Frank Castle has reached a crossroads. He has finally been given the power to finish his war on crime, at the cost of his Sanity. Will his humanity win out, or will his insatiable lust for vengeance consume him whole?
Time has been very kind to the evolution of Comic Books as a medium of Artistic Expression. Through the creativity of numerous creators, we have seen many benchmarks that go a long way to break through the stigmas attached to the art form. Through those advancements, we have not just seen the advancement of the drawings themselves, but of the writing from the stories, to the dialogue, and especially through the characterization. No longer do we have the zero note characters that are little more than their powers. We now characters that are as layered as the best of the art we see in comic books. Even the less dimensional characters are now more compelling in the right hands, and this could not be truer than the character that stars in this week’s spotlight book.
At face value, The Punisher is not a complex character by any means, as his 2-line origin story carries almost everything you need to know about him. What does give Frank Castle the potential to be compelling in the right hands is his quest to kill anyone who preys on the innocent. With such a wide net to cast, you can get a great look into a man’s motivations, reasoning, and morality, as he decides to go after people who would mostly be considered the Scum of the Earth. It also allows a writer to explore the futility of such goals, especially when you have people (Supers) who can fight back against one human (no matter how well armed and trained he is). However, no one has taken it as far as the Rick Remender has as we have gotten to see what happens after his Frank Castle’s life seemingly ends, a storyline that is taken to its conclusion in Franken-Castle #21. Does the reviewer regret dropping this book after Issue 10, for something a little bit more his taste? No, but it doesn’t mean this issue doesn’t have its redeeming qualities.
Right from the beginning of this issue, we find out that our protagonist has just finished his long awaited revenge match with the person that put him in the position to become a murderous re-imagining of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster in the first place (Daken). A match that ends in a draw thanks to his old man’s interference (or that’s what we’re told from the re-cap). It also leaves Frank severely wounded with only one place to go where he can be safe from those hunting him. Considering the direction of where the comic has been the past year, it’s really fitting that we take a visit to Monster Island. From that point on, we are treated to what amounts as an interesting study of Frank’s character, as we see that he actually see that the Bloodstone has given Frank a lot more options in fighting off his enemies. We also see that his need for vengeance is so great, that he loses the ability to differentiate between those who do and don’t deserve to die. Putting Frank at a crossroads where he has to choose how he is going to fight his war. This is a story that would’ve come off a lot stronger if we didn’t have to listen to Frank’s Monologue through a good chunk of it, as it gleefully exposes the inherit flaw in Frank’s Character structure, as it seems he’ll never move on from his quest of vengeance, no matter what happens. Of course some may see this as an unfair criticism, as I think this does have its redeeming qualities, but there’s only so many times certain people can see the same story played out, and the reviewer is one of those people.
As far as the art goes, the reviewer will admit to first dismissing the art when he took a glance inside of the book at the Comic Book Store. It wasn’t until I got to sit down with it that I got to appreciate what they tried to do with this Issue. The first part of the story is painted, and it helps to make the reader realize that the first part is not connected with the real world, as it takes us into a setting that definitely feels like a monster movie in comic book form. The second part of the story is in the familiar gritty, realistic, dystopian style that one can expect of the Punisher. It helps to serve as the contrast between leaving one world, and re-entering the next. Something that would’ve come across stronger if some the details in the painted side weren’t sacrificed for what seems like time concerns. We still get a nice effort, which will and should be commended, especially for the two worlds we see coming together in this issue.
In this reviewer’s opinion, this issue was definitely a paradox. While there were plenty of things to praise from the writing to the art. There were the things that took away from the overall package. Things that chalked up to taste, and the fact that The Punisher is not a character that can be allowed to evolve and develop, because of his mission. Fans of the Punisher will find lots to like with this comic, everyone else will probably not be convinced that Frank Castle is worth following.
Story: *** (6) The story isn’t groundbreaking, but it is well told for the most part. The monologue takes away a lot from the proceedings, as it’s something we’ve heard 6,000 times before.
Art: ***1/2 (7) The Outlandish and the Gritty unite here, as we see Frank exiting one world, and entering another. It’s a strong effort all around, which would’ve been stronger if certain details were made more apparent in the Monster Island Story.
Accessibility: **** (8) For those who may be checking this out blind, we get almost every detail that’s needed to follow this story. The recap and the beginning do their job very well, as you’ll be up to speed as the story heats up.
Final Judgment: ***1/4 (6.5 out of 10)
(I know this is bloody late, but I had a case of writers block, and couldn't get this out until this afternoon. It sucks, but those are the breaks sometimes.)