There were a few endings in 2019 that may go unnoticed by some thanks to huge hits like Dawn of X or Grant Morrison’s Green Lantern, but when you look back and take it all in, Matthew Rosenberg did some fantastic stuff. From Uncanny X-Men to The Punisher, Rosenberg was able to tell complete stories that were satisfying in their own rights. Punisher, in particular, was impressive as he put Frank into an international tale we’ve never seen from him before. In his last arc, Rosenberg had Punisher go after Baron Zemo, take on a new Thunderbolts, and even reluctantly team up with a bunch of heroes. The third volume in his Punisher run is now out in comic stores and it’s a great story to be enjoyed even if you haven’t read what came before it.
This collection has a nice arc to it. It opens with Punisher hunting down Baron Zemo after burning down everything the villain had constructed up until this point. He wants revenge for being manipulated into working for Hydra, but forget all that. This is a good Punisher story because it’s akin to The Terminator: Frank will top at nothing to get his man and can’t be stopped thanks to his drive, but also a little help from his friends. As the cover shows, Punisher teams up with Night Thrasher, Ghost Rider, Moon Knight, and a few other surprise heroes. It’s a good time if you like your Punisher stories infused with a bit of superhero goodness. This only works because midway through we learn Baron Zemo is putting a new Thunderbolts together and they are funded by Kingpin, who also happens to be mayor of New York. The last act of this story ramps up the action into a frenzy that’s exciting and hard to put down.
I simply love how Rosenberg writes Zemo and Kingpin. They both have filthy mouths and they’re both very dangerous in different ways. Zemo is practically full-on crazy as he’s erratic, doesn’t take Kingpin’s threats very seriously, and generally throws a curveball into every scene. Kingpin is deadly serious, but always getting angry and frustrated. The two could easily be in a team-up book and I’d read 100 issues of it. Whenever the book cuts away from Punisher you’ll find yourself strangely excited for more of these two.
The art by Szymon Kudranski is strong and suited well to the darker tone of the book. The action I was mentioning earlier in this review is stupendous. There’s one double-page splash of Punisher and Ghost Rider that is so chaotic the white rectangular panel surrounding them is rupturing. It’s at once beautiful and energy filled. The storytelling at work is spot on too. There great sequences of panels slowing down or speeding up a dialogue scene that draws you into the body language of the characters very well. It’s actually quite impressive how expressive Baron Zemo is considering he’s always masked in this book.
It’s no surprise Matthew Rosenberg ended this series with an emphatic and entertaining bang. It’s high stakes, high action, and high-octane superhero fun. That’s not what you always get with Punisher, but Rosenberg and Kudranski have pulled it off!