I first discovered the Punisher when I get into comics in 1984. His weapons and take no prisoners attitude appealed to the kid in me and I’ve been a fan of the character ever since. I’ve been with him through bad stories and good stories. And quite honestly I think the Marvel Universe incarnation of the Punisher is going through one of his best eras of stories in a long time and possibly ever.
I’m not talking about “PunisherMAX” in this post. That book is all about the gritty, real world adventures of the Punisher. In that book he wages war against mobsters and other criminal scum. That book is also a compelling read, especially now thanks to writer Jason Aaron’s current epic Kingpin saga, which promises to plunge Frank Castle into a long, brutal campaign against Wilson Fisk.
I’m here today to talk about writer Rick Remender’s take on the Punisher, which is firmly set in the fantastic world for the Marvel Universe. Now some of you might think that the Punisher has no place in that world, which is perfectly valid opinion and you have “PunisherMax” to read if you feel that way. Remender’s “Punisher” title (which will soon morph in “FrankenCastle”) does exist in the Marvel U though, so the question becomes how do you make the most of it?
Do you just have the Punisher continue to fight organized crime? Or do you take a chance and have him run up against some of the weirdness of the Marvel Universe? It strikes me the latter is the way to go. and that’s what Remender has been doing ever since he started his run on “Punisher”
The series kicked off right as Marvel’s “Dark Reign” storyline was beginning and found Frank Castle deciding that he needed to change his war against crime and start going after bigger targets like the all powerful Norman Osborn and his associate the Hood, the boss of a super villain crime syndicate. So that he would have a fighting chance, The Punisher stole an arsenal of high tech Marvel weapons and for about a year we got to see the Punisher utilize super technology in creative and brutal ways.
But wars have consequences. If they didn’t, Remender’s story would just be repetitive and trust me I’ve been a fan of the Punisher for over 20 years, and I’m tired of repetitive Frank blows away the bad guys type stories. Remender brought the consequences to the Punisher in the pages of his recent “Dark Reign: The List-Punisher” one-shot, which had Norman Osborn sicking Daken, the villainous and psychotic son of Wolverine, on Frank Castle. The end of the conflict had Frank Castle chopped to pieces.
Now admittedly when I first heard where Remender was taking the Punisher after that I had stop and pause for a second. That’s because what happened to the Punisher after that was that he was pieced back together and resurrected as a Frankenstein style monstrosity. I had bought the ticket though for the rest of Remender’s work so the feeling was why not take the ride and see where it goes?
I’m glad I did. Because in the past few issues Remender and his artistic collaborators have been giving readers a wildly bizarre and creative book, that still is, at its heart , a Punisher book. In the current arc of the series Frank Castle or FrankenCastle as he’s now nicknamed has been paying off a debt to the people who brought him back to life, The Legion of Monsters. Paying off that debt means killing a whole lot of people, specifically a legion of insane high tech monster hunters who want to destroy all monsters regardless of whether they’re innocent or not.
Current issues of the “Punisher” series have seen Frank Castle wield his new found undead physical abilities in brutal and creative ways and he’s also brushed up against some strange things. He’s also used some of his tried and true methods.Like in the current issue, #15, the Punisher battles the monster hunters on a back of dragon, while armed with a gatling gun. Later in that issue he cuts through a horde of Nazi zombies that the Monster Hunters resurrected to stop him.
What makes this story truly great though is that it’s still a Punisher story. Frank Castle may have transformed physically but his perspective is still that of a man and a highly trained soldier. And that’s why I took to the Punisher in the first place. His state of mind and perspective on the world was different from any other Marvel character.
The coming issues after the Punisher’s battle with the monster hunters sound pretty promising too. They’ll find the Punisher getting back to what happened to him in the first year of Remender’s title and using his new found undead strength and endurance to get revenge on the enemies that cause him so much trouble when he was among the living like Daken.
Another plus this book has going for it is the art team. Currently Tony Moore, Roland Boschi, and Dan Brererton rotate on art duties on this book. These are three of the best horror action artists in the comics business.
So yeah the idea of an undead, dragon riding Punisher may seem a little strange at first, but embrace the fun of it! You’ll be glad you did.