By Eric Drumm
Back in the spotlight after fading out of the main Marvel Universe for a bit, Frank Castle is back in big way. Bringing the trigger-happy titan back to life, writer Matt Fraction and artist Ariel Olivetti made Frank into a hulking heap of awesome. Unfortunately, Olivetti's swan song is issue #12, but Cory Walker (INIVINCIBLE, IRREDEEMABLE IRON MAN) slips on his skull t-shirt beginning with November's #13.
The reinvigorated PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL has been a hot book since its resurrection last year. Showing no signs of slowing down, switching pencilers at the height of its momentum may seem like a risky tactic, but writer Matt Fraction is cool, confident and collected about Walker's art.
"I'm completely in love with it," he gushes. "He's the perfect tonal mix for what we're trying to do with the book—he handles the bone-crunching action scenes with a lightness of touch that lets him effortlessly maneuver between the viciousness and absurdity of it all. And not only does he do the best hairstyle on Frank ever, but he does what might be the finest Rhino of all time. It's because of Cory's incredible Rhino skills (with which he pays his incredible Rhino bills) that the Great Gray One has earned a bigger role in the storyline—seriously, I had to go back and rejigger my plans, just because I wanted to see more of Cory's take on Rhino."
Drawing a badass Rhino aside, Cory Walker gives credit where credit is due. Ariel Olivetti set fan expectations high with his super-stylized art. Luckily for us, Walker doesn't let the thought of leaving Olivetti's combat boots unfulfilled get him down.
"In a way, I take comfort in the fact that I know I haven't got the slightest chance of filling them," confesses the artist, whose previous work includes rocking the Casbah on INVINCIBLE and two issues of IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN. "With the help of the amazing Dave Stewart, though, I think we'll come up with something that fans of the book will enjoy nonetheless."
So far in PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL, Frank has taken on S.H.I.E.L.D., the ever-so-deadly Stilt-Man and the Hate-Monger. With the Kingpin in prison and Jigsaw locked up on the Raft, it looks like Frank is going to have to start outsourcing villains from his super-peers. Just who's name does Frank have written on a bullet this time?
"Two words: Kraven's back," reveals Fraction as half the Marvel office faints from the shock. Wait, didn't Kraven give himself a 12-gauge facelift a while back?
"Okay, several more words: The old Kravinoff family madness has finally taken root in darling son of the hunter, Alyosha," Fraction explains. "He's gone off the deep end, juiced on his dad's insane-o potions and his own super-tweaked mutant powers and he's decided to grab the family mantle with both hands and squeeze. Reborn with a look both familiar and new—more of the genius that is Cornelius 'Cory' Q. Walker III—Kraven the Hunter is back, stalking the urban jungle for his prey. The name of the arc is 'Hunter Hunted.' Any more than that might ruin the fun."
"Issues #13-#15 are all about the return of KRAVEN, baby!" chimes in editor Aubrey Sitterson. "The Hunter is trying to build up a super-human menagerie, made up of all sorts of animal-themed villains. But, when both he and Frank Castle have their sights on the same prey—the Rhino—expect lots of Punishing AND Kravening."
Kravening? An off-handed guess is that whatever Kravening is, Frank won't like it. And he sure doesn't like Rhino, having already put the big guy in traction in issue #3. But the Big Gray Ugly is striking a cord with Walker.
"I don't know what it is about him, but he just works for me," Walker regales. "Drawing Frank is great, as well. I'll be drawing the Punisher with a big sci-fi gun, and I can't believe that this is my job. I get to draw the Punisher. It's awesome."
"There are some great scenes with Frank and the Rhino, and of course, the return of Kraven is going butter your bread something fierce."
Signed on for only one arc, Walker has a lot to pack into PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL. His tenure may be short, but like anything else in comics, nothing is set in stone. Cory Walker may be sticking around after his initial arc is up, however that may all be up to you, dear reader.
"As of now, Mr. Walker is on for three issues, but if things go well…who knows?" quizzes Sitterson. "Basically, if you like what you see, you need to vote with your wallet: Buy 4 copies."
The Punisher, Kraven the Hunter and the Rhino. That sounds like a muscle flexin', pelt wearin', hand cannon shootin' good time. Cory Walker's arc of PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL kicks off in November's issue #13. We suggest you be there.