Review: The Punisher #12 (2019) by Matthew Rosenberg

Artwork by Szymon Kudranski and Colors by Antonio Fabela

Continuing immediately after his organized jailbreak from and destruction of Bagalia, the story begins with Frank crash-landed in cartel tropical island territory and about to be executed by drug overdose. Thanks to prior writer Mike Baron (see issues #29 and #30 of War Journal v1 and the awesome Punisher : G Force graphic novel respectively), Frank’s built some undercover drug tolerance over the years. Surrounded, outgunned and impaired, Frank Castle takes down as many foes as he can with drug needle and curved machete. It’s a short, but memorable showcase of Frank’s deadliness. On the ropes and nearly out, he’d rather bet on a guaranteed enemy casualty rather than a chance at safety. As the cartel forces close in, Frank is rescued by a curious mix of his former innocent Bagalian cellmates and fleeing ex-Hydra. Stranded, out of fuel and running low on food, they all have to work together to get off the island.

Let’s hit the positives. This issue features Frank Castle on an island, relegated to limited tools and manual weapons and adorned with a HEADBAND as well as the badass scarred skull left on his chest by Baron Zemo’s knifework. Matthew Rosenberg sets up a badass classic issue with Frank taking on John Rambo characteristics and relegating himself to Vietnam era tactics with punji stick traps, tunnel warfare and environmental camouflage to exterminate his foes. The only defense for Frank is offense, in gathering enemy attention and executing dismemberment. Action-wise, it’s as silky bread and butter as Frank Castle can get. There’s also a great homage to a certain classic Punisher War Journal issue by the end of it (think ski boats).

Artwork by Szymon Kudranski and Colors by Antonio Fabela

Outside of the action and fanservice however, this issue problematically forces Frank again to confront his former Hydra allegiance through his new ex-Hydra liberators and to deal with Sister Mercy’s remaining innocent followers and her imparted morality. As much as this run has been an awesome power-fantasy romp of Frank Castle’s deadliest hits, its Hydra shadow has left each issue feeling inconclusive and thematically part of the greater Secret Empire saga. With over twenty issues focused on Hydra, it’s clear that Rosenberg has something he wants to say about Frank Castle and his role in the event. The plot point feels a bit stagnant and at this point, the conflict demands Baron Zemo’s head on a stick as an assertion of Frank’s expanded role in the 616 or a swift return to basics if plot armor seizes the day. Once every head is cut off, what lies in Frank’s future given his new status quo as a former Hydra agent? Will this just be another meaningless, brief detour from Frank’s war on the streets? With every issue, these questions grow more pertinent.

Some of the stranger artwork by Szymon Kudranski

In terms of art, I continue to be divided on Szymon Kudranski, although I will say that some of his work here is some of my favorite within the run. There are beautiful shots of Frank in shadow and shade wielding his bow and arrow in complete pitch black grimness. Closeups of faces and detailed eyes continue to excel. At other times, I see a frustrating cycle of recycled art, inconsistent body shapes and size ratios, and unnatural facial expressions and positions. Some shots and panels are displayed with such detail and heart, while others look like characters have been copy-pasted onto backgrounds or characters copy-pasted period with incomplete shading and penciling. One minute, it’s photorealistic ink drawn beauty and the other it’s obscure outlines and color-pastel fill-ins. Antonio Fabela runs the gamut of colors with this issue, starting with some very 90s purple/orange mixtures and ending with some much-needed day-time brights and lighter tones for variety within the series.

Examples of Szymon Kudranski’s photorealism and Antonio Fabela’s wonderful colors

Overall Verdict:  As this run was heading into its 5th arc without thematic resolution, there was a certain fear that Frank’s core character would be changed irreparably forever even further. Fortunately, The Punisher #12 triumphantly shows that Frank Castle has all but remained the same. With the issue ending with Frank back in his New York hunting grounds, let’s hope that his place and raison d’être (reason for existence) within the Marvel Universe have remained the same also. Let’s hope for a swifter conclusion to the Zemo saga as well…us Punisher fans are used to swift ends to vendettas.

RATING: 7.5/10

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11 thoughts on “Review: The Punisher #12 (2019) by Matthew Rosenberg”

  1. Not to be a dick, but I’m pretty sure everything you just said I said would happen back when issue 1 dropped and all most people did was argue how Rosenberg was the second coming of Ennis and that he was doing a “punisher fan doing a punisher service”. I said hes just throwing a hissy fit and this would be a momentary distraction from the fact he joined hydra. I even said this was part of the hydra storyline. Everyone wanted to say it was just a comic and didnt connect and if wasn’t that important. I said, without the inclusion of thought bubbles for a character who doesn’t ever show signs of giving a fuck itd be impossible to accurately show whether he can be redeemed or is just an exalted asshole who in his eyes “can do no wrong” even tho his entire concept as a character goes against that. I even said needed a “back to basics” approach. Funny how things come back around. Most importantly, this run would run out of steam by issue 14. Here we are, at issue 12. And I’m the asshole right?

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    1. Cam, I never had beef with your opinions…moreso the way that you expressed them and the way you went at me for expressing hope for the direction of the series.

      My reviews have never shyed away from critique as you can plainly see here and even from my words on Issue #1. Go look back at your comments in Issue #1 and you will see that my first response was agreement with your concerns. Those same concerns continue to this very issue and were expressed in that first review, but I can also analyze the things that Rosenberg has done right and instances where he has shown he has read Frank beyond a surface level and beyond the MAX material to include the classics.

      Disagreement can be entirely civil, but you don’t have to cut down a man’s character at the same time.

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      1. Do you realize how many time my, OUR Hope’s have been dashed when it comes to the punisher? Maybe not yours. But plenty reviews here go a little past optimistic critiques and into the praise department. And you know it. Stop bringing up your first review. We haven’t agreed since. Keep focusing on the positives even though the negatives greatly outweigh them. We’ll see what your score tor the next issue is.

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  2. Wait a minute, didnt I say this would happen? Didnt I say that this was a distraction from his mission and he was just throwing a hissy fit cuz he joined hydra? Didnt I say that he was gonna start changing (going after big fish sounds like castle to you huh? Ok.) Didnt I say what he really needs is a back 2 basics approach? Didnt I say without thought bubbles itd be damn near impossible to show any sort of redemption for Frank? Didnt at the start of this comic that this was a meaningless part of the hydra story and that unless zemo dies the whole run is pointless. Didnt I say this run would run out of steam byisssue 14? This is all just coincidence huh? Id ask for an apology for months if calling me eccentric and telling me I was wrong. But I know this review is as good as its gonna get.

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    1. He’s still going after Zemo and Kingpin hence hope staying alive. But praise to Lord Xander! He sees and hears all and can’t let other people have a bit of optimism in a run, right?

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      1. I see Frank left jigsaw alive to go after bigger fish and I’m positive he hates people that do that. because if cops and superhero community hadnt went after the bigger fish his family might have some justice rn. Stick to the facts eric. You still not attacking me Smartass?

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          1. I wrote it twice and didnt think it went thru. I never use my real name. Ever. I always used cam until cam comments stopped being posted.

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      2. Your grades for this run have been over 8/10 on nearly every review. That’s not optimism. That’s exceptionalism. Your saying this run is exceptional. I’m calling you out on your bullshit until this run is over. And how shitty it is. And since were making predictions on fb. Let me make you. The next issue you’ll either praise ridiculously or say how it didnt really go anywhere (ignoring the fact this run has been stagnant the entire time. Wtf has Frank accomplished? Ivo used to rant about how longer stary arcs were bad for the punisher during the edmondson era. But this has run all been one long story.) And you’ll keep say that till the end where you’ll see how shitty this run is and then, then, I won’t tell you I told you so. What they’re doing to our favorite character next will be punishment enough for all of us. “He needs a Back 2 basics approach”. That’s rich. Really, that’s rich.

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        1. I think this is the last time I’ll respond. I defend my reviews (#1 and #12) with scores of 8 and 7.5 respectively. You can keep going in on me for my hope or whatever. I find it strange how you aren’t writing or tweeting at Rosenberg and Marvel instead.

          I don’t know why you are so obsessed with being right. Each issue does its business so far. If it fell back in its storytelling and presentation, I would dock it for that. As a whole, I cannot yet give a word until I see how the Hydra business is resolved.

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          1. Fair enough. I’ve gotta go downtown anyway. This is likely my last post on this subject matter since in just so crazy. If you’ll allow me, I think it’s important to state here that I’m not going in on you for your positivity. It’s hard for me to see what you see in this book because it’s pretty black and white to me and as much as you and ivo think I hate you I respect your opinions. I have always, respected your opinions. Even when I dont give the most respectful response. Doesn’t mean I hate you. I just bark at your reviews because I hold them in such high esteem. I was operating under the pretence ya knew that aswell. Pretty sure I’ve said that before too. I took ivos comment about hardcore too literally and got mad. It’s that reason he thinks I’m a kid. I was the one who took it that far anyway. under further review of his comments it’s obvious the only one being disengenuist was me. Sorry about that. Hope you all get something outta this run. Even if I dont.

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