This week in The Marvel Rundown, we’re taking a look at a shiny pair of new #1s. First, we examine The Punisher, a series about Marvel’s resident badass on call whose reputation was recently bolstered by a recent appearance on the Netflix show Marvel’s Daredevil. Writer Becky Cloonan (Gotham Academy) is joined by Punisher veteran Steve Dillon (Punisher: War Journal) on art. Together they craft a take on the classic character unlike anything we’ve seen before.
After that, we take a look at Thunderbolts, a new ongoing about the 90s team of villains-turned-heroes. In a stroke of genius, Marvel editorial placed writer Jim Zub (Wayward) on script duty, but they controversially stuck him with artist Jon Malin (New Warriors). There’s nothing inherently wrong with Malin’s art, but he is strongly influenced by the work of mega-popular artist Rob Liefeld (Deadpool), whose wonky anatomy and ridiculous costume designs often prove polarizing among readers. That said, perhaps Zub, Malin, and new Thunderbolts team leader Bucky Barnes can overcome this polarization together. Find out after the jump!
The Punisher #1
Writer: Becky Cloonan Artist: Steve Dillon
Colors: Frank Martin Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Fans of The Punisher are pretty well aware of Castle’s current frame of mind after sitting through the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil, a Netflix show that dove deep into the psychoses of the character. This version of the character proved to be hugely popular among fans. Thus, it is little surprise that Becky Cloonan and Steve Dillon have decided to follow in the footsteps of the TV series’ take on the character. The result is a Punisher story that plays it safe and wears its influences on its sleeve.
The writing of the first issue takes pretty clear influence from Warren Ellis‘s and Declan Shalvey‘s take on Moon Knight, casting Frank Castle as a haunted and enigmatic figure. We saw Greg Rucka (Wonder Woman) and Marco Checchetto‘s (Obi-Wan & Anakin) craft a similar take on the antihero in 2011. Marvel’s own Black Widow, currently created by Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and Chris Samnee (Daredevil), also contains some of the storytelling ideas used in the series. On top of all that, there are also storytelling elements that echo Steve Dillon’s past works on The Punisher.
Dillon is a very talented artist, but he makes some mistakes in The Punisher #1 that hurt the quality of the issue. Most egregiously, one of the comic’s main antagonists is drawn similarly to Frank throughout this book, making it difficult to tell the difference between them at a glance. While Dillon’s work in this issue is engaging, it feels slightly derivative– there’s nothing in this issue that challenges him to break out of his artistic shell the way that he has throughout his run on the All-New All-Different Scarlet Witch.
There is nothing inherently with Cloonan’s narrative in The Punisher #1, but I worry that this comic has nothing new to say about Frank Castle or The Punisher. It feels like the book is drowning in its influences. That said, there are a few aspects about this comic that peak my interest. Cloonan and Dillon seed several new elements into the plot that may blossom into original and unique stories as the series progresses. Most importantly, both Cloonan and Dillon are top notch talents, and it is possible that their creative relationship may develop in a way that elevates The Punisher from a mediocre story to a true classic.
Verdict: Borrow this issue.
Writer: Jim Zub Artist: Jon Malin
Colors: Matt Yackey Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
I wish I had nice things to say about Thunderbolts #1. However, the writing and art both have an egregious, hyperactive tendency that can only make me think: “man, it feels like all these characters have been trapped inside a bunker for way too long.” The premise itself is really interesting. Watching the Winter Soldier take on S.H.I.E.L.D. is an awesome new idea for the character. Unfortunately, this issue’s domestic setting is unbelievable.
This issue opens with an action scene that features some more restrained pencils from Rob Liefeld disciple Jon Malin. The restraint here pays off, as it results in some dynamic shapes and figure work. Unfortunately, it all falls apart as the Thunderbolts head back to their base. Malin’s depiction of actual people in this story represents everything I dislike about this style of art: faces are contorted, Kobik’s entire design is altered and shifted in an unpleasant manner, and the female shape is generally handled poorly.
However, all my other complaints falter in the presence of my biggest one: there is no consistency in the way that Malin renders figures. When the heroes are in civilian clothes, they resemble tiny buff sticks that clearly could not fit into their costumes. It’s like he was referencing a bodybuilding magazine and a Uniqlo catalogue.
The plot in this issue moves far too fast and the individual characters don’t get enough story beats to establish where their personal journeys are beginning. On some level, I’m curious to know if Zub is crafting the narrative like this with intent, as the story reads as 90s as Malin’s art looks.
Verdict: This is really, really bad.
I apologize for the recent negativity on this column, which reached new lows this week. That said, I urge you to come back next week for a look at Black Panther #2, as I definitely will not be complaining about the art in that book!
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics