I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
The Punisher is one of my favorite characters. He's seemingly pretty shallow, but has enjoyed a pretty long run in his various series. Now here's the problem with The Punisher: He really doesn't play well with superheroes. . .he works best in his own separate, dark, bloody world. Unfortunately, Marvel keeps trying to make him fit into their regular continuity. . .which leads to a somewhat schizophrenic character as they realize it doesn't work and put him back into a powered-down environment, then a few years later, they try him with superheroes again. It's a really strange cycle for a character.
ANYWAY. . .
Here's their 2009 effort at putting Punisher in the superhero sandbox again.
Although I don't really think Punisher fits well in regular Marvel continuity, this first issue did a good job at showing him as a man completely out of his depth fighting against superheroes.
Most of the book is taken up with Punisher on the run from Marvel's lamest (but most powerful) superhero, The Sentry. . .Marvel's imitation retcon Superman, who stops Punisher from sniping Norman Osbourne and then proceeds to easily hand Punisher his ass in an extremely one sided fight. . .Punisher manages to barely escape with his life, but only because of the help of an unseen new ally.
Like I said above, I really liked starting things off by showing how Punisher set his sights way too high for once and pays the price of failure and defeat.
The art on this issue is really quite well done. . .it's realistic, dark and gritty. It's a testament to this artist that he manages to make The Sentry look awesome. . .not to mention Punisher's "Regular Marvel" costume with its ridiculous white gloves and boots look good.
Overall, this is a REALLY good first issue.
The strong start of the first issue continues here as Punisher teams up with a hacktivist who wants to get the truth out that, despite Norman Osbourne's claims to the contrary, crime remains rampant in New York and can even be traced back to him. So Henry (Punisher's new ally) finds the targets and Punisher takes them down, while also getting Henry the proof he needs to send to the press.
Of course, Osbourne tires of the shenanigans and decides to bring out a big gun to take down Punisher. . .The Hood.
Overall, another extremely strong issue. The art remains gritty and dark. . .perfect for a Punisher book. And the scene of Punisher raiding a vault full of captured superhero weapons (we get a nice shot of him using Hawkeye's bow!) makes a lot of sense and is very nicely done.
Well done all around. So far so good!
Although not as good as the first two issues, this is still a pretty strong effort. . .
Punisher is lured into a trap by The Hood and a mysterious, unseen man who seems to know too much about Frank Castle (SPOILER: It's obviously Microchip, from the shadowy glimpses we get).
Most of the issue involves Punisher on the run for his life from a small army of mercenary special ops agents, but for such a simple story, it's fast paced, exciting, and well done. The gritty, realistic art helps a lot with turning something simple into something very nice.
Overall, even though there's not much story meat on the bone, this is another nicely done issue.
Something I've forgotten to mention in reviews for the previous 3 issues is that I'm really loving the homage covers on this series!
ANYWAY. . .
Most of this issue is a continuation of Punisher's escape from Hood's trap in last issue. Punisher eventually gets away after decimating most of the Black Stream force pursuing him.
After that, Punisher decides that he's attracting the right kind of attention, so it's time to step things up and start hitting bigger targets. . .like Hood's extremely well fortified base of operations.
Of course, the MAIN point of this issue is the big reveal of Microchip, who has been raised from the dead by The Hood to assist him in taking down The Punisher.
Once again, the art serves to make a simple story seem better than it really is. A full pager of Punisher geared up and ready to attack Hood's base wearing all sorts of superhero gear emblazoned with his skull (ant-man's helmet, Hawkeye's bow, Captain America's Shield, etc. . .) is at once both the lamest and the most awesome thing so far in this series. Once again, it's a testament to the artist that he can make the silly look really good.
Overall, despite the "Big Reveal" being a bit weak and obvious, this was another good issue.
ostly fighting in this issue as it's all hands on deck when Punisher attacks Hood's base of operations.
At the heart of it is Microchip and Punisher's confrontation where Micro offers Punisher a peace offering. . .stop trying to expose Osborn and The Hood will bring Castle's family back from the dead. A nice offer, but Punisher declines. . .and a huge battle between Punisher and Hood's superhero gang ensues.
The odds are evened by Punisher's arsenal of superhero gear, but he barely survives and destroys Hood's base. . .prompting Hood to summon Dormammu and resurrect a bunch of dead villains for an upcoming final showdown.
Overall, a decent issue. Once again mostly fighting. It was interesting to see Punisher making good use of superhero gear (especially Ant-Man's Helmet) but this issue serves to illustrate just why Punisher doesn't fit in regular continuity. . .without ex machina assistance, he's basically a guy with guns. The writer and artist have made a stellar effort so far, but its still not really enough.
With this issue and the beginning of the second arc, the art takes a severe dip in quality. Where the art in the first issue was gritty and realistic, this new artist brings twisted, exaggerated figures and deformed faces. Seriously, this guy has some real problems when it comes to faces. In particular, his rendering of Henry (Punisher's new partner) was so bad I thought it was a whole new character. No bueno!
The story is okay, but it looks like it's about ready to head off the rails along with the art. . .The Hood uses his powers to resurrect a bunch of c-list villains that were killed off in the 80's by "The Scourge". He tells them that The Scourge was actually the Punisher and that their reward for killing him will be to continue living.
Overall, I sort of liked the pack of crappy villains being given a second chance, but that art. . .so bad!
The art remains bad to the point of distraction , but the story is decent enough. . .
Hood's motley crew of resurrected villains bicker among themselves about who is going to be leader. In the meantime, Punisher is being fed visions of his family alive and well and how life COULD be if only he'd give in by Hood. Elsewhere, the only two villians who have their act together (Death adder and Basilisk) are sent to torture Punisher's old friend G.W. Bridge and set a trap for him.
Overall, I liked the infighting among the crappy villains. There were some pretty funny moments to be found. The rest of the story was okay, but mostly setup for things to come. And then there's that art. . .no bueno. It brings down the whole book a notch.
Most of this issue is taken up with a running battle between Punisher and The Avengers. . .problem is that Punisher knows something is up because the Avengers he's fighting are 80's Avengers. . .beardy Thor, silver armor Iron Man, Doctor Druid, She Hulk, etc.
They're actually the Hood's C-list villains disguised by Mind Wave and Mirage to look like the Avengers, but since they were killed in the 80's they re-create the Avengers THEY knew. It's actually pretty funny.
Like I said, it's mostly a battle between Punisher and the faux Avengers, but it's pretty nice to see the old versions of those characters guest starring.
Unfortunately, what SHOULD be awesome is barely okay, thanks to the God-Awful art.
Another issue that is mostly a running battle between Punisher and Hood's motley crew of crappy villains.
We get a "Big Reveal" that Punisher's new partner (Henry) is actually Jigsaw's son in flashbacks as he fights for his life.
Thinking Henry has been killed, Punisher leaves off fighting the crap squad and rushes to save G.W. Bridge from Death Adder and Basilisk, leading to a confrontation with the only two villains worth a damn in this whole mess. . .
Overall, I found the "Big Reveal" to be a bit of an eye roller. The rest of the story was decent, but not great. The art remains a real distraction, it's that bad. Luckily, the story is still JUST good enough to keep this on the rails. . .barely.
And so the second arc comes to an end. All I can say is. . .Thank God it's over.
After being lured into a trap, Punisher is captured by Hood, who has dug up the bodies of his family and once again offers Frank the deal of giving up his crusade and he'll raise them from the dead.
Punisher tells him to sit and spin AGAIN, and Microchip kills G.W. Bridge as a sacrifice to bring back the dead Castles, Punisher goes off the hook and starts killing, forcing Firebrand to torch his family before putting a bullet in the back of his head.
The final confrontation between Hood and Punisher ends with a draw as the Hood wins the battle, but Punisher walks away after blackmailing Hood with HIS family.
At the end of it all, Punisher leaves alone after telling Henry to go screw because he didn't tell Punisher he was Jigsaw's son.
Overall, it wrapped things up nicely, but that's like saying a turd with a pretty bow still isn't a turd. The story on this arc was borderline crap, the art was utter crap.
DARK REIGN: THE LIST - PUNISHER
Norman Osborne (AKA Iron Patriot at this point in time) finally gets tired of The Punisher getting in his business, plus he's still a bit angry over that time Punisher tried to snipe him. So he decided it's time for Frank Castle to die. . .and that's exactly what happens.
Osborne sends Dark Wolverine to to the dirty work and it all ends in a gruesome battle to the death where Punisher is literally chopped to bloody pieces.
This was a brutal, bloody story. . .and while I'm not normally a big fan of Romita Jr.'s art, on this story it was pretty damn good.
Overall, this was a very quick and simple story. . .The Punisher bites off more than he can chew in trying to face down an actual superhuman and pays the price with his life. I can't say I loved it, but for what it is, it's not bad.
The first half of this set of issues was actually pretty good. Unfortunately, starting with issue #6, it went downhill fast. I really liked how they started off by playing on the sad truth that The Punisher is pretty much utterly outmatched by the superhumans of the regular Marvel Universe. . .and in a meta way, it looks like the creative team was telling the reader, "You THINK you want The Punisher in regular continutity, but guess what? It don't work, son."
And then they went and demonstrated WHY it doesn't work. Even the weakest superhuman is a huge challenge for Punisher. . .who, at the end of the day, is basically just a highly-trained badass with a lot of guns and a relentless mindset for killing bad guys. At the end of it all, they added insult to injury by literally butchering him at the hands of a wannabe Wolverine as if to say "See? THIS is what happens when you mix Punisher with superheroes. You happy?"
BUT. . .
They weren't done with their demonstration just yet. We're only halfway through this run, folks.
Up next. . .
When you see a list of top 10 strangest (modern) Marvel comic stories, there's a pretty good chance this next batch of issues has made the cut. Get ready to ride this baby straight off the rails, folks!
FRANKEN-CASTLE. Be there or be square!
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