Punisher War Journal, Page One: We've known for years about the deaths of Frank Castle's wife and children, but now we see Castle himself mere hours later, when his grief and rage were at their freshest. To the police, he's a lead. To … see full wiki
While trying to rest off his drunken episode on a park bunch, a reporter by the name of McTeer wakes up to loud sounds he thinks to be firecrackers. He soon walks on to a grisly murder scene. Among the victims is US Marine Frank Castle and his family who apparently had been shot to death. It appears they had stumbled onto a mob hit. Frank survives the attack and is taken to the hospital. But is he really safe there? -summary
Frank Castle aka The Punisher, who made his debut in Marvel Comics back in 1974 was and still is among Marvel's greatest creations ever. He's my favorite anti-hero in comics, and yeah, I'll come straight out and say it's because he kills his enemies; dead, shot, murdered, stabbed. If the Punisher had been born in Gotham City, there's a damn good chance The Joker would have died a long time ago. This is a man who believes justice only comes from the barrel of a smoking gun.
Written in 1994 by the writing team of Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Punisher Year One is a four part origin story, that depicts the events hours after his family was gunned down. This story is a good example of simplicity. Outside of the theme that notes the imperfection in the justice system; this is just a straight up comic book about a man who gave into his emotions. For the most part, it doesn't feel like a superhero story, instead more like a thriller since Frank Castle doesn't actually suit up and become the Punisher until the end.
The writing is very well paced while it juggles the subplots and various characters; with the exception of how determined the villains are to shut Frank up, there are actually only three characters developed. The reader will get to understand the drive behind McTeer, and love him or hate him for being selfish with intentions on making a name off the tragedy, his way of thinking is actually quite human. Frank's development seems to merely be brushed upon, it may even feel rushed to some. Still for the most part, his hurt can be felt and this is what sets things in motion.
The plot flows rather quick, and the reader gets a full understanding on how the Punisher came to be, as Frank quickly loses faith in not only the justice system, but also the good people he thought he could trust. Towards the ending of the mini-series, the reader gets an inside look on how the combat ready Punisher takes the fight to the mobsters, in a carefully, strategically, planned assault. If I have any issues with the story, then it would be the appearances of characters such as Peter Parker and Miles Warren. The Punisher is classified as a superhero, but he's not really a part of their world, and I think the appearances of those two characters dampens the gritty feel of the narrative.
The artwork is pretty good with a nice character design for the heavily built Punisher. He's drawn like someone who spends a lot of time in the gym, which is a good thing when considering he doesn't have any special powers. Plus he looks very menacing when he gears himself up for battle. The action panels are entertaining with some good brutal moments, such as criminals being blasted through doors and put face first through glass. Unfortunately, it does have problems, but it mainly lies in the background colors. The coloring really didn't seem to match with the content as it gives off too much of a bright feel. I believe the artwork and the coloring should have been more on the atmospheric side, and trying to say something with the art. When compared to lets say The Dark Knight Returns or Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, the backgrounds really didn't speak to me.
Punisher Year One is a solid enough origin story, far away from being a masterpiece though. I'm happy the narrative wasn't overly dialog heavy, and attempted to get all psychological. However, the artwork should have been a lot stronger to add a bit more depth. In any case, recommended to fans of the character and it just might be fine for casual readers.
Pros: -Well paced, likeable main character
Cons: -Unnecessary appearances, some shallow artwork at times