Comics / Spotlight

The Punisher

By Dan Horn
February 19, 2010 - 23:12

Punisher #14 (Released by Marvel Feb. 17, 2010)
I usually try to reserve my judgment of a series until I’ve read it, but when Garth Ennis, the Irish writer who basically rebuilt the Punisher franchise from the ground up, relinquished his place as Frank Castle scribe supreme, it was hard not to remorsefully sigh at the prospect of a less adult Punisher title filling the void. It seemed like, after Ennis bailed on the Punisher: Max series, the last thing Punisher fans wanted to see was a return to their favorite ultraviolent antihero battling super-villains as if he was a gun-toting Spider-Man. We’d seen plenty of that in the past. But, then Rick Remender quieted all of my qualms about the new Punisher monthly.

From the very start, Remender was writing the most interesting tie-in to Marvel’s “Dark Reign” cross-over epic, pitting Frank Castle against Norman Osborn and his super-powered cronies. With a great flare for the dramatic, as well as a keen sense of humor, this Punisher was immediately engaging and just as fun as any other series starring the white skull-clad vigilante. The first few issues read like the script for a white-knuckled, prime-time television series, but it seemed like Rick Remender and company were treading very familiar territory. They had to be running out of ideas soon, right?

It wasn’t until several issues into this new series that things really started to heat up. Remender was slowly unveiling a Frank Castle we had never seen before. Sure, he was stoic and cold and heartless. We’ve known that for quite some time. But, just how heartless was he? Frank Castle was being redefined not as a hero, but as a man. I’m sure plenty of jaws dropped when readers learned that Castle was depraved enough to kill his own resurrected family in order to have a reason to keep punishing the guilty—a deed that had even his sinister nemesis the Hood taken aback.

There was one question gnawing at the back of my mind: How can Remender top this? The answer was in the Dark Reign: The List one-shot, starring the Punisher, and the succeeding “Frankencastle” story arc. Remender’s vivid imagination and Tony Moore’s vibrant pop-art highlight a strange story in which Castle becomes a patchwork zombie, reluctantly finding his place amongst a secret society of monsters that are being hunted by Robert Hellsgaard. It’s full of great cameos from nearly-forgotten fan-favorites, and it oozes originality.

If you’ve snubbed your nose at this series like I almost did, take another look. Give Rick Remender’s Punisher a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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