Mild Spoilers Ahead
In the heart of Pronchenko’s club, the Punisher meets Valery Stepanovich. He is the one who’s been hitting Pronchenko’s operation here and in Russia. Valery convinces Frank to not immediately shoot him and the two go to the roof of the building to avoid the police. However, more of Pronchenko’s men show up and the Punisher must decide if he’s willing to trust Valery enough to fight alongside him. Soon after, we learn the story of Valery Stepanovich and his own history as a Soviet soldier in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Punisher: Soviet #2 finds Frank forced to ally himself with a man much like himself. Valery Stepanovich is a broken veteran who’s decided to make good on his losses by killing the men who wronged him. Also like Frank (who is a Vietnam vet in the MAX continuity), Valery is a veteran of the Cold War. He was conscripted to fight for his country by dropping into another state’s civil war.
Valery is a surprisingly charming character too. For all of Frank’s brooding and constant quiet rage, Valery is personable and chatty. Regardless, Valery is also a sad man who’s lost something, and that shows through as well.
I also suspected that Frank didn’t drink, but knowing that he doesn’t makes the Punisher just a little more terrifying. He truly is a man without vices (beyond the constant murder).
We get a lot of backstory from Valery in this issue, and it promises to continue in the next installment of Soviet. It brings the main story to a halt, but it’s still interesting. Plus, Valery makes for a compelling narrator.
Jacen Burrows continues to bring a straightforward style that seems almost as utilitarian as Frank Castle himself. His characters are depicted plainly and the action scenes are coherent and gory. It looks fantastic and, of course, suits the Punisher well. Guillermo Ortego’s inking bolsters the style well, and Nolan Woodard keeps things lively with brilliant background colors.
Punisher: Soviet #2 does the unthinkable and gives Frank Castle a partner like himself. We meet Valery Stepanovich and learn much of his life, and it’s just as fiery and full of blood as Frank’s. This issue makes for another gripping read with fantastic visuals and it earns a recommendation. Check it out.
Punisher: Soviet #2 comes to us from writer Garth Ennis, artist Jacen Burrows, inker Guillermo Ortego, color artist Nolan Woodard, letterer Rob Steen, cover artist Paolo Rivera, and variant cover artist Marcos Martin.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Mild Spoilers Ahead