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Review Group: Franken-Castle #21

Eli Katz had the pick for new comics shipping September 29th and he selected Franken-Castle #21 by Rick Remender, Dan Brereton and Andrea Mutti.


banner_OHredThe Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse's News Stand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate.

Back when the Review Group covered the start of the Franken-Castle story arc in Punisher #11, we kind of liked it. Will we find the same joy in the weird with the story arc's conclusion?
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0929-fc21_coverReview by Royal Nonesuch

The first thing that strikes you about Frank-Castle #21 is Dan Brereton's artwork. He's probably the most underrated comic book painter out there, and here he lives up to his reputation as modern day pulp incarnate. He does a gorgeous job with Franken-Castle on Monster Island. The story is solid, but starts to wear towards the end. Remender get to his "out" quickly enough, and spends the rest of the issue showing Castle's struggles with the Bloodstone. The appearance by Else Bloodstone is welcome, as she always is, but it feels like the story achieved everything it set out to do with some page space to spare, and thus starts to drag for the last few pages before finally getting to its ending. Also, Frank's first person narration is fine, but really gets distracting in parts.

The back up story reestablishes the status quo of The Punisher. He's back to killing thugs on the streets in his traditional uniform, and he does so with some gusto. It's always good to see Frank Castle doing what he does best, and we'll obviously be doing more of that.

My score: 8. A solid enough comic book with a good resolution, elevated by wonderful artwork.

22
Review by Zero

The Punisher has a dubious history when it comes to stories that take him away from his usual environment. When Garth Ennis brought the character back in his Marvel Knights story, he decided to simply ignore the mess that came before. Will the next Punisher writer do the same?

Starting with he good. Mutti's art in the epilogue is competently 'urban and gritty' and Brereton's pulpy painted art is perfect for a story featuring the 70's monster characters fighting on monster island. The colours are brash, the style is old school, and it's always clear what's going on and how people feel. Hell, you could probably tell this story well enough with most of the narration removed. Which would be a good idea.

Sentence fragments. Dead Wife. Angry. Clich├ęd tough talk. Punish things. Grr.

No, I didn't like the narration. I like the Frank Castle who's dead inside and thinks only with cold military precision and regret. I like the Frank Castle that sets old men on fire and uses landmines like they were going out of fashion. I like Ennis's Punisher and Aaron's Punisher because of the subtlety and depth they bring to a potentially one note character. For all I know Frank's been written well when he's not under the influence of mystic stones and undeadness, but here I didn't find him interesting at all.

I didn't fancy the story when it started, and this confirms that it wasn't the thing for me. I did like the art though so points for that.

6

21
Review by Jubilee

Is this just how Punisher gets back to normal? That's it? I mean the whole thing was very by the numbers for what I've been led to believe is a very out there story. It's not your average Punisher story no, but the whole internal monologue was very simplistic, and with this being the last issue of a storyline it certainly didn't make me want to pick up what has come before.

Not a great story by any stretch of the imagination, and I don't think the art was incredible either. Better than average sure, but not the top of the pile, even just on Marvel books.

Overall I'd give the whole thing a 5.5 Close to pushing for a 6, but so utterly serviceable that I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

19
Review by Stephen Day

I haven't read any of the twenty previous issues of this series, but thanks to the synopsis on the first page I didn't feel like I was lost in any way. With that I was able to jump right in an enjoy this issue. I don't feel the need to get the issues that I missed, but I will say that this one was fun to read. The Punisher running around on Monster Island in an insane state being chased by the Legion of Monsters is such a weird concept that its hard not love it.

I don't know if I like the way Elsa Bloodstone was portrayed this issue. but then again I haven't read anything with her in it since Bloodstone, the series that introduced her back in 2001. I remember her as a nice teenage girl just discovering that Ulysses Bloodstone was her father. That's the version of the character that I like, not the gun toting woman with anger issues I found in this issue. I am willing to accept that the character has developed in her various appearances in the past nine years, but I will say I don't have to like the result of that development.

Having gotten that off of my chest, let me gush about the rest of the issue. I loved the six issue spread near the beginning of the issue with Castle hunting monsters. I loved seeing the various Marvel monster characters running around hunting Frank Castle. I loved seeing Morbius. I loved seeing the Man-Thing. I loved seeing the Living Mummy -- he's been a long time favourite of mine among the marvel monsters.

The main 22 page story was very enjoyable for me. I can't say the same about the nine page backup feature though. I've never been a huge modern day Punisher fan and normally, this issue being an enjoyable exception, don't buy anything with him in it if I can help it. Those nine pages of the Punisher being the Punisher is the type of stuff that really doesn't interest me. Considering that the Punisher was back to his old self at the end of the regular 22 pages, I found that entire section to be both unnecessary and unwelcome.

7 out of ten for a fun issue that was brought down a little bit by a tacked on ending that wasn't really needed.

18
Review by 48THRiLLS

I am pretty mixed on this comic. I remember reading the first issue for the group and enjoying it, I am not sure why I didn't continue getting it (most likely because I am not a big fan of the Punisher) but I have not read any of the issues in between this and the first. I do think turning Castle into a monster is a fun hook and I enjoyed most of this comic... everything up to the end, him just magically turning back into his normal self because of some rock in his chest is weak... and then how it is left off in the very end with him back in New York doesn't make me at all interested to pick up where this leaves off. It felt like they rushed the transformation from monster to man because it seemed like he was Franken-Castle one page then blam-O he is Frank on the next.

I will say after reading this I will definitely pick up the trades at my library cuz the idea of Frank hanging out with all the other Marvel monsters sounds fun and very un-Punisher like... and the art is absolutely stunning.

STORY - 5
ART - 9
OVERALL - 6.9

15
Review by Punchy

Story - Garth Ennis has a lot to answer for. Ever since the Northern Irish genius turned his twisted mind towards Frank Castle, a lot of fans have expressed the opinion that his way is the only way. That the Punisher only works in a realistic, MAX, crime setting, that putting the character into the actual Marvel Universe is wrong. Now I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy Ennis' run on the Punisher, it was a masterpiece, but this view is incredibly reductive, ignoring the facts that the Punisher worked perfectly well for 30 years in the Marvel Universe before Ennis changed things, and also that Ennis' run itself featured many familiar MU characters, such as Daredevil, Wolverine and Nick Fury. Ennis' run may have been definitive, but it shouldn't restrict the character.

Which is why Rick Remender's take on the character is so refreshing, rather than attempt to follow Ennis' template, he just went for it, and threw Frank into the Marvel Universe with gay abandon, putting the character into some of the weirdest corners of the Fictional Reality you could think of, turning him into a Frankenstein's Monster along the way. I never thought I'd read a Punisher comic which featured Morbius, Man-Thing, Living Mummy and Werewolf-By-Night. It was a total unexpected delight, providing that there can still be unpredictability in the Marvel Universe. It may have been total madness, but it was still however, The Punisher. Throughout this whole crazy storyline, the actual personality of the Punisher/Franken-Castle has remained the same as ever, he has the same drive, the same anger, he's the same guy. But with a metal arm and stitched on head. This is what the myopic MAX only people don't understand, through his inflexibility, the Punisher is actually one of the most flexible characters in comics, much like Batman, he has a very well-defined motive and characterisation, and can easily be dropped into almost any genre and remain the same.

But alas, all good things come to an end, and this issue features the last appearance of Franken-Castle, and it's a distillation of all that made this series great. Franken-Castle is on Monster Island, fighting a lot of giant-Godzilla monsters, and then the Legion Of Monsters and Ellie Bloodstone show up and he fights them. It's crazy 4-colour goodness, but at the same time, it's still an examination of who Frank actually is as a character, about what defines him, about what makes him The Punisher. The Living Mummy really nails down what the Punisher is. Again, very surprising.

At the end, Frank is back to normal, and he heads back to New York City, for a coda story leading into Remender's upcoming 'In The Blood' mini-series. Remender gets to stretch his more traditional Punisher muscles here, using Gang-slang, and having Frank take out some Hoods. In the end, I have mixed feelings about this, it was a thrill to see The Punisher back in black, but I also really loved Franken-Castle, and am sad to see it end so soon. Sigh, we'll always have that time you flew a Dragon and fought Nazi-Zombies.

Artwork - This issue features the work of two different artists, and they provide a wonderful contrast. Dan Brereton returns to paint the main story, and it's wonderful, his work looks like Pulp-Novel covers, and this style is perfect for a story featuring so many weird and wonderful monsters, it looks larger than life and is just great fun. Andrea Mutti's work in the coda brings us back down to Earth, the colour palette is darker, and it's more realistic. They both show the two sides of the Punisher, he can be a dark crime character, or be just as comfortable in the craziness of the Marvel Universe, it's up to the writer to walk this tightrope, and Remender does a good job of it, but he needs artists like this to convey the duality.

Best Line - I found much of Ellie Bloodstone's dialogue to be hilarious, Remender actually made her sound British, but this is the best one 'I've fought Frankenstein -- and you, sir, are NO Frankenstein'

8/10

14
Review by guitarsmashley

So by the time Elsa Bloodstone showed up I just got horribly bored with this issue.Between Frank's innermonologue and Elsa's "Hody you do govner" this issue just dragged and dragged and in the end a piece of mystical stone healed frank...and his bionic arm...and his brain that was ut back together...and his rotting flesh....and his whatever else was wrong with him... I called it back when this started that they were going to screw this up especially when it came to his return and they did. The best part of this issue was the last 5 pages that was a punisher story the rest was just weak and the art was pretty awful. I don't care for painted comics especially not ones that look like colored pencils.

4

12
Review by Kerny

All in all, this comic was a bit of a let down, yet it remains a good comic in my eyes. It is a let down because this is the worst issue in the whole Franken-Castle story, and I thought the previous issues were borderline amazing. If not for the standards set by its beginnings, this would probably fare better.

The return to Frank Castle is fine. The 'out' is simple and natural to the story. Another even crazier explanation might have been better, given it's a story involving Frank Castle as a Frankenstein killing monsters and hanging out with the Manphiban. Despite the cool visuals, it is fairly boring issue. Frank goes back to normal, kills things, gives up stone, voila. The monologue is also tedious and overdone in parts. The 'weeks later' intro into Circle of Blood was great. Vintage Punisher. As much as I enjoyed Franken-Castle as a whole, it was great to see Frank being Frank, especially with the MAX title being delayed to hell.

Someone said Dan Breton is one of the most underrated of the comic painters and I tend to agree. Lovely pictures of Frank killing monsters and a bright color palette. Unlike other painters, Breton's work has energy, life, movement, and feels like comic book art and not just some posed men and women doing poses while wearing funny clothes *coughAlexRosscough.* I'm not familiar with Andrea Mutt's work, but I liked it here. It gets the job done and people die well. Frank himself looks kind of odd, but it's a short sequence, so it doesn't bother me too much.

Story 6
Art 8
Overall 7

10
Review by John Snow

Putting aside the fact that the whole Franken-Castle concept is buckets of stupid, I enjoyed the Monster Island portion of this in spite of myself. Having Elsa Bloodstone helped some, but not nearly as much as Dan Brereton. Holy Man-Thing the first half of this book is pretty. I had to read it twice to really figure out what the what since I had only read the first issue of this arc previously, but it was damn pretty.

The second half of this comic on the other hand, not pretty at all and I'm not even talking about the art. Remender's ghetto-speak was hard to get through and it was about the most wrote Punisher scene possible. Where Brereton succeeded in taking Remender's lackluster scripting and making it into something fun, Mutti isn't up to the task. Mutti's portion of the book is horribly muddied and takes Frank Castle to previously unseen levels of fugly.

Story: 3
Brereton Art: 10
Mutti Art: 1
Overall: 5

09
Review by Frag It

Terrible comic by a terrible writer. Who picked this pile of horse shit? Thanks for wasting 5 minutes of my life Eli Katz (I'll just blame him anyway).

1/10

08
Review by Silver Phoenix

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.

The Verdict
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)

07
Review by Eli Katz

Because I selected this book for the art, let me discuss the art first. The illustrations for this issue are amazing. They are fun, exciting, wildly colored, and beautifully retro. Flipping through this book, I felt as though I was transported back to the '70s and reading an old comics mag, like the Rampaging Hulk. (Yes, I know that was a black-and-white book, but it had these gorgeous painted covers.) If more superhero books made an effort to look and feel pulpy, I would likely read more of them.

As for the story, well, it's hard for to give a competent review because I have not read any other Franken-Castle issues and therefore have no sense where this narrative traveled. I will say this, though: it sure is fun to see Marvel's monsters being used in an appropriately off-the-wall way. And for that, this book --and perhaps the whole Franken-Castle storyline -- gets my highest praise. But I will say there is one flaw in the writing, namely the dialogue. Remender is a great concepts guy, but he can't write dialogue to save his life.

Even so, this is a pretty good book.

STORY: 5.5
ART: 9.5
OVERALL: 7.5
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That gives Franken-Castle #21 a group score of 6.08. Those reviews are all over the place. Me? I'm off to track down more Brereton comics.

For what McKegan calls "all the geeky, bitchy arguing about comics you'd expect from a comic message board condensed into absolute awesomeness", check out this week's thread and post your own review in The News Stand forum.
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Punchy has the pick for October 6th and he has selected Ultimate Comics Thor #1 from Marvel Comics. Join us as we resume our ongoing Jonathan Hickman debate on Wednesday when the new thread is posted in The News Stand forum.

1006-ucthor_coverUltimate Comics Thor #1

WRITER: Jonathan Hickman
PENCILS: Carlos Pacheco

Exploding from the pages of the Ultimates, comes Ultimate Thor! Don't miss the superstar team-up of JONATHAN HICKMAN and CARLOS PACHECO as they go back to the beginning and tell the origin of Thor, Loki and the rest of Asgard! Ragnorak has descended and Asgard sits at the edge of the end. What will become of Thor and the Warriors Three? And what exactly does Baron Zemo, mysterious commander for the Nazis, have to do with it all? Ultimate Comics Thor brings you the untold story of Thor's thunderous debut! Rated T $3.99

Written or Contributed by: John Snow
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