the punisher rucka cover

The Punisher by Greg Rucka – Comic Book Review and Summary

The Punisher (2012) by Greg Rucka, Marco Checchetto, and Max Fiumara

Spoiler Free Review

The Punisher (2011) is a stellar 16 issue run that provides deep insight into how Frank Castle keeps his motivation for revenge going every single day. It also introduces a new character to Marvel canon, Rachel Cole-Alves, who finds an unlikely mentor in the Punisher’s darkness.

She is the sole survivor of a mass shooting at her own wedding. This trauma will fuel her journey for the rest of her life. She takes the path of vengeance and resolves to take down every single person tied to the death of everyone she loved.

It’s easy to understand her motivation. She got married literally minutes before her husband and entire list of friends and family were killed in front of her. She sustained her own injuries but manages to recover enough to use her Marine training to set out finding the killers.

As fate brings her and Castle together they are able to reach the bad guys quicker and with more violence.

This run is a perfect example of how The Punisher is different from most other Marvel heroes. He is brutal and a straight up murderer. There is a reason the police want him off the streets more than say, Daredevil. But there is also a reason why the readers love him. He acts on our dark desires, the ones to see bad guys wiped off the earth instead of given a trial.

This Greg Rucka run is a must read for Punisher fans and is a perfect entry for those looking to get into his character.

punisher newspaper headline
punisher newspaper headline

The Punisher by Greg Rucka Summary

The Punisher (2011) opens with a crime scene at a wedding reception. Detective Clemons is on the case with his new partner Walter Bolt. The wedding party was gunned down and the only survivor is the bride.

Detective Bolt has a secret, he only got promoted because of an incident in which he was deemed a hero, but the hero in that situation was actually The Punisher, he just got to take the credit.

The detectives want to bring the perpetrators of the mass shooting to justice, The Punisher wants to kill them. The evil organization known as The Exchange are the ones responsible and they’re ready to fight back.

The Exchange is made up from defects from other bad guy orgs such as Hydra. They send the Vulture after Punisher but he manages to kill him midair and drop to the ground with bad but non-fatal injuries.

the vulture and punisher square off mid air
the vulture and punisher square off mid air

Norah, a reporter who desperately wants to cover this case is in the right place at the right time in order to rescue Punisher and help him flee capture.

The last big player in this series is the Bride, a former marine who is now out for revenge. So we have The Exchange being hunted from four different angles, none of which are interested in working together.

The Bride, Rachel Cole-Alves and Frank Castle come face to face as they’re both ready to murder some villains.

punisher and rachel cole-alves facing off
punisher and rachel cole-alves facing off

From here they will reluctantly team up in order to fight their mutual enemies. By the end of the book they’ll be best friends. Well, as best of friends that emotionally shut off Frank Castle can hope to have.

While they’re plotting, Detective Clemons reveals that the Punisher had previously gotten a case of his thrown out because he tampered with the crime scene. Clemons desperately wants Castle off the streets to keep this from happening over and over again.

In all of this mess there is a sub plot of trying to get the Omega Drive away from the Exchange. Daredevil manages to take custody of the drive and Punisher agrees to work with him to assure it’s destroyed and not used by the wrong people.

Good ol’ boy Matt Murdock tries to convince Rachel that she doesn’t want to go down this road. Revenge will eat her alive and there will be no turning back. She starts to feel somewhat guilty but ultimately decides to choose vengeance. She burns her wedding photos as an act of commitment to Frank Castle’s way of life.

In the weirdest part of the book Detective Bolt comes clean about his greatest accomplishment not actually being him after the Punisher helps them kill a bunch of zombies. I have to assume that this ties into another run because there was no mention of a zombie threat before and it doesn’t come up again afterwards. It was very jarring to have that nonsense interrupt the otherwise grounded story.

Rachel continues to go down the dark path, she kills the woman in charge of the Exchange and does not feel remorse. This builds to a massive shootout in which Rachel accidentally kills Detective Bolt. This, she does feel.

The press blames everything on The Punisher and The Bride but Rachel confesses everything to Norah in order to take the heat away from Castle. She feels such guilt that she sets herself up to commit suicide by cop.

Castle shows up to knock out the snipers ready to execute her. He saves her life and flees. The book ends with her crying out, asking the heavens why he made her live.

Bleak. The ending of Rucka’s run of The Punisher is not one of hope but one of reality. Rachel will have to learn to move on and cope. She has to continue to make the decision to either be a good person and find healthy ways to move forward or to abandon everything for a never-ending cycle of revenge.

Rucka nails it with this character study and finally gives Frank Castle a worthy foil. The Punisher continues to become a favorite of mine with these complex story lines and deep emotional turmoil. This 2011 run is a must read.

5/5 skulls 💀💀💀💀💀

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