Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Punisher: Grim vs. Goofy


This month was a pretty important one for The Punisher. Most notably because he was killed, cut to pieces, and thrown in the sewers by Daken (Wolverine's son) in the recent Dark Reign: The List - Punisher issue (as seen in Kirk's Weekly Crisis Review). Of course, as we know all too well, death is a temporary condition in comics, and Frank Castle continues to soldier on in the pages of his own title as something beyond human: Frankencastle! Some readers are obviously not too happy about this latest development. Hit the jump for some more thoughts about this issue, and beware the spoilers if you haven't read the latest issue.




Like I mentioned above, Punisher met his end at the hands of Daken, but his body was recovered by a group of monsters, including Morbius the Living Vampire, the Man-Thing, and others belonging to the Legion of Monsters. Frank Castle's body was put together and given some additional machinery to keep him going, turning him basically into a Frankenstein-like monster (as the title implies) that looks like this.



This is a pretty huge departure from the Punisher many people are familiar with: long gone are the days of the vigilante hunting down the criminals of the underworld, and the Punisher is now dragged across the insanity of the Marvel universe. And the truth is, the Marvel universe has always been a crazy place, but the Punisher usually escaped it, as he did not fit with the larger universe that involves all kind of superhumans populating it.

This also meant, however, that the Punisher was largely ineffective in the regular Marvel Universe. This is not to say that he didn't have good stories, but rather than in the larger scheme of things he did not matter. The Punisher would never kill anyone of importance, only Z-list villains or nameless thugs. Sure, he would get into fights with the Kingpin and other mob villains, but he would never be able to kill them. And yes, sometimes he would get into fight supervillains, but that brings us to the "crazy" aspect again, there's no way a human with only guns could survive against people with superpowers.

So now Marvel went the opposite way, under the watchful eyes of Rick Remender, and has turned the Punisher into a somewhat goofy high concept. This has drawn fire from a portion of the readership, and reminding many of a part of the Punisher's history that everyone that read it wants to forget about.




In Punisher: Purgatory, Frank Castle committed suicide and became a ghost and an angel of vengeance that hunted down criminals or something like that (I clearly did not read it). It alienated many readers and made the character toxic until Garth Ennis engineered his revival some years later.

However, things are different now, and there's two Punisher series: the aforementioned Frankencastle one and the recent relaunch of Punishermax (yes, that's the real title) by Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon which is a continuation of the Punisher Max franchise. This version is a more down to Earth approach, with Frank Castle fighting mobsters, drug dealers, and the like without any supernatural element whatsoever. This way, readers can choose whichever version of the character they prefer to read.

Personally, I hope Remender and Marvel stick with this Frankencastle stuff for the long run, as there's plenty of potential for stories and humor along the way. It does make me worried about the longevity of the character though, as surely some writer down the road is going to retcon this in one way or the other. In the mean time, I'm going to enjoy both version of the characters, as each of them offer something different, but what about you readers? Did you think this was a good or bad move? Let me know in the comment section.


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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not really a fan of the concept, but then again, I tend to not go for storylines that seem reversed manufactured for the sake of a clever title (I should know, I've had plenty of ideas of the sort). Great job of pointing out the inherent flaws of Punisher in the MU, though- now let's just hope Jason Aaron's run can stand with Garth Ennis's.

Primewax said...

This is the first time I've been interested in the Punisher since...well, ever. I enjoy him as the kooky "sidekick" in Anti-Venom, but this looks like it could give Frank an actual standing place in the Marvel Universe. I'm definitely gonna pick this one up.

Matt Ampersand said...

@Anon: It's impossible to measure any other run against Ennis' one, but I think Aaron is a very worthy successor.

@Primewax: I think that's a good thing. It's so goofy that it'll attract new readers. The real trick is keeping it interesting for the long run

TheGoose said...

Why did Morbius, Man-Thing, and the Legion of Monsters bring the Punisher back to life?

Speaking of which, didn't Man-Thing get killed by Daken?

Matt Ampersand said...

@TheGoose: So they could use his military expertise to fight back against a group of Samurai moster-killers. I'm not making this up.

And Man-Thing pretty much can't be killed. He can regenerate from anything.

Kirk Warren said...

Punisher actually just happens to land near them and they recognized him. There was no plan to kill Punisher or get his help. They're using the old Morlock tunnels as their last bastion of monster hope since someone/thing is hunting monsters and killing them.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to kill Garth Ennis just so he can roll over in his grave from the absurdity of this concept.

( Note: Please do NOT try to kill Garth Ennis. Thank you. )

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting concept, I guess, and a very brave take on one of Marvel's better-known characters. But it seems a little goofy and will most likely create more continuity messes once he starts showing up in cross-overs as Frankencastle, before the whole thing is retconned away.

The problem with frequent cross-overs is that something like Frankencastle has no way of lasting more than a few months. If he were totally separate from the MU writers could take this and run with it. But as things stand, this is no more than a temporary gimmick.

Anonymous said...

Haven't read the latest issue, but I agree that it sounds too goofy in that original "Marvel Knights Punisher" way. I did like the way that Castle was killed in "The List", because it really seems like the only way this could logically end for Frank... no disrespect to Garth Ennis' work in "Punisher: The End", of course.

Frankly, the Punisher's death should have been handled differently. For a time, maybe everyone would believe that he was dead, but for some reason the killings continue & eventually the bad guys doubt that he ever died. Sorta like in "Watership Down" when the bloodthirsty "General" was killed; nobody knew for sure that he was dead, but baby rabbits were warned that if they did not do as they were told, the General would come for them. The General became even more fearful in death than in life.

Anonymous said...

This was the last place I ever expected to see a reference to Watership Down...

Henry said...

I like it. Its not taking itself seriously like the whole angel of death or whatever story-line did. Its fun and quirky and it oddly works. Here's to Frankcastle sticking around for a while.

smkedtky said...

I bet my collection of PUNISHER comics that by the end of the storyline (Remender does the series in 12 issue stories broken into 2 arcs),the "mystical artifact" that Remender has referenced as being the objective of the monsters, ends up restoring Frank's humanity.

I enjoyed the first part of FRANKENCASTLE but don't see it going on indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

Sheesh just kill the character and be done with it. When are fanboys and Miller (both) going to grow up: psychopaths and sociopaths are NOT heroes. They are just f*cked up ppl who should be taken out.

- Seafire

Anonymous said...

I think it's ridiculous. I've always liked the Punisher because he was serious and he COULD hold his own against superheroes. He was like a brutal Batman. Now... Let's just say I won't be purchasing FrankenCastle titles.

Drew Kannegiesser said...

Castle was believable as a hero only insofar as he was the brutal vigilante figure, willing to use violence to do what needed to be done. His willingness to kill (and use the biggest arsenal outside the USMC) was his great equalizer, as well as his tendency to off small time thugs, as opposed to Aries and Thor.

That said, even the name Frankencastle suggests a dramatic sea change from the history of the character into the purely fantastic. Like OMD, this is Marvel using the "it's magic!/it's science!" deus ex machina at its worst. It'll be interesting to see where the stories go from here, but it certainly won't be the same comic. It can't be.

Postman667 said...

It's times like this, I wish garth Ennis never left. This is the equivalent of George Lucas "improving" Star Wars...again. Why is it, when they have a wonderful thing going for them, they have to butcher it.

Anonymous said...

why change batman into an actual bat when he's doing fine kicking ass now without super power. so why change the punisher into that

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