Garth Ennis’ run, particularly his MAX run, is probably one of the most perfect interpretations of Frank Castle. It hit all the right notes without becoming ridiculous and maintained an emotional integrity never seen before with the character. This is saying a lot, because the Punisher is one of the most one-note characters in modern comic books.
When Matt Fraction took a stab at the Punisher and returned him to the Marvel universe with Punisher War Journal, despite his best efforts, I thought the series emphasized Castle’s limitations more than anything (this is something I’m finding again and again in Fraction’s Marvel work, a distinct coldness that doesn’t show in his creator owned work). So I’d be lying if I said I was thrilled to see Rick Remender take a shot at the character in yet another new Punisher monthly.
Remender, however, appears to be embracing the ridiculousness of Frank Castle in a world full of superheroes while finding new ways to remind readers of the fundamental horror of his haunted origins. And it…works. The first issue’s confrontation between the Punisher and the Sentry amounts to one long chase scene that does an excellent job in showing readers how he can hold his own, especially against a Superman-like hero.
By putting Punisher right in the middle of the Marvel universe’s current status quo with Norman Osborn running the show, it keeps the Punisher’s adventures relevant and exciting, and by making the stakes personal with the Hood, Remender can really flex his writing muscles.
By issue ten of the current series, the stakes couldn’t be any higher. The Hood brings the Punisher’s family back to life before his very eyes. And the Punisher, being the Punisher, acts quickly…
There’s a lot going on here, and Tan Eng Huat’s art sells it, especially Frank’s look of horror as the caskets open. The question of why the Punisher does it is what makes this page – and the horrifying pages that follow – so much fun. As a military tactician, his lack of hesitation in killing his family to stop the Hood from using them against him makes a lot of sense. But once you get past that, it probably comes down to Frank not wanting his family to see the monster that he had become because of their deaths. And that’s where the real emotion comes in, and I suspect, what Remender wants to play around with in the current Frankencastle storyline he’s doing.