I have such a huge pile of Marvel comics sitting around my place since I've begun to devote myself to reading and learning about the DC universe. I mean, literally 3-4 months of Marvels. For me that amounts to something like 70-100 comics or so. So, basically, I figured I'd grab a random bunch of Marvels and give em a quick read. The first one's I pulled were Punisher War Journal, which is one of the few Marvel comics I can say I whole heartedly enjoy. First off let me start by saying Matt Fraction seems to have a great feel for the characters in this comic and that fact was very evident in these three comics. The artwork, I wasn't so high on. But the writing was top notch.
We start in the middle of a story line revolving around Jigsaw, who has finally had enough of his obsession with the Punisher(Frank Castle) and has decided to discredit and kill him. To discredit him he created his own "Punisher" some wanna be cop who he brainwashed into thinking he was the Punisher. He then sent his Punisher out to kill people who were not criminals, which leads SHIELD to assign GW Bridge(of Cable/X-Force fame)the task of taking in the Punisher.
Jigsaw hires the assassin group the Hand to kill Punisher, but they prove to be unsuccessful thanks to the timely interference from Bridge and his operatives(who include Domino and Silver Sable). Unfortunately, Punisher was pretty badly damaged by the Hand, and barely escapes into the subway while SHIELD wraps up the Hand members above ground. In the subway, Punisher runs into Jigsaw's pseudo-Punisher, and with all the wounds he has already suffered, isn't much of a match for the pseudo-Punisher. Before the Faux Punisher gets the chance to kill Castle, Bridge and a battalion of SHIELD agents arrive on the scene to arrest both Punishers.
When Castle is well enough to be moved from a hospital to a maximum security prison, Bridge and his operatives begin to transport the Punisher across the Brooklyn bridge, where they are ambushed by Jigsaw who hired Thor's old enemies the Wrecking Crew to finish off the Punisher. The Crew cut through the SHIELD agents, but before they can take out the Punisher are stopped by Spider-man's old foe, the Rhino, who was called in by the Punisher's ally/weapon maker, Stuart Clarke. Rhino buys the Punisher enough time to get his hands on the Wrecker's enchanted crowbar(yes, I said enchanted crowbar)which allows him to beat the tar out of the Wrecking Crew, before confronting Jigsaw, who is the one foe the Punisher has consistently allowed to live. Before delivering the killing blow to Jigsaw, Castle surrenders to Bridge, deciding he needs some time to sort through his mind and reevaluate why he feels compelled to punish the guilty.
The Good-Matt Fraction did a great job of showing the reader what was driving the three main players in this story(Punisher, Jigsaw, and Bridge). Castle was lost in his role of the Punisher. He had become a "human gun" as Bridge put it, just pointing himself in the direction of those he felt needed to be punished and proceeding to punish them. Castle himself realized this was true at the end of the story when he couldn't even remember the way his wife's face looked(originally Castle began his crusade to punish the guilty after his family was gunned down in a mafia shoot out). Castle realized that he had become The Punisher completly, and that Frank Castle and his original crusade had become lost in the Punisher's bloodlust. Castle decided that some jail time might be able to help him separate Frank Castle the man from the Punisher the killer. Jigsaw on the other hand, felt that as long as the Punisher was alive he would continue to obsess over him, and would never become the crime lord he wanted to become. Jigsaw's ranting in issue 23 was hilarious, as he was imploring the Wrecking Crew to kill the Punisher, while also screaming that he loved the Punisher and didn't want him to die. It was very clear that Jigsaw's psyche was as mangled as his face, as he continuously shouted how he needed the Punisher and loved him, but also wanted to see him dead. GW Bridge on the other hand came out of retirement just to capture the Punisher after he had failed to do so in earlier issues. Bridge's whole life revolved around his pursuit of the Punisher as he felt he had to erase his earlier failure.
The Bad- I really wasn't too fond of the artwork, at times it actually took away from the story. Other then that, I really didn't have very many complaints. The story seemed well thought out, and ended in a manner that made sense. That's really all I can ask for when I open up a comic. A good story with a fulfilling conclusion.
Overall- If you are a fan of the Punisher, then this story is a definite read. Even if you really don't care for the Punisher, it might be worth picking up just to hear GW Bridge really get into Frank Castle's head and cause him to question why he is the Punisher. This story line had all the violence you'd expect from a Punisher book, but also had some intriguing looks into the minds of the characters as well. I'd definitely recommend it.