If you’re going to create an annual, then it had better be something special. And this Halloween, thanks to the return of writer Gerry Conway – co-creator of the character – The Punisher Annual #1 really is.
Everyone knows of the track record of vigilante Frank Castle, better known as the Punisher, but for the man watching him there’s something personal going on. Mamdouh Kairouz is following Frank, playing a very long game of vengeance. Every time Frank lays waste to the criminal underworld, Mamdouh is there afterward to exploit the situation. Yet Mamdouh’s personal quest will teach him exactly what it takes to be the Punisher, and what Americans believe in…
If you think you know what to expect from this story, you don’t.
What appears to be a basic story at first glance is revealed to be an intelligent understanding of both Frank and the world he operates in, as told through the eyes of another. Frank himself is both a pivotal figure and also a peripheral one. This is Mamdouh’s tale, and it works all the better for that. The core themes are a reflection on why there’s only one Punisher, how easy it would be for anybody to cross the line which he did so many years ago, and why that’s a bad thing.
Another theme, and one equally important, is how modern society may tolerate “outsiders” but might not embrace them as a culture. It’s delicately handled and a masterstroke of writing, and it’s not hard to imagine that the comic book legend Conway may have drawn from some personal experience too in writing this.
Matching Conway step for step is Felix Ruiz, whose art conveys a level of seriousness required for this story. Frank may appear both nondescript and larger-than-life, but both are justified here. The more personal moments in this tale are delivered with a contrasting grace to the action, neither stealing the spotlight from the other and with both packing the right amount of punch required.
There’s little more which can be said about The Punisher Annual #1. It’s an exceptional piece of work and one which any Punisher fan can be proud to add to their collection. Buy it.