(p) Steve Dillon
If the Punisher wasn't in Thunderbolts, it would be damn near perfect. I don't follow Frank Castle's grisly exploits and even I know you don't put Punisher on a team. In early interviews, Daniel Way explained that he had a concocted a genuine reason for Castle to be part of the new Thunderbolts, and that his continued presence would make sense. Unfortunately, neither of these claims seem to be true. Thunderbolts #1 sits at the middle of the spectrum for 'Marvel NOW!', not quite as good as Uncanny Avengers and Thor: God of Thunder, but definitely not as trite and superflous as Deadpool.
General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross has been dead to the world for some time, though he's actually been operating as Red Hulk with the Avengers. It seems that not only has Ross forsaken his ties to Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but he's somewhat lost hope in the idea of law-abiding justice and is now actively seeking out deranged killers and mercenaries to be on his own personal execution squad. Way has stated that in a more perfect world, he would have titled the series Thunderbolts' with the purposeful grammar to convey that this is Ross' team through and through.
Thunderbolts #1 offers up a montage of recruitment with a blackmail situation between Ross and Castle as the connecting narrative. In some nameless warehouse, Ross has the Punisher chained with a litany of gangsters and mafia thugs lining up outside to get a chance at torturing and killing the man who slaughters men like them. Ross waxes poetic about the nature of the job offer, how it's different from the usual. It all feels a little forced, Castle being taken hostage by an old man, even if he can become a Hulk. While the idea of having Punisher be a more central character in the Marvel universe sounds intriguing...does it really? Every Punisher movie has been a major flop, and unlike many other Marvel characters, Frank Castle is pretty one-dimensional (pause for gasps of shock and awe). The man is vengeful and stubborn. There's not much more to him. Yes, there are ways to tell interesting Punisher stories, but it's not by placing him in the company of Venom, Deadpool, and Elektra.
As I mentioned earlier, if Punisher were out of the picture, Thunderbolts could be an amazing series. As it stands, there's obviously going to be a lot of focus on Frank Castle and frankly, that's not very interesting. Plus, this should really have been Thunderbolts #0 due to the origin story-like feel of the narrative. I'm excited to see the rest of these anti-heroes hanging out together, but if Punisher gets an inordinate amount of panel space, I'm out.