The Punisher is a character that is timeless largely because he’s so simplistic: He’s a man who kills anyone who does wrong due to the fact that similar people got away with killing his family. Over the years his focus has changed, like in the recent collection focusing on his takedown of drug cartels, but his ruthlessness has never wavered. Matthew Rosenberg infused the character with some ingenuity and clever ultra-violence thanks to his acquiring the War Machine suit. The suit is gone in the new trade paperback released this week, but Rosenberg is still here delivering that violent and no-nonsense Punisher.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
You can take the Punisher out of the War Machine… Frank Castle may no longer have the Stark-designed armor, but he has retained his taste for “big game” criminals — and he’s hungry for more. But the paths to such high-value targets are fraught with dangers greater than any Frank has faced before, and this lone wolf could use powerful help on his way across the world stage. But a delicate situation gets complicated when Daredevil enters the fray — and he wants to put the Punisher down even more than Frank’s newest foes! Where can the Punisher go from here? The chips are down and he’s boxed in — but that only makes him more dangerous! Nobody puts Frankie in a corner! Be there for the story that fans will be talking about for years to come!
Why does this matter?
It’s safe to say the Punisher was dragged through the mud when it comes to Secret Empire. He joined Hydra and, similar to Deadpool, he did it because he followed Captain America. He was duped though and if there’s one person you don’t want to trick it’s Punisher. This is part of his redemption story and it comes with a capital ‘R’ on Revenge.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This collection opens with Hydra basically doing whatever they want and being about as powerful as they were prior to the Secret Empire event. Rosenberg establishes their confidence very well so that when Frank Castle disassembles their operations it feels warranted and good, heads being lopped off and stabbed be damned. Like any good violent action story, Rosenberg and Szymon Kudranski validate Frank’s actions in the story and even put into question other heroes trying to stop Frank in the process. For a character like this to work, he needs to have us on his side even if he’s cutting hands off.
Punisher is also a bit different here as he’s more of a Jason Voorhees than a superhero. He’s always coming, he’s always confident, and he’s about as stiff as a brick wall. When he does talk you can tell he’s filled with so much rage he can barely articulate himself. He’s on a mission and who knows when he’ll back down. He does in fact back down twice in this book, but only because innocent cops could get hurt, or because of superheroes doing all their best to pin him down. It’s fun to see the approach here as it’s not getting too deep into his mindset and instead capturing the ferocious intensity of the character.
The art is great, as per usual of Kudranski. The violence is intense at times and it’s cool to see how he layers characters into environments. There’s a hyperrealistic look to his work thanks to interesting blur effects in backgrounds and well-rendered clothes and vehicles. This is without a doubt a dark book, with much of it taking place in the shadows, but Antonio Fabela’s colors help make key elements pop. Take for instance Baron Zemo (whose mask is creepy as hell) who pops well with his purple mask. Or, early in the collection, an electric weapon is used with lots of blue to feature a high-tech violent act by Frank. The book looks modern and edgy.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
This book doesn’t get into the mental state of Frank much which, like a horror film, makes him simplistic. The book also takes place over two or so nights making it a banger of an action book, but also repetitive in some sense. It’s like it captures one attack after the other after the other but doesn’t gain much ground. There’s a good montage late in the game that reveals all the work Frank goes through to get some attention, but aside from that, it doesn’t do a lot differently as it carries on. Still, it’s an entertaining actionfest.
Is it good?
I missed this collection as it came out, but I’m actually glad I read it in one sitting since its episodic single issues amount to one long mission of Frank’s. This book is violent and told like a great horror story. It’s modern superheroes with an edgy twist.