The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank
Series: The Punisher
Title: Welcome Back, Frank
Format: Trade paperback, encompassing The Punisher: Volume 3, Issues 1-12.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Garth Ennis
Pencils: Steve Dillon
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
“New York City says… Welcome back, Frank”. And so do I. The Punisher returns to the Marvel line-up, this time with Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon running the show with able inking assistance from Jimmy Palmiotti. Frank Castle, the Punisher, is back with all the frills stripped away. Now it’s just Frank, guns, and scum that don’t deserve to be alive. Just as it should be.
The story of the Punisher’s return to New York City and his subsequent crusade against the notorious Gnucci crime family is told from Frank’s perspective, which allows the reader to really get into our hero’s mind as he resumes his quest to rid New York of the criminal filth that call the Big Apple home. Garth Ennis is an extremely talented writer, and the narrative inside Frank’s head as well as the dialogue flow seamlessly. Unlike many comics, this book isn’t packed with “comic book dialogue”; the stuff that works in a comic book but if you ever heard anybody say it you’d be looking at them like they were crazy. Instead Ennis’ dialogue sounds realistic, adding a level of respectability to the story that takes the tale told and elevates it to a greater plateau.
In addition to the storyline with the Punisher pitted against the Gnucci family there are also two related sub-plots. In one of them, the hapless Detective Martin Soap teams up with the NYPD’s biggest embarassment, Lieutenent Molly Von Ritchthoffen in an attempt to bring down both Ma Gnucci and the Punisher. The other sub-plot involves three vigilantes attempting to bring justice to New York in their own way. The Holy kills sinners in the confessional, Mr. Payback goes after the corporate pigs, and Elite murders those “lowering the tone” in his neighbourhood. The interplay between the three storylines is exquisite, with each affecting the other two.
Of course, great dialogue and narrative doesn’t matter squat if the art isn’t appealing. Of course, whether or not the art is appealing is really a matter of personal preference, but I will say this: Steve Dillon’s storytelling demands respect, whether you like his pencil-work or not. Frank Castle looks the part of the grizzled warrior whose sole duty is to purge the evil from the world with hot lead and cold steel, and his nemesis in this story arc, the vile Ma Gnucci, has an evil look to match her evil mind. I can’t forget Jimmy Palmiotti, though, for his inks add greatly to Dillon’s already stellar pencils, making the book come together with a darkly attractive visual style that serves to enhance the story being told.
I would be remiss not to mention that the Punisher’s creativity in dealing death is really enough on it’s own to give this book a read. I won’t spoil any of it, but I will say that the trip to the zoo is a great example, and that chapter eleven contains what is arguably the most unique bit of improvisational combat ever seen in a comic book. Or any other medium, for that matter.
I really only have one complaint with “Welcome Back, Frank”: it ends. I got so into this book while I was reading it that I was actually disappointed to know that it was over when I finished it. This was remedied with reading it over again, then picking up “Business As Usual”, which features the next six issues of the Punisher.
Whether you’re a die-hard Punisher fan from way back when or a virgin to Frank Castle’s particular brand of vigilante justice, you owe it to yourself to give “Welcome Back, Frank” a read. You won’t regret it.
Also available in the new Punisher series:
The Punisher Volume 2: Army of One
The Punisher Volume 3: Business As Usual
The Punisher Volume 4: Full Auto