Quick Review: Punisher NOIR

Quick Review: Punisher NOIR

Part of the second wave of Marvel Noir comic books, Frank Tieri’s Punisher Noir is a mad mixture of several motifs and styles that collide into a melange fit for late night consumption. The concept of Marvel Noir is quite interesting if a bit gimmicky. Taking characters and setting them in a completely alien world, that of the roaring 1930’s replete with mobsters, jazz and heroin trafficking could be a more exciting twist than zombies or monkeys put together. I read all four parts in one sitting which I highly recommend. The series feels like a short film seen late at night on a n obscure cable station. The loss of regular artist Paul Azaceta in issue 4 hurts the flow of the narrative because the comic is so very heavy on mood and tone fed directly by the artwork itself. That’s no slight on Tieri who delivers a strong re-envisioning of the skull-bedecked anti-hero even when it feels like a forced reboot.

The trick to these kind of projects is in telling a compelling story and using what works in the initial concept without making it seem like a pitch for a new ongoing Punisher book. Set in prohibition-era Chicago, the comic follows the life of a quiet shop-owner and WWI vet Frank Castelione. After surviving the Great War, Frank comes home to an ailing wife who eventually succumbs to cancer, leaving him the sole guardian of Frank Jr. Junior’s head is full of fantasy, fueled by a pulp radio drama reminiscent of the Shadow called The Punisher. Attracted to the local gangs, Junior seems destined for a life of crime, despite the best of intentions of his father. Frank junior’s love of fantasy and violence isn’t helped by Frank senior’s colorful tales from the war and his enormous skull tattoo emblazoned his chest to ward off the angel of death.

Castelione refuses to pay homage to Dutch Shultz’s mob and finally pays the price, leaving Frank Junior an orphan. Trying to do good by his father’s intentions and living the fantasy of his radio hero, junior takes a mask and his dad’s customized handguns to the street as the Punisher in a war against the mob in his father’s memory.

The comic is very entertaining and features a lot of interesting twists and historical references that are fun. It also has a kind of hyper-violent edge reminiscent of the Garth Ennis series that fans of the character should enjoy. The aforementioned change in art for the last issue is very distracting, but the story and character are strong enough to keep this series highly recommended.

Note: Today, the first issue of Iron Man Noir hits the stands, starting what may be a third wave of the Marvel Noir line.

Punisher Noir Premiere HC

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