Wednesday, November 25, 2009
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.