Punisher: Noir #1
Written by Frank Tieri
Art by Paul Azaceta
Color by Nick Filardi
Lettering by VC's Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
When you take a street-level character like the Punisher, and you insert him into Marvel's noir universe, you have to ask yourself -- why? How does noir help define a character -- how does it change him, and how does he remain the same? Unfortunately, after reading the first issue of Punisher: Noir #1, the answers aren't there.
The introduction to this book isn't a bad one, with the Punisher laying out his surprising amount of weapons. But the story then flashes back to Frank Castle's past, and that's where things get a little hazy. Frank Tieri's Frank Castle, Sr. is a lighter character, having a surprising sense of enthusiasm in World War I rather than the cynicism of Vietnam. The problem is that by the time we finally get to the "present," the story runs out of room, giving us only a set-up to the set-up of Frank Castle's inevitable turn to vigilantism.
The artwork by Paul Azaceta has a nice scratchy feel to it, not unlike Julian Totino Tedesco from Unthinkable. Scenes like the flashback to World War I have a fun, flashy, if not always realistic, feel to it, and Frank Castle, Sr. certainly has some character to his design. Unfortunately, one panel really muddles the rest of the story -- there's a scene with Frank Sr. sitting in his chair, and it looks like he has a bit of a beer gut going. When you combine that with him having a young son named Frank, I honestly became a bit confused -- which one of these guys is going to be the Punisher here? If that's the mystery Marvel wanted, mission accomplished -- but if not, there's a problem here.
With a series like Punisher: Noir, patience is not a virtue -- there are a lot of questions going on, whether it's the identity of the protagonist, to how the 1930s would impact his crusade, not to mention the question of why the Punisher suddenly needs a mask. All in all, this issue feels like its missing a necessary twist, that taste of the high concept that gets readers hooked. It's a shame, because while these creators would seem to yield perfect ammunition for the subject matter, Punisher: Noir #1 is ultimately a misfire.