Rick Remender killed Frank Castle. Finally. It was a glorious death.
And Frank was reborn (for a short period) as a Marvel Monster – stitched back together and resurrected by Morbius, a 21st century Frankenstein’s monster. It’s one of the most exciting, creative and ballsy storylines I’ve seen to come out of Marvel Comics in a long time.
Originally I wanted to write a blog post about the debate raging in the letters pages about the change, but upon re-reading them, I could only find two published letters (albeit excellently argued ones) against the changes to the character. The overwhelming majority were in favour. (I considered trolling comic book message boards for flame wars, but that would require a level of patience and endurance I’m not willing to commit.)
Tony Moore’s pencils are a perfect choice for this run. There is a rough, cartoony look to many of the pages that communicate the gritty yet over-the-top concept.
I’m not a big Punisher fan. I think the character is interesting, but he doesn’t fit in the Marvel U – until now. Like Moon Knight, Castle is best when he lives on the periphery of the spandex and capes. But I love monsters and horror comics. So putting him underground with a werewolf and vampire and all the other monsters was a thrill to read.
Remender also managed to infuse depth to the character during this over-the-top story.
Frank’s whole deal is that he wants to die and join his family. But he’s too proud to off himself – he wants to go down in a blaze of bullets and blood. A hero’s death, if you will.
But even after being chopped to pieces, Remender steals that from Castle by resurrecting him. Suddenly, Punisher has superpowers (being an undead creature). It’s genius.
The run also flirts with a fun philosophical question to ponder: what makes a monster? Is it being dead thousands of years like Living Mummy. Or do your ethics and actions define you? “This here is an actual monster,” Jack Russell proclaims to Morbius in the scene where Frank is brought back to the land of the living. Remender does his best to portray Castle on a relentless quest for vengeance stopping at almost nothing for his “cause.”
It’s a good read until the “Punishment” arc where he faces off against Daken (who is Wolverine’s son or a clone or something – I don’t really care to know). The four-book crossover with Dark Wolverine gets real boring really fast and could easily have wrapped up in two or three. However, and not to put down any of the other talented artists who worked on this story, but there are two excellent pages drawn by John Lucas that had me pleading for more.
There are about one dozen issues of the Franken-Castle character in total so it’s not a huge commitment if you’re looking for a fun read. You won’t be disappointed.