The Punisher as a reanimated corpse is an idea I can get behind. I like comics, I like zombies, I like writing and art that are just beautiful in so many respects. This comic is for me. But I can understand if it isn’t for you; but if you don’t like it then you have to be able to tell me how and why in more than three sentences in a row. I would actually be really interested in seeing why people didn’t click with this comic because it’s not the sort of thing that could be considered mainstream, that’s for sure. I rate it as one of my Top 10 comics of 2010 and this list will explain why, starting with this point. I think the idea of Franken-Castle just as a high concept is both hilarious and something I have never read before.
Much like these oddities, the science that brings back Frank Castle from the dead isn’t lingered on. We just know it has worked and we accept that. We don’t need pages of exposition to understand just how it is he can walk and talk again, we just need to enjoy it. I like that Remender was smart enough to realise that if he just forges on then the audience will follow him and hopefully enjoy the tale. It helps that he writes the tale, and the players within it, so very well.
Remender brings a very decent characteristic ear to each of these monster-heroes and it works really well. The world they inhabit, and the thoughts they raise through actions and words, are very well put together. And, sometimes it’s just fun to watch a Mummy and a werewolf hang out with a vampire and a reanimated killer. These guys work on the page and make things a whole stack of fun. You don’t come into a Legion of Monsters story looking for meta-textual allegory about Wikileaks. If you get one, fine, but you go into this tale wanting something that’s going to make you sit back and enjoy the freak ride. That’s exactly what you get here.
Whether it’s a skull floating in a strange metal suit or crying Manphibian, Moore gets more acting out of his fake characters than most artists do when drawing humans. You don’t doubt a scene at all and you become absorbed, and that’s what I want from a comic. It’s also a testament that Remender throws a stack of zany ideas and actions into this tale and Moore steps up to every challenge and nails it. Japanese monster hunters die horribly, Morbius stares intently, a church of monsters overrun by a flowing man of fire; these are things that work in your mind and thanks to Moore also work on the page. There’s nothing this man can’t bring to life and make into an artwork that is morbidly mesmerising.
The last thing that is really owed to Moore is the visual of Franken-Castle himself. The look of this shambolic monstrosity is consistent and consistently dynamic throughout the tale. There is dead skin and scars and pipes and bolts and it’s all like nothing we’ve ever seen before, There are hinting homages to Frankenstein’s monster but mostly this is a creation we have never seen before. I love the look of Franken-Castle and would easily buy an action figure of this creation if it were ever available. The whole story kind of hinges on the look of this man and Moore sold it incredibly. A home run in so many ways.
Although, if he ever wanted to come back with an Untold Tales of the Franken-Castle series I’d buy that in a heartbeat.
There are plenty of superhero comics out there doing their own little superhero cycles month after month. If you want the basic cape story then it’s available. If you want something different then you have to venture into the creator owned titles, usually. But Marvel has taken some chances recently, and they have paid off. Jason Aaron turned Ghost Rider into a Grindhouse flick and people went, relatively, crazy for it. There are so many aspects and creations within the Marvel U that suit this Grindhouse feel so perfectly and Ghost Rider is one, and the Punisher is another, especially when you throw in the Legion of Monsters. If Marvel just produces a great Beta Ray Bill title in this fashion then I’ll finally have a trilogy of omnibi (omnibuses? You decide) that will be worthy of their own shelf.
This title has plenty of violence, and the gore and pain is certainly over the top. People don’t just get punched, they get dismembered, they spew blood, they become melted shadows of what they once were. Baby Manphibians are murdered senselessly, men combust at the touch of fear, and dragons fly into towers and breathe flames of retribution. It’s all so glorious and you don’t get time to breathe as it all happens in front of you. This title isn’t afraid of having too many brave ideas and visuals.
This comic works like a wild ride in the very best sense at all times. There’s action, and great action dialogue, and monsters, and violence, and fights, and all the stuff that you wanted from a comic when you were young. Hell, you probably still want it now even if you are an adult. This comic is fun and smart if you know the type of smarts to look for, but mostly it’s fun and it’s goofy and it’s just amazingly engrossing. I don’t think you need to say more about a comic to get across the point that praise is deserved.
Roland Boschi steps in for two issues and his issues feel like Moore-lite. That sounds like more of a criticism than it really is. It’s nice that a fill in artist could match the main artist so as to create consistency throughout the book. It is appreciated, though his Franken-Castle is nowhere up to Moore’s. The face is too sketchy and the shoulders far too hulking. Otherwise, he’s a good fit to drop an issue when Moore cannot.
Jefte Palo does a fill in issue and he’s a guy whose work I think could only match up with a few characters within the Marvel U. The Punisher is one of those characters and Franken-Castle certainly is. His artwork is sparse and often implied and there’s a raw motion to his action that I always find intriguing. Needless to say, his issue is good. Then we get the Dark Wolverine issues from Stephen Segovia and Paco Diaz. The art is good here but it just doesn’t match the tone of this tale. It’s all too polished, I don’t want to be able to see these characters in such a clear light. The less light on most of them the better and this is too crisp. It doesn’t ruin the whole tale but it does take you out momentarily for those issues.
The other man I’ll mention is Dan Brereton. He paints certain sequences and they are absolutely gorgeous. It’s a bright shock to see his style pop up but it still works for the narrative. Seeing Brereton render some of these monsters makes me think of old horror movie posters and the Universal majesty and reverence these guys used to be treated with. While Moore could have handled these sequences, I feel, they are just made that much more grand through Brereton’s skilled eye. It’s probably not often you’ll get to see this kind of a thing in the monthlies so you might as well soak it up.
“Dead and Alive”, issues #11-16, is all about Franken-Castle teaming up with the Legion of Monsters to protect them, and himself, from a swarm of monster killers slowly working the globe to eradicate any creation that isn’t pure. It’s a tale that throws everything out and pays off in so many ways. It looks gorgeous, it has brilliant pace, and all the characters work well together. It is an absolute win for me in so many respects. Had the second half been as good as the start this comic would have taken a shot at being even higher up my top of the year list.
The second half, “Missing Pieces”, which is the next five issues of the retitled Franken-Castle as well as two issues of Dark Wolverine that tied into the whole tale, is good but it’s not great. Franken-Castle is out to find vengeance on Daken because it was Wolvie’s son who chopped him up in the Dark Reign – The List – Punisher issue. Franken-Castle is determined to track the mohawked, arrogant villain down and deal him back some justice. It’s an interesting tale, and certainly has its moments, but it just doesn’t compare to the sheer spectacle of awesome that is the first half of this collection. Though, in the next point, I’ll explain why it is still pretty decent.
You buy this book and you are not beholden to anything else. You also get one large and satisfying story with a beginning, middle, and end. I was especially impressed that they included the Dark Reign issue in this collection as I was slightly worried they wouldn’t, even though events within it get the Franken-Castle ball rolling.