The Pale Skull
I have been a Punisher fan for most of my life and Greg Rucka's run on the Punisher has been one of the best I've ever read. It's due to this that I'm a little upset that he won't be writing any more Punisher issues after this series, let alone Punisher not having his own series any more. I've also really enjoyed Marco Checchetto's art throughout the series and was also upset when hearing that he was unable to do the art on this series, but Carmine Di Giandomenico has been a decent substitute.
This issue sees Black Widow in search of the Punisher following the Avengers decision to finally deal with the Punisher. Her search included disguising herself in an attempt to retrieve information from Rachel Alves, and travelling round half the world in search of the Punisher.
This was a brilliant issue and I'm enjoying this series very much. Although I've dreamed of the Punisher vs. the Avengers for a long time I question whether it's worth losing the great series that Rucka was working on. The answer to that is no but it's a great consolation prize. What Rucka has been doing over this mini series has also been amazing and I love how both issues that have been out so far have been very reader friendly, being perfect stand alone issues whilst fitting into the bigger picture. The only thing that has slipped this issue from the 5 stars it has received through most of my ratings is due to the lack of Punisher, he's not in this issue as much as I'd hoped and at one point it looked like it was turning into a Black Widow comic.
The art in this issue was phenomenal and although I said I'd prefer Checchetto was doing the art Di Giandomenico did an amazing job. I am however happy that Checchetto managed to do the covers, but looking at how brilliantly he draws the Avengers as well as his already brilliant Punisher makes me wish more that some how he was able to do the art. Di Giandomenico's art however is very good and I love how he draws most of the characters and adds drama and suspense to the series. There are still minor things that bug me about his art, like the way he draws some faces but overall it's brilliant and much better than the work he produced whilst on Journey Into Mystery.
Alves' appearance at the start of the issue was a nice addition as she was one of the things I liked about the previous Punisher series, and felt that she was one of the best ally Punisher has had. I also liked how she continues to correct people saying that it's Rachel Alves not Cole as she took her husbands name. It's also nice to see that she won't give the Punisher up and when Widow revealed to Wolverine that she knew she wouldn't it made me question why she went to all the trouble. It was also interesting seeing Widow in disguise at the start of this issue as she's not done anything spy like for a long time now.
Black Widow's search in this issue was an interesting addition and it showed how easily Punisher could make himself disappear. I did however feel that this dragged on a bit and would have preferred to have seen a bit more of Punisher and Widow fighting than we did. It was also interesting to see the length's the Avengers would go to capture the Punisher now that they've decided to do so, as with anyone like the Punisher who isn't a threat to the world would usually get forgotten about after leaving the country. I also liked how during this search apart from all the different countries Widow goes to, that Widow was still able to keep very calm and patient travelling to multiple sighting's to find he's disappeared, but still moving on to the next.
When Punisher and Black Widow finally met it was interesting and the fight that broke out was stunning. The fight alone made this issue worth buying and I enjoyed seeing these two highly trained characters square of against each other. The way they countered each other was also brilliant and the way it was drawn showing them in almost mirror images between attacks was very nice. I also liked how neither one backed down and how Punisher as usual knows how to pick his fights and when to use underhanded tactics.
This was an amazing issue and this series is looking to be one of the best Punisher mini series I've ever read. This issue would have gotten a perfect 5/5 if it wasn't for the fact that Punisher wasn't in the issue long enough, which was a shame. Otherwise this is a great issue and due to Rucka making them stand alone issues which fit into the whole series it's easy to join the story at this issue if you can't find the previous, although I'd recommend trying to get a copy. I'd also recommend this issue and am looking forward to seeing Punisher square of against Thor next issue.