Punisher: Army of One
Collects: Punisher (2001) #1-7
Writers: Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Artist: Steve Dillon
By Doran Murphy
To the world, Frank Castle died the day the Punisher was born. The Punisher, who wages a one-man war on all sorts of crime, all around the world. If you're a criminal, and you're stopped by a Marvel character, it's a bad day. If you're stopped by the Punisher, it's your last day. The recent (and widely underrated) Punisher movie made me want to look more in-depth at the Punisher comic books. Like most comic heroes, the Punisher had a tragic background. After all, Frank Castle's entire family was murdered in front of him. Most heroes have something like that; that forces them to excel, and use their abilities (be they human or otherwise) to ensure that what happened to them never happens to anyone else.
The Punisher: Army of One is certainly no exception to the typical Punisher paradigms. The opening line is "So this is Christmas" and the Punisher has found a man attempting to hurt some young lady a mere ten steps out of his door. He has been given a gift — a mandate to kill this man. That is something worth celebrating to the man who was Frank Castle. Anyway, the story proceeds along with Castle running around New York, when he meets his old pal, the Russian. Only now, the Russian is a cyborg with huge boobs. With some innovative help from Spider-Man, the Punisher puts a stop to the Russian for the time being.
The appearance of the Russian, whom the Punisher had already killed, means someone in the government is involved. This all leads to a man named General Kreigkopf. Along the way in the first story, Kreigkopf plans extortion, nuclear war, and finally settles for just killing the Punisher. Along the way, the Punisher takes coldhearted to new levels, and raises the bar of badassness to new, almost untouchable levels.
In the second story, The Punisher's old friend Joe Perret (who saved the Frank back in Vietnam) has lost his mind and murdered his family. He goes on a killing spree, and the Punisher has a plan to put a stop to the killing before more lives are taken. Showing a somewhat more emotional side (well, for the Punisher, it's emotional, I guess) and driven almost entirely by inner monologue, it's a solid addition to The Punisher: Army of One.
Finally, there is another mini-story, except this is one told without words. In complete silence (written by artist Steve Dillon), the Punisher searches for a man (and due to the fact that there is no printed words happening here, we don't know why the Punisher wants him, but we do know what the Punisher wants to do with him), and goes from the level of street thugs up to the top dog to find his target. The results are somewhat frightening.
The artwork in The Punisher: Army of One is really good. As The Punisher is a comic for grownups, the style is distinctly more adult with images of brutal deaths depicted fairly regularly. I found that the style generally worked well with the stories that were being told, as well as the general attitude of the book, too. It's got some full page spreads (which I absolutely love) depicting fairly emotional scenes, which of course means the Punisher is showing no emotion.
Overall, this is the one of the first adult-oriented comics I've read, and I really, really liked it. The Punisher brings a stark new view to comics — although it is very reminiscent of Rorschach from Watchmen. As Watchmen didn't really focus on Rorschach, The Punisher takes that sort of mentality and gives it plenty of room to shine; and the results are quite enjoyable. I suggest you give this one a look, if superheroes that don't believe in second chances are your bag of tricks.