This volume collects the final pieces of sequential art that Steve Dillon did in his legendary career. I say “final pieces” and not “full issue” because Dillon was only able to complete a few pages in the beginning, middle, and end of the first issue of this collection. The rest are filled out by the artist who does the lion’s share of the work in this volume, Matt Horak. Completing an issue of comics started by Dillon isn’t a task I think any artist would envy, but to my surprise Horak actually does a capable job. His style’s fairly comparable to Dillon’s with its emphasis on clean linework and expressive figures. Horak also places a greater emphasis on detail in his characters and backgrounds, which is always nice to see. There’s also an issue here from Laura Braga which isn’t her best work, but understandably so when you realize that she had to pull it together on short notice after Dillon’s passing. That said, Horak’s work is the most pleasant surprise in this volume and I look forward to seeing what else he has to offer in future comics work.
Now, Horak is sticking around on “The Punisher” for the time being, but I don’t think I’ll be following this title any further. In spite of the solid art this series is likely to have, it doesn’t look like the stories will be getting any more interesting if this volume is any indication. Writer Becky Cloonan is a very talented artist and has written solid stuff elsewhere, but the story in the first volume was incredibly generic and it doesn’t get any better here. I’ll admit that it’s always at least a little fun to see Frank Castle deal out violent death to those who deserve it, and Face’s drug-fueled escalation of craziness is a decent origin for a “Punisher” villain. Still, the story is ultimately about Frank taking down some mercenaries with a drug that is supposed to turn them into super-soldiers. What it really does is turn them into cannon fodder. Frank’s final showdown with their leader Olaf is only interesting because of its iceberg, as opposed to seeing the enmity the two are supposed to possess towards each other be resolved through violence.
If you’ve never read a “Punisher” story in the last decade then I can see how this exercise in rehashing the character’s tropes could be entertaining. Cloonan has done better than this and unless you’re as big a fan of Dillon as I am, you’d be better off checking out her anthology “By Chance or Providence” from Image (even though it has nothing to do with “The Punisher” at all).