As Jason Aaron, Jesus Saiz, and Paul Azaceta create a bold, new status quo for Frank Castle with their acclaimed Punisher maxi-series, the one-shot special Punisher War Journal: Blitz #1 expands on Castle’s new direction in the Marvel Universe. Helmed by Torunn Gronbekk and Lan Medina, the one-shot explores another untold tale from the Punisher’s past as he hunts the supervillain supremacist Hate-Monger in the present. And for those looking to see the Punisher do what he does best, Blitz is an entertaining read that brings the bloody thrills and further showcases Castle’s working relationship with the Hand.
War Journal: Blitz introduces one of the Punisher’s longtime targets, a twisted arms dealer that has profiteered from war crimes around the world. Now with the full might of the Hand under his control, the Punisher is able to track his quarry down only to discover that the elusive figure has since become the latest villain to take on the moniker of Hate-Monger. The two men are in for an explosive showdown that is sure to leave plenty of bodies in their wake as they collide one last time.
Gronbekk’s approach to the Punisher portrays Castle as a more surly figure, annoyed by constantly being outmaneuvered by this new Hate-Monger. He splits the issue’s story between two narratives to flesh out the characters’ shared history. Gronbekk’s best work in the issue is when the Punisher is going it alone rather than being a wartime general as the latest Fist of the Hand, highlighting Castle’s strengths as a quiet and lethal lone wolf. This take on the Punisher relies a bit too heavily on internal monologues in contrast to Aaron’s more taciturn approach. But Gronbekk certainly has a strong handle on the character, especially whenever Castle gets down into the blood and guts that define him.
Medina, working with color artist Antonio Fabela, captures the bleaker side of the Marvel Universe, with Fabela employing a more muted color palette occasionally punctuated by bursts of gruesome violence. The action runs heavy in this book, and the art team doesn’t hold back on the graphic violence as the Punisher leads the Hand into a take-no-prisoners battle. From claustrophobic gunfights to a showdown in the snow, Medina brings plenty of variety to the story as the Punisher finally closes in on his target.
Punisher War Journal: Blitz doesn’t necessarily add anything particularly vital to Aaron’s continuing story. But, in its defense, that does not appear to be its goal. This series of one-shots showcases the Punisher’s battles against a rotating cast of supervillains as Castle leads his army of ninjas to take on the Marvel Universe’s darkest threats. There is a brutal efficiency to the thrill ride that Gronbekk and Medina have crafted here, and for readers looking for a no-frills Punisher adventure, this issue does not disappoint.
Punisher fans are going to find a lot to like about War Journal: Blitz, a straightforward story that wisely puts Frank Castle in the center of the action for most of the tale. While certainly not required reading to better understand Aaron’s main series, Gronbekk and Medina have delivered an entertaining tale of fire and blood — in other words, a perfectly satisfying standalone story for the Punisher. And with the next one-shot, Punisher War Journal: Brother, coming this October, Punisher fans have plenty of thrilling adventures to look forward to.