I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
So. . .The Punisher is dead. But yet there's still 11 issues and 2 crossover issues from another title in this series. How much further down the rabbit hole can this thing go? Let's find out!
Ooooookay. . .NOW things get a little strange.
After Punisher is torn to shreds by "Dark Wolverine" Daken on Norman Osborne's orders, Moloids gather the bloody pieces from the gutter and take them to Morbius The Living Vampire so he can stich them together using science/magic to create. . .FRANKEN-CASTLE!
Of course, The Punisher is a bit confused and upset at his gruesome resurrection and refuses to help the Legion of Monsters against the Japanese Cyber-Samurai hunters decimating the world's monster population.
Yeah. . .
So we've gone from Punisher being outmatched by superhumans to him being transformed into an undead monstrosity. There's a reason why this arc ends up on "top 10 strange Punisher stories" lists.
But I'm gonna tell the truth here. . .to ME, it's really not that bad. It's not really that good, but it's not terrible. Not sure what the thinking was behind Franken-Castle, but seeing all the old Marvel Monsters (Morbius, Werewolf by Night, Living Mummy, Manphibian, and MAN-THING!) together again was really a lot of fun.
The art by Tony Moore is super-detailed and really helps to sell the totally ridiculous story. Moore's art is a VERY welcome change from the distractingly bad crap art on the last arc. Add in a fantastic painted cover and this issue isn't bad at all.
Punisher considers suicide, but makes a new friend (a little monster boy) who convinces him not to. The Living Mummy isn't so lucky, as he fails to recruit Punisher. . .er. . .Franken-Castle. . .into the Legion of Monsters. Elsewhere, Manphibian is captured and tortured by the revealed villain of the arc, Hellsgaard, Morbius and Werewolf by Night argue about keeping Castle alive, and it is revealed that the Japanese cyber-samurai monster hunters are after "The Bloodstone", which is held by Morbius.
An attack on the hidden monster city leads to the death of Franken-Castle's new friend, and now it's time to PUNISH!
Once again, the story is beyond ridiculous, yet strangely interesting. It's a testament to the writer that this Punisher run was closer to going off the rails in the previous arc than in this one. For all the bad press, Franken-Castle is (for now anyway) goofy, throwback, monster-ific fun. It's not a Punisher story, that's for sure. And so I can see why it left a sour taste in the mouth for Punisher fans. . .especially when it was sold under a Punisher title.
The Tony Moore art also goes a long way toward selling this completely ridiculous concept of Punisher as a monster. It's super-detailed and every page is a real feast for the eyes. In the hands of a worse artists, this could have gone VERY badly.
Overall, even though it's definitely not great, this is another pretty good issue. I'm surprised the creative team was able to sell this idea at all, but somehow they do.
Most of this issue is taken up by fighting as the "Hunter of Monster Special Force" (the Japanese cyber-samurai monster hunters and Hellsgaard invade Monster city and capture the Bloodstone before escaping with heavy casualties on both sides. T
he battles are rendered in glorious, bloody detail by Tony Moore, who does the heavy lifting in this story-light issue. It's all over the top and every monster gets their moment to shine, including Franken-Castle as he mows his way through enemies while reflecting that it's the first time he's felt alive in a long time.
At the end of it all, Franken-Castle decides to become a member of the League of Monsters and the first order of business is re-capturing the Bloodstone. The final full page shot of Franken-Castle loaded down with weapons and ready to roll out is fantastic!
Once again, this is one of the most ridiculous stories I've ever read, but at the same time, it's strangely interesting. Tony Moore's art is a huge help in selling it. . .without his talent, I have the feeling that this would be a steaming pile of crap. But for now, it's still pretty good.
In this issue, we get the origin story of the villain. . .illustrated with fantastic painted art by the great Dan Brereton! The framing scenes during the present are illustrated by Tony Moore in his super-detailed manner. Marvel played their cards right in selling this ludicrous story with fantastic art.
This issue was probably the best issue of this entire run so far except for the first issue. The origin of Hellsgaard (set over 100 years ago) is interesting and somewhat mirrors that of Franken-Castle. I have to say that, despite the ridiculous nature of the whole thing, Franken-Castle has been pretty good so far. You just have to sort of forget that it's SUPPOSED to be a Punisher title and just read it as a League of Monsters book. . .
Oooookay. . .
Franken-Castle flying on a dragon, mowing down Japanese cyber-samurai monster hunters with a gatling gun. And then. . .Nazi Zombies.
We go from one of the best issues in the run to one of the worst as Franken-Castle attacks Hellsgaard's mountain fortress to re-capture the Bloodstone and rescue Manphibian and Morbius.
I've wondered since the Franken-Castle story began just how much the fantastic art contributes to selling the ridiculous idea of Punisher as a monster, and in this issue I get my answer. . .A LOT. The fill-in art is very weak. Not quite as bad as the art on the "Dead End" arc (issues 6-10), but a dead close second. It's pretty bad.
Overall, not a very good issue. Mostly fighting, but without good art to carry the weight of being story-light. No bueno.
And so we come to the final issue of the first arc in the strange Punisher rabbit hole called "Franken-Castle".
Most of the issue is taken up with a brutal all-out fight between Franken-Castle and a Bloodstone-powered up Hellsgaard taking place in a demonic plane of limbo. . .ending in the defeat of Hellsgaard (with the help of Manphibian) and Franken-Castle escaping with his allies, leaving a battered and broken Hellsgaard alive, but trapped in a hellish world.
Overall, a good finish for the first arc. It was mostly fighting, but with Tony Moore back on art, the visuals were able to carry the load nicely.
With this issue, the title officially changes to "Franken-Castle". Along with the title change, we get another artist who (once again) demonstrates the need for someone the caliber of Tony Moore or Dan Brererton to sell the ridiculous idea of Punisher as a Frankenstein-type monster.
The story is a bit weak as well. . .after being almost killed (again) by Hellsgaard, Punisher is saved by Morbius implanting the Bloodstone in him. Castle visits the graves of his family and is ambushed by ninjas at the graveyard. Franken-Castle decides it's time to get back to punishing and his first target will be Lady Gorgon as thanks for the lovely graveside ninja party she gave him.
Overall, a fairly weak issue. Mostly setup for things to come. The art was extremely uneven, with some panels being pretty good, but others looking unfinished and awful. No bueno.
Not a great issue. The art and the story both shout "Filler" pretty loudly. I can tell this one is just to hold place until the big 4 part crossover with Dark Wolverine coming up in the following issues. . .
Franken-Castle travels to Tokyo to take out Lady Gorgon. Ninja battles a'plenty ensue, and at the end of it all Lady Gorgon dies. . .but not at the hand of Franken-Castle, but by her own master for dishonoring the Hand. Exit Franken-Castle telling Henry that Daken (Dark Wolverine) is next on the list.
An extremely simple story with half-hearted art by yet another fill in artist. Overall, pretty disappointing all around.
This first part of a 4 part crossover with Franken-Castle is pretty much as average as it gets. . .
The art is solid, but not great. The only thing of note is that this artist does a quite nice job with Franken-Castle. . .better than the artists on the past few issues of his own title.
The story is unimpressive. . .Franken-Castle tracks Daken down in Tokyo and ambushes him, leading to a running battle through a nightclub and down into the sewers beneath. Neither Franken-Castle or Daken get the upper hand, and the book ends with them both ready for round 2.
Overall, like I said above. . .utterly average in every way. No wonder this series AND Franken-Castle both ended just a few issues down the line.
Continuing from Dark Wolverine #88, Tony Moore returns on art for the second round of battle between Dark Wolverine and Franken-Castle. . .and his hyper-detailed work elevates this story-light running battle in the brutal, bloody detail that's been missing since he was last on the book.
Once again, the point is fully illustrated (heh!) that this story is rendered (Heh-heh!) completely ridiculous without a great artist to sell it.
Overall, the story is weak. . .Dark Wolverine and Franken-Castle brutally beating on each other, with the real Wolverine jumping in on the last page. . .but the art is strong.
Continuing on from Franken-Castle #19, Wolverine jumps into the fight after not being able to convince Franken-Castle to leave. After defeating Wolverine, the battle with Daken continues. At the end of it all, Daken rips the Bloodstone out of Franken-Castle's chest after almost beating him to death.
Another issue that's mostly just fighting, with art that is painfully average at best. This issue is a perfect example of the worst kind of comic book.
Continuing from Dark Wolverine #89, this final issue of Franken-Castle's revenge on Daken for killing him has Wolverine teaming up with Franken-Castle against a Bloodstone powered-up Daken. At the end of it all, Franken-Castle uses Daken's extremely-accelerated healing factor against him to win the battle, but Daken escapes with his life for an unsatisfactory conclusion that even leaves Wolverine standing alone on a Tokyo rooftop wondering what the hell just happened.
Overall, the only thing worth a damn in this painfully average slug-fest is Tony Moore's art. . .and since there's THREE artists on this book (the other two are barely worth mention), even that isn't enough to elevate this one past "okay".
When there's 3 artists on a single issue, you KNOW the series has pretty much been given up on.
And so here we are at the end of one of Punisher's strangest stories. . .
After the brutal battle against Daken in Tokyo, the Legion of Monsters strand Franken-Castle on Monster Island to let the Bloodstone heal his body. After months pass, Punisher is back in human form, but his mind is warped by the Bloodstone. The Legion, along with Elsa Bloodstone, confront the Punisher to get the Bloodstone back. . .but after getting their collective asses handed to them by the insane Punisher, Living Mummy guilt trips him into willingly giving up the Stone and its power by telling him it has taken away his ability to tell the difference between the guilty and the innocent.
In a nice little epilogue set a few weeks later, we see a very human Punisher back at work on the streets, taking down a couple of punk cop killers. No super heroes. . .no magic. . .no monsters. All is as it should be.
Overall, I found this issue to be a very satisfying end to this strange trip the Punisher went on back in 2009-2010. The superb painted art by Dan Brereton (and the fantastic cover by him as well) was the perfect touch. All in all a great ending to this series.
And there you have it. . .the short-lived Franken-Castle saga.
I'd have to say that I enjoyed the first half of it. . .when it was a strange backdoor Legion of Monsters reuinion book. The art was fantastic and it was just goofy throwback Bronze Age monster fun. It certainly wasn't a Punisher book, but it was pretty good. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there and was mercifully killed with the Punisher returned to his street-level status quo.
All in all, I think this entire series was a perfect demonstration of just why The Punisher doesn't fit well in the mainstream Marvel Universe. Ultimately, Frank Castle is just an arguably insane guy with guns and an unrelenting desire to kill bad guys. In this series he was shown to be hopelessly outmatched by even the lamest superhuman being, even when in the form of an undead monstrosity powered by a Bloodstone.
What we have here, my friends, is 24 issues of a lesson taught to us by one Mr. Remender and company. . .and that lesson being to stop asking for the Punisher to be in the mainstream Marvel continuity because you might just get what you ask for.
Up next. . .
Speaking of giving the people what they want, whether they want it or not.
Travel back with me to the 90's when people wanted Spider-Man without all that silly "With great power comes great responsibilities" nonsense. Venom: Lethal Protector! Be there or be square.
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