Review: The Punisher #228 by Matthew Rosenberg

This issue marks the last issue of The Punisher using War Machine’s armor. Following the Secret Empire debacle, Matthew Rosenberg ended Frank’s time in the suit in the most honorable way he could. And it was a blast!

I haven’t had so much fun reading a Punisher run since the days of Greg Rucka. Matthew Rosenberg has truly created one of the most badass Punisher runs since the Marvel Knights days.

PUN-8.jpeg
Cover Art by Clayton Crain

The main draw of this issue was the fight between Iron Man and “War Machine Frank”. And we have it. It’s a great fight between the two, but don’t expect a “winner” from this encounter because you will not have it!
During this issue, Rosenberg gave us action-packed storytelling with The Punisher entering many fights with certain characters. Rosenberg always delivered a focused Frank and this continues. Despite all the distractions trying to stop him, Frank is determined to cut the head of the “snake” (HYDRA). I really liked the final pages and how Rosenberg wrapped up this series. It was honorable and respectable, contingent on Frank being the one to end it.

The artwork was superb and continues what Guiu Vilanova showed us during this run. Guiu Vilanova grew a lot between The Punisher #218 and this issue. When he started his War Machine armor wasn’t sharp enough to my eyes and looked bulky. Fortunately, he improved it a few issues later with a fancier and more “athletic” design. I really liked his splash pages and dynamic panels. Lee Loughridge’s colors were an important element, setting the perfect tone for the series. Not too bright or too dark. It was very adequate for each scene.

Final Thoughts: I had a blast reading this series. Matthew Rosenberg revamped and unleashed The Punisher within the limits of his being in the Marvel universe. He didn’t fall into the common mistakes of downgrading Frank’s skills towards other characters and went the other way around. Rosenberg respected Frank Castle, his fandom and portrayed him as what he is: the most dangerous non-powered human being alive.

Rating: 9/10

Final Arc Rating: 8.5/10

 

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19 thoughts on “Review: The Punisher #228 by Matthew Rosenberg”

  1. After everything all the heroes said and did to him all it took was to get frank outta that suit was rhodey asking nicely. Well not too nicely. Oh yeah. Very great story telling. Very honorable. Foh

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    1. Well, maybe you need to know that War Machine armor isn’t Frank’s armor never was.
      Maybe you need to know if there was someone who could make Frank take off the armor was Rhodey. The proprietary of the armor. Rhodey appealed to Frank good senses and he considered. There is something wrong with this? Frank isn’t an empty shell or a mindless robot.
      He didn’t ask nicely? Well, he had to catch Frank’s attention somehow, don’t worry he wasn’t hurt or something.

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      1. Out of all the heroes that showed up in the last few issues none of them got thru to Frank but rhodey shows up and says the magic words. Cuz he’s a fellow soldier? So is Captain marvel. She’s an air Force veteran and is ranked about Captain America. Yeah, I’ll be over here with my common sense.

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        1. I think ultimately what Rhodey was trying to do was to get to the core of Frank’s honor, of whether he was a man that was after vengeance at any cost. Rosenberg had the difficult duty to undo the ridiculous “Hydra Punisher” debacle and in this small exchange between Frank and Rhodey, lies Rhodey asking Frank exactly about that and closing that narrative thread.

          Frank allied himself with Hydra in Secret Empire, presumably because he thought in the end that he could work things out and reverse any temporary damage. Now, Rhodey is asking him, you took that step back then, is that who you are now? Taking my suit? My legacy? Out of all the heroes that were charged with facing him (outside of BW/Winter Soldier), Rhodey tells him that he does not believe Frank is of the same cloth as those Hydra goons and I think that allows Frank (in this instance/rendition) to come out of the suit preserving his honor and that’s why he’s more open to doing it. He takes things an extra step further in this miniseries, because he took things an extra step further in Secret Empire. And we’ve seen the same in MAX, when the bad guys take things up a notch…the things he does with Wilson Fisk’s son’s remains and the extra vengeance he dolls when Nicky Cavella urinates on the remains of his family.

          Ultimately, I feel that the Hydra Frank situation would never be possible ever, but if you are a “hardcore” Punisher fan, especially of Mike Baron Punisher, there is a larger than usual moral ambiguity to Frank in those days. It’s not the hardline take that Ennis has developed.

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      2. You guys keep saying frank will do anything for his mission and this whole run was for redemption over the Hydra
        arc. That’s hilarious. Everyone has rules. Everyone has lines they don’t cross. Even Frank castle. He doesn’t kill Innocents. And he respects soldiers. He also understands the importance of the hero community as he got sent to riders just to remind DD that what he does is not what Frank does. That is not a guy who would steal rhodey’s suit just cuz he’s dead and go around sullying his legacy cuz he wants kill enough assholes and prove to himself he’s not a Hydra goon. Now that his honor has been restored he still joined Hydra. What honor does even he have now? His entire reason for existing is null invoid. He joined up with the bad guys. He killed micro for just associating with bethel. He didn’t even really do anything. So When’s he gonna shoot himself? And instead of actually trying to do better he just steals rhodey’s suit for a joy ride until someone tells him he’s better than what he’s been doing lately. Obviously not. Cuz he didn’t do anything to truly gain redemption. He just showed his ass off until rhodey told him it’s ok to suck at punishing and cause world war 3 in rhodey’s own suit, which at the end of the day IS STILL NOT FUCKING OK. and barely got a slap on the wrist. The Punisher has not been the punisher for a long time. And you defending this run is more sickening than the run itself. As long as you see a skull and a body count you’re fine. But one day you’ll realize some of us want to see our favorite antihero to act like our favorite antihero when we read his comics. Not just a guy who’ll do anything for his mission that he already failed btw!

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        1. I hear ya, Cam. Ultimately, things were done in the Secret Empire run for controversy/sales and that sullied the character. War Machine Frank, ignoring the ruining Rhodey’s legacy stuff, was reminiscent of 80s Frank with the Baron run and you could tell Rosenberg was a fan and understood the character’s voice. I was extremely happy about that. I think if you ignored anything about Rhodey’s legacy, ignored Secret Empire and had everything else stay the same, Frank taking a joyride with the War Machine suit to take down Hydra and some terrorists is very fun.

          No one at PC is happy with the Hydra Punisher debacle, trust me. It’s definitely been a few hard years post-Ennis. Rucka was the last writer that really has done justice with due entertainment to The Punisher comics. Here’s where I think things went wrong:

          1) Modern politics had a lot to do with Hydra Punisher and sullying both Cap/Frank, who as military men were beholden to America and who currently are beholden to justice. The whole run was moreso a reaction to Trump/the political divide we now have. Marvel has a lot of work to do in terms of balancing representation and respecting legacy. Ultimately, they seem to like to go for the cheapest options. Controversy.

          2) On top of that, the modern political environment is toxic to Frank’s character. In a liberal context, where people are questioning private prisons, police brutality and rethinking hardline laws like the Three Strikes Law, people will take every opportunity to rake a character that they will reduce to “guy that shoots poor people in the hood”. The keyword you will here is “problematic”. Of course, that audience may have some points, but they also need to take a look at the brutality and savagery that real criminals can enact. Not everyone has respectable or sympathetic backstories to why they turned to crime and some people couldn’t give a damn. This is a world that writers are afraid to show and a world I think Frank operates best in.

          3) Lastly, you have to take into consideration writer and creator support for Frank himself. Creators, historically, have been afraid to lend support and/or a real life moral questioning to Frank. It seems to be a baseline “We don’t support him”(Hydra Punisher), a completely non-serious B-movie take (Cloonan) or people who write another character and just have Frank playing them (Edmondson). Most writers are afraid to lend a real life context to The Punisher, to seriously question his actions, society and the law. They’re afraid to ask if his actions bear legitimacy or to show the environment that could create someone like Frank. Ennis is the first to really in a balanced way, show the entertaining action movie side and the seedier philosophical legal side. See “The Punisher was drugged”, ” The Punisher is manipulated into killing Nick Fury” and now “The Punisher joins Hydra” for past examples of people pushing Frank into realms of dishonor. It always becomes the job of someone capable to push it back. Let’s see what Rosenberg does.

          Thank you, Cam. Punisher Central is here for readers like you, passionate, knowledgeable and not afraid to voice their opinion on Frank. We hope that with consistent coverage, more writers and opinions in the future and a sizeable audience, we can show Marvel what fans truly take from the character and to push him into more intelligent and dense realms. It takes organization, representation and ultimately work and lots of it.

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      3. Also kingpin and cavella ARE VILLAINS! Wtf did rhodey do to deserve that? Not a damn thing. Frank only steals from the people he kills. The criminals. The murderers. How’s this fight that mantra?

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      4. I appreciate that Eric. But may I just say You forgot the number 4 reason. Let me add one. Cuz people often forget this one.
        4) the punisher sucks today because instead of demanding excellence by not buying a comic that’s borderline blasphemous to the character as comic consumers should and also have the right too, most fans would rather IGNORE (Your words) everything wrong and disrespectful in this run and keep acting like it’s the best run since sliced bread.
        You guys won’t get it until someone else takes Frank’s skull insignia and runs around raping innocent women and killing innocent children (The opposite of what frank does) and blaming frank for those actions after frank died in some equally crappy crossover before you see the hypocrisy of this run.

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        1. That’s where the double-edged sword is. Check out this site, Comicchron, for comic sales numbers. Comics sales in the past decade or so, have been historically low, with Marvel relying on consistent reboots and events without consequence, meaning or any real planning. With Punisher hovering around the 25K to 30K mark, there’s a real risk that if we really stop buying Punisher comics that they’ll just stop making them. Maybe, we’ll have another decade of guest appearances like what was done to Moon Knight. Maybe, a lack of comic sales leads to non-support in other arenas (television, film etc).

          I think the conversation internally at Marvel in the past few years has been “How do we create a 616 place for The Punisher?” Ever since v2, we’ve had “Punisher kills Nick Fury”, “Punisher joins the mob”, “Angel Punisher”, “Frankencastle” and now “War Machine Punisher”. Variations are abounding and Marvel is trying to find that larger Punisher audience and trying to fit him into the larger 616, hence these changes. They want him interacting with heroes, they want him taking down larger than street criminals, either because they don’t want to keep him in the great, grounded environment Ennis created or they don’t think it’s sustainable. Any issues or runs that draw him closer to one of quality is one I’m going to support.

          It is definitely a hard act to walk the line between voicing your opinions as a cash consumer and continuing to support a character’s continual appearances in the comic world. Me and Ivo here aren’t blind Punisher fans, trust me. We both had large issues with Edmondson’s Punisher, Cloonan’s Punisher, The Thunderbolts in terms of storyline, art and overall quality. I also only supported those runs after the fact, in trades or back issue sales. I, myself, have been pretty irked by the delays and abrupt change of artists that the upcoming v11 has been suffering. Despite things I liked about Netflix’s The Punisher, I still only gave Season 1 a 7.5/10, because of writing issues and dumb plotting.

          And there are plans internally at Punisher Central on how we can band together and change that. I’m working on drafting up a business plan for subscription TPBs and premium titles in the same way that War Journal and War Zone were comics at higher price points with better quality. This is all part of the larger plan of Punisher Central and for us, that starts with a dialogue with the creators, rather than conflict. What do you think would work more? A Marvel head that goes to a dedicated Punisher fan site with consistent coverage seeing the voice of a fan like yours on it or you bellowing to the depths of FB comment walls on the same issues?

          If Ivo and I were just here for brownie points and to blindly support The Punisher, we would not approve comments like yours, but we do and we want to see more voices like that on the Punisher Central FB and site. There’s a role to play for everyone and we definitely support yours. Try to think of the comments section here as another “Letters” page. Ivo carried the initial responsibility for Punisher Central and I’m trying to push it forward a bit more. Due to the fact that Ivo and I, to a lesser extent, have control, coverage and access to a sizeable Facebook audience (up to 100K with the Punisher HQ), our “game”, so to speak, is a bit more political.

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          1. You underestimate the punishers staying power. Especially now after his TV series has made him a very important character to Marvel’s catalogue. If they wanted to give up on frank they’d have done it before Garth ever wrote him. You know what actually happened fans voted with their wallets? MARVEL KNIGHTS

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          2. What actually happened last time fans voted with their wallets was Marvel launched MARVEL KNIGHTS. I mean to say. Im sure you remember those dog days in Frank’s career. Remember they only started because his three ongoings at the time were NOT SELLING. they didn’t cancel him then. They won’t now. He’s too much of an impact character. Even in modern times. He’s essential. As he’s a equal parts cathartic and a whistle blower. Characters like Frank test us as to what we see as acceptable. And is always a talking point. Even if controversial controversy is great. Ask Kanye West. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. And it’s different anyway. Frank acts better as a commentary on what is acceptable. Even if in contention. And because yes tied to war, he always has a place in the world.

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      5. You’d think Carlos Cruz, hitman, and Payback would have taught him that lesson by now. I guess Rosenberg wasn’t familiar with those runs huh?

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  2. Also you are blind punisher fans if you can enjoy frank shitting on rhodey over doing what the fuck he’s actually trying to do. Frank doesn’t kill “bigger than street crime” targets. He takes down those too big for the police and too small for the cops. That’s where he exists in the 616. At least those runs you mentioned remembered that. He hoes after those who slips through the rain drops. Truly evil villains that Spidey can’t get too cuz of bullshit politics. Not Baron zemo. His family was killed the avengers didn’t help because that’s not his area of expertise. That’s where he comes in. To make sure that never happens to anyone else. If marvel doesn’t understand that they’re lost. And it sounds like everyday more and more punisher fans are too. It’s not that hard to get your head around.

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    1. Also I hate to be the bearer of bad news but frank isn’t gonna be running around killing other heroes rogues galleries. So if you didn’t like edmonsons run I guess you haven’t realized they went wrong putting him against villains HE COULDNT EVEN KILL! What do you think gonna happen different this time? Exactly.

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      1. Hey Cam, I think you need to reread my comment and take it down a notch. We’re all here as Frank fans, are we not? I didn’t say that I wanted Frank taking down other hero’s rogue galleries. I said that Marvel seems to want to do so. Neither myself or Ivo really expected him to take down Zemo. You have your opinions, Cam. We appreciate them, hopefully you can respect our position and the arguments I’ve laid out as well. If not, that’s your freedom to do so and your choice, but if it’s just trashing our work and what we’re trying to build here, there isn’t going to be any useful discourse between us. Make your case on a larger scale, send letters to Marvel, make a petition, but you got your arms pointed at the wrong people.

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        1. Oh come on bro, I’m not trashing you. Your work on this site speaks for itself and is DEDINENTLY an improvement so much so that sentence may be redundant. This is exceptional. And I do respect your opinions. I ALWAYS have or I wouldn’t care enough to debate this with you. You actually explained them. That was appreciated and did not fall on deaf ears. And yes we’re all punisher fans here. My thing is this. If fans become docile they become a slave to their own passions. hopelessly hoping for days of greatness but not willing to create the opportunity for those days to return. I feel thats a threat for fans. Not marvel. And I’m not so sure a petition can change that. So i hope you don’t forget why you read a character because you feel you have too. My roommate had this same argument btw. Believe it or not I was on your side then. He told me what I’m telling you This was shortly b4 cloonen’s run began. I felt like Frank would be cancelled any minute if I didn’t buy his comics. For your happiness. Not mine bro.

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          1. Oh bet on it. I’ve been a fan of punisher central for years. Like I said bro. I keep coming back. Must have a respect for you guys.

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