Comics / Comic Reviews / Marvel Comics

Punisher War Journal #5

By Jason Mott
April 11, 2007 - 14:00

Punisher: War Journal #5


Let’s face it. How long can Frank Castle’s depression-alcohol Post Traumatic Stress Disorder induced “war on crime” keep any reader interested? After you’ve seen him shoot a few bad guys, reflect on ‘Nam, shoot a few more bad guys, fall to pieces over his lost family, blow up a few bad guys (just as a change of pace from shooting them), drink himself into a near coma only to wake up and shoot/stab/strangle more second-rate villains…you’ve pretty much gotten all you’re ever gonna get from the character. Or so it used to seem. Punisher: War Journal #5 mostly centers on the life of a volunteer New York policeman who wants to be the hero he always dreamed he was. But, ultimately, a recently “back-from-the-dead” Frank Castle is drawn out of the shadows in an elaborate ruse set up by G.W. Bridge with the help of a third-string villain, Bushwhacker.


While the main story of the issue isn’t anything worth getting out of bed for, the subplot of the issue (and PWJ so far) may be. Stealthily building off of a story arc that began in the recent Civil War maelstrom, Matt Fraction is slowly but surely turning Frank Castle into a character worth reading about by playing up his admiration/hero-worship of Captain America. At the end of PWJ #5, we get to watch as the Punisher gets the news that Captain America has been shot. And it’s a great moment for the franchise. For too much of the character’s life, the Punisher has been a character stuck weeping and moaning over his past with nothing in his present life worth caring about. And, really, who wants to read about someone whining over bad things that happened to them decades ago? But, now, with Fraction’s new story arc, Frank Castle cares about something: Captain America. In a very interesting way, the Punisher, a character’s who’s always been on the outside of the hero business, is finally acknowledging that maybe he doesn’t know it all, maybe those “goodie-goodie-I’ll-never-harm-a-fly” heroes that he’s never been able to play nice with are actually something to look up to. Finally, the Punisher seems to be climbing down off his blood-drenched high horse and saying “Maybe we need the nice guys as much as we need the maniacs like myself.” For what is quite possibly the first time since his early military days, Frank Castle believes in something.   Great job, Fraction!


Fraction’s partner for Punisher: War Journal, Ariel Olivetti, gets mixed reviews. Layout, structure and overall movement in PWJ are nothing noteworthy here, but they’re no reason not to read the book either. They’re adequate. And that’s no crime. But Olivetti’s steroid-injected, ultra-beefy characters could be. As much as I love a good ol’ “fresh from the gym” hero, Olivetti’s Punisher looks more like a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and that cave troll from the first Lord of the Rings movie. This is gonna wind up gaining, or losing fans. But don’t think Olivetti’s some rank amateur bumbling his way through super-sized heroes. No sir. Olivetti’s a damned good artist and he makes PWJ a treat for the eyes. His painted art is smooth and well-defined. He knows his way around the human face and none of his characters look like carbon copies of one another (a flaw that plagues too many comic book artists these days).


When all is said and done, Punisher: War Journal is daring to do something new and interesting with Frank Castle…it’s giving him something no one ever expected him to have:   complexity and hope.


Overall:  7/10.  Things are becoming interesting.

Last Updated: June 23, 2021 - 00:45

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