In Punisher #19, part of Marvel’s “Last Days” arc, Frank Castle visits a terror cell in Tikrit and does his best impression of Marv from The Hard Goodbye. Not that this is a problem. I’ve always thought Marv and Frank would get along.
I’m new to “Last Days,” “Secret Wars,” and actually recently back into reading comics. This makes Punisher #19 a good entry-point for me, or any reader in my position. The issue references earlier arcs— apparently one where Frank Castle fought a modern incarnation of the Howling Commandoes— but it’s sufficiently self-contained. Frank, fresh off apparently slaughtering some super-villains, is recruited by the Howling Commandoes to get revenge for an ISIS-style beheading in Iraq.
There’s no deeper engagement with the themes of terror or middle-eastern politics, but Frank Castle’s character has never put thought before action. The story’s thus true to character, if not a little less consciously political than, say, Garth Ennis’ Punisher stories. What it lacks in rhetoric or social engagement, however, it makes up for in grisly enjoyment and foreshadowing. Though Edmondson has said the “Last Days” arc won’t alter his plans on this title in any essential fashion, Frank’s monologue telegraphs that something will happen next issue. Edmondson’s said there’s a “clock ticking” on some major change, and that it may not have to do with Marvel’s current reshaping. Frank’s dialogue presupposes the same. As he’s about to be dropped into Tikrit, another commando asks if he’s ready. “If I wait any longer, I’ll be dead,” Frank replies.
This issue’s fun as both adventure and suspense story. It even has some slasher-film inevitability to it, with Frank’s infiltration strategy providing the same pleasure one takes in the creativity of a killer’s murders. There’s a scene that seems like an indirect nod to one of Marv’s interrogation tactics in Sin City, and the story overall has the same kill-your-way-to-the-top structure as Hard Goodbye. There’s also some of the same wit Ennis showed in his stories, like a clever use of layout that makes a visual gag out of Frank drop-kicking a grenade.
Worth the money? Yes if you’re a fan, or you just need to see people get blowed up this week. Otherwise, not a lot to see here.