In the midst of the epic War of the Realms, Frank Castle has indeed made his mark…memorably teaming up with the M-16 wielding Skurge to tear up some otherworldly entities and pairing up with his old frenemy Wolverine for some metropolitan Dark Elf bloodshed. It truly has been Frank’s finest hour in ANY Marvel Event. The bodycount continues in War of the Realms Strikeforce – The Dark Elf Realm. Frank’s experience and excellency in the art of death have caught him the attention of Thor’s adoptive mother, Lady Freyja, who needs him to gather a team for a suicide mission involving the Black Bifrost that requires not only brute strength, but spiritual fortitude. Enter Blade, She-Hulk and modern Ghost Rider (Robbie Reyes).
With only one issue to tell his tale, first-time Punisher writer, Brian Edward Hill, expertly manages to rope in ample storytime and motivations for all characters, while keeping the narrative centered on Frank and Lady Freyja. While the actual mission that is setup here is played out in War of the Realms #3, Brian Hill utilizes the spiritual divination aspects of the Thor universe to dive into the minds of each character allowing bite-sized glimpses into their personal stories and lore, giving the issue a sense of scale and grandness. There’s all manner of cameos and prophecies leading off into a payoff featuring an untold classic Punisher tale set in Columbia juxtaposed with a particularly grim Asgardian prophecy. I am also highly appreciating the resurgence of Blade in the 616 and the segments here absolutely slam.
While the past few years of mainstream Punisher have sought to keep Frank a silent operator (allowing for less detail, considerably less depth and story-telling options in my opinion), Brian Hill fearlessly charges headlong into Frank’s psyche, extracting his voice and NAILS IT! It’s remarkable fun to see Frank’s usual dry and dark demeanor with all the angst, regret and smart-ass remarks we’ve come to love paired up against the talk of the gods. Outside of the dialogue and set-up, major props have to be given for Hill’s characterization and understanding of The Punisher. Through organic and unforced dialogue, Hill conjures up Frank’s lethal mentality and murderous potential, truly making a case for why a goddess would seek out a mortal.
Leinil Yu, Gerry Alangvilan and Matt Hollingsworth visualize this epic tale beautifully, mixing Asgardian blues and yellows with the darker elements of its character roster. There’s some really badass panel choices as the story shifts from character to character and nothing is held back in terms of showing the scale of each character’s world. Leinil Yu draws one of my favorite Punisher depictions as of late, showcasing Frank in all his grim strength (his eyes are not seen once!).
Overall Verdict: War of the Realms Strikeforce – The Dark Elf Realm is an absolute blast in the midst of the War of the Realms, slowing down to showcase character motivations and heart in the midst of pure action yet still maintaining epic momentum. First time Punisher writer, Brian Hill, cements himself as someone to look out for in writing future tales of Frank.