turns out to be one of Spider-Man’s main enemies (and soon to be a movie star!), which is a pretty cool twist of my expectations. I had thought that this take on the Punisher would be avoiding characters like Electro, so him showing up is really cool.
After 2 issues, I’m liking this Punisher so far, the art is fantastic and the ideas are strong. I do have some issues with Edmondson’s characterisation, but it’s nothing too serious. It’s a blend of the realistic MAX crime stories and the superhero things that Fraction and Remender did with the character. Just like how Edmondson says the character is suited to villains that fall in between the cops and superheroes, his book is falling in between the crime and superhero genres pretty perfectly.