Review: The Punisher #14 (2019) by Matthew Rosenberg

U.N. soldiers or Hydra scum? Artwork by Szymon Kudranski and Colors by Antonio Fabela

Despite a triumphant New York homecoming, things aren’t looking particularly great for Frank Castle. Hydra figurehead Baron Zemo has now allied with Mayor Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin in an effort to get rid of their mutual punishment problem once and for all. Their tools? An army of 400 Hydra strong disguised as United Nations troops, the revived VIGIL anti-vigilante enforcement unit, a group of b-list “Thunderbolts” led by Jigsaw and a public eager to throw an unjustly disgraced and framed Frank Castle under the bus. Fortunately, The Punisher’s bad manners and insults haven’t pushed all his friends away….Black Widow, Moon Knight, Night Thrasher and some other surprise guest allies are showing up to lend a helping fist.

As much as this is a set-up issue focused around The Punisher’s gathering of allies, it’s equally a showcase of the comfort and understanding that Matthew Rosenberg has of The Punisher world and its characters. Despite toning back the combat for yet another issue, Rosenberg succeeds in reorienting the chessboard for the conflict to come with some memorable and hilarious interactions, surprising cameos and real “fuck yeah” moments. Tension and fear over long-form storytelling within a Punisher series comes from past poor experiences and at this point, Rosenberg’s arc building feels earned with his ambition, respect for canon and rich character knowledge. Rosenberg presents a masterclass in Frank Castle’s asshole mannerisms with some hilarious interactions with Moon Knight and Black Widow and balances out the humor with the poignant return of a central figure in Greg Rucka’s excellent run and the epic rise of a past Spirit of Vengeance. This issue is a triumphant reassurance of Frank’s ascension into murderous success and a testament to Rosenberg’s vision for big game punishment.

An examination of two psychopaths. Artwork by Szymon Kudranski and Antonio Fabela.

In paneling and transitions, the cohesion between Kudranski and Rosenberg in translating script to imagery has only continued to improve. While Kudranski has a craft with characters in shadow and stationary objects, his skills don’t translate as well to more fantastic forms such as superheroes, colors and bodies in motion. At times, things are leaning towards the hyperrealistic Tim Bradstreet side of things and at other times, it’s abruptly cartoonish and akin to Archer. There could definitely be improvement in the head & body ratios (see Frank missing a neck at times and Wilson Fisk’s fluctuating mass) as well as consistency in shading and detail. Nevertheless, credit has to be given to Szymon Kudranski for continually evolving and improving in his artwork. His depiction of Baron Zemo and Frank in this issue are among the best of his entire run. Antonio Fabela rounds out the art with some excellent coloring, bringing life especially to the scenes within the convenience store, “undisclosed location” and that epic last splash page.

Cover Art by Greg Smallwood

Earlier this week, cover artist Greg Smallwood stated that issue #16 would be his last work on The Punisher run. With this issue, Smallwood provided an epic three toned black, red and white cover showcasing Frank standing tall against a series of tanks and soldiers. Maybe, we’ll see a bit more of that next month.

Overall Verdict: The root success of Rosenberg’s run has been its aim to honor legacy by looking at what Frank Castle can achieve, rather than retread on familiar obstacles he’s already overcome. Rosenberg’s respect and knowledge of The Punisher services the story with deference to history and character, making homage meaningful and more than mere appeasement and hollow reference. This run truly feels like a part of the original numbering, rather than a reset of canon and this issue is just another excellent marker in Frank Castle’s return to strength.

RATING: 9/10

Next up in The Punisher #15 (out September 4th), Punishment.

 

8 thoughts on “Review: The Punisher #14 (2019) by Matthew Rosenberg”

  1. Idk Eric, but didnt he do everything but start WWIII in the armor of a U.S. soldier by going in a no fly zone let alone the bagalia tank ordeal, I’m sure he’s guilty of all sorts of war crimes rn bruh. The price of big game hunting with Frank’s methods. 😂😂 Here’s hoping #16 is Rosenberg’s last issue aswell. No offense, but his penchant for big game punishing and a Frank castle who keeps getting talked into doing crap he either doesnt want to do or normally wouldnt do like jigsaw talking him into letting him go for bigger game which I guess is his new mandate now. people like the ones that killed his family are still killing innocents, but hey, green goblin needs to be punished now👌! Countless people like the ones stalked by that knife weilding serial killer a few issues ago die everyday in the streets because while the punisher is doing spiderman’s job, No ones doing his job. Plus, Theres just no personality in Frank in this run for me, It’s like reading saw 9. Seems like as long as its got fuck yeah moments spread few and far between this qualifies as something new and fresh to most readers because usually in a run like this hes out of his league. 🤷🏾‍♂️🤷🏾‍♂️ kinda feels like the appearance of night thrasher, widow, moon knight, and alves makes people forget that this run is still saying the same thing edmonson did. Frank cant hack it in the supers world. Especially with Zemo still not dead. The last super he maimed was the mandarin. You called the action in this issue toned downed but it’s only noticeable cuz nothing else is going on. I’m pretty sure night thrasher and co. minus alves all tried to kill him last time they met, so…..? My question, if I have one, is if widow is always gonna bail him out in the last few issues when he’s going after big game? That kinda defeats the purpose if there was one doesnt it? It’s like, why have him go up against supervillains if he cant beat them without someone like bucky or natasha showing helping him? I dont mind a crossover now and then but I’d rather it be organic to the story not just, “not even Frank can possibly do this on his own..” But that’s just retreading steps I guess. Its past time for a back 2 basics run if ya ask me. You talk about retreading steps. My point is he keeps going after supervillains that’s all hell end up doing. Hes not gonna wipe out all marvels great villains. They only have like 10 truly great villains anyway and zemo is one of them.

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    1. You seem to go back to the War Machine arc a lot. I still have no issues with it. He started that war and ended it. There are no repercussions because anybody that would start WWIII on the opposition is dead. Frank ended it. If you paid attention to issue #14, Frank was the “knife wielding serial killer”. I feel that Baron Zemo is slated to die. At this point, with the way the story is going…it’s feels all but guaranteed. But again, could be wrong. We’ll see in a few issues.

      I feel this run honors legacy in looking at Frank Castle as man with the ways, means and motivation to truly enact justice. The heroes in the 616 always run their mouth about their moral superiority and gun after Frank, but consistently let trash like Kingpin, Baron Zemo and Evil Cap live to fight them again and again and cause huge civilian casualties in mandated future events. If you paid attention to Garth Ennis’s Knights & MAX run, there’s a certain part of Frank that knows that he is never and is currently not going to make a difference. Part of Frank’s war on crime has always been his own satisfaction towards killing and hurting people he hates, rather than really looking at the best targets to take out. With this run, I feel that that’s the message Rosenberg is pulling for. Give the most dangerous man in the 616 the ability to gun after big game and everyone’s going to feel the repercussions. For all of Frank’s jibber jabber about making the hard calls that heroes wouldn’t, why wouldn’t he do his thing on the most dangerous people in the Marvel Universe?

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      1. Oh wow man, Didnt realize Frank was the killer. Makes it worse. Means he hasnt done anything in this run worth a damn for anybody but himself. I’m sure all those drug dealers selling to kids are really bothered by those disposable hydra agents dead in bagalia. A situation widow, winter soldier, war machine, or literally, any avenger since they all kill something you’re forgetting. This ain’t DC. Cap had a gun in war, Tony kills all his enemies in the comics and movies, look up what happened to mallen if you dont believe me, black widow war machine and winter soldier arent exactly shooting blanks ya know 😏 Also my point was he broke war crimes.👌👌 Not saying you’re not but If you were into war you’d know that going into a us no fly zone makes you a terrorist to the United States regardless if they choose to not intervene in a country. And I’ve said this b4 but The idea of Frank going after bigger targets is a direct opposition of Frank’s purpose imo🤷🏾‍♂️. He exists to take down those who slip thru the rain drops. The ones who are truly vile human beings who dont have superpowers who hurt those who cannot defend themselves 👌What you call fresh I call out of character. What you call a celebration of his goals feels like a pity party for a man who joined hydra and couldn’t accept that his folly made him become even more of a joke than he already was in the hero community. All these things are canon btw. Thats why I am always bringing them up. Hell, Rosenberg brings it up in several issues which, no surprisingly, this site pointed out as a flaw in a review b4. It’s kinda like this for me, you call it plot armor, I call it the reason why this run is worse than you think and why favorite character lost his reason to exist. You say honors his legacy I say it rewrites it and destroys it. Frank’s just a basrard who like him lately, has no redeeming qualities and is just a madman with no cause. He was a madman with a code. You talk sales and success I say he was just in two highly successful TV shows which promoted a comic. which was more fuel to hate this series imo. This is the most anti punisher story I’ve personally read next to angel punisher imo. Because now, It’s nice to know, if Frank could go back now to year one right before he scarred jigsaw, who helped bury his family in year one, jigsaw wouldn’t be scarred now if Frank had this mentality to go after big fish if kingpin says standing there in the same room. And that’s the reason his family’s dead. Cuz no one thought the crime on the streets was that important. And God forbid this is his new status quo moving forward. I’m sure that’ll be an amusement park for you. But this is just not frank to me. But you’re entitled to your opinion. I can kind of see where you’re coming from but it’s too much going on currently to overlook imo. It’s too many negatives from the last three, four in your case, runs. But more so this one.

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        1. First off, thanks for giving your critique in a sensible fashion this time around. We’ve butted heads in the past, but I appreciate the fact that you are passionate about the subject manner in a true fan manner and are willing to debate your point across.

          In terms of the intervention and war crimes, I look at Mother Russia. I look at Born and Fury MAX and I see a Frank Castle that is willing to go through any means to achieve his objectives with no moral consideration even if that means killing his own men raping the enemy, fragging incompetent and uncaring command, committing state subterfuge and literally launching Russian warheads if it’s for the purpose of saving innocent lives.

          There’s a myth that Frank Castle operates only in the hood or streets, but he’s taken down arms dealers in morally perilous circumstances (see Mike Baron’s Brattle Gun arc), he’s reenlisted under a false name to go back to Vietnam (see Punisher Invades the Nam), he’s hit corporate crime with (with the 80s Ghost of Wall Street arc as well as the Barracuda storyline). Part of The Punisher classic comics by Chuck Dixon, Mike Baron and Abnett and Lanning have always involved moving outside the US in stories like River of Blood and Eurohit. Frank executes a VIGIL cop on live TV in Suicide Run. The ending of Ennis’s MAX run was a statement against the corruption of the military industrial complex and of corporations ruining civilian lives. It ended with Frank capping a multitude of Army and Air Force generals. Hell, he threatened the President of the United States in Marvel Knights. This is a man that truly has never given a fuck.

          I understand where you are coming from in terms of missing the grounded nature of the comic or sticking out of the superhero business, but it seems all too fair that Frank Castle in all of the badassery of his solo series rile up the untouchables a bit. It’s all too unfortunate and I would say everyone would agree that the origin of this escalation was rooted in the ass end of Secret Empire.

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          1. I agree completely and also thank you for the kind words. I was privy to that info. That said I have no problem with him moving about in the world. I love his runs in new Orleans, and enjoyed seeing him in LA b4 he got beat up every issue. Im with him taking out big targets when he runs into him, But to take out solely big targets and ignore street crime entirely is way too far. That’s exactly what the avengers do and in essence makes him exactly the same as them. They ignore the problem and the people they protect get nothing but pain on the streets. I feel it isnt his nature and wouldn’t even interest him. How many times has he turned down going to fight someone else’s war? Like I said, it goes against his whole reason to do what he does. It’s the people he’s punishing I have an issue with anyway. People point out he first showed up in spiderman. I have that run and trust me that is a preavengers spidey and likely looked very much like a street lvl hood who was accused of getting away with murder. Someone Frank would go after. Also the direction of the character and the lack of depth. I feel like this run focuses on action and very short issue length in terms of what happens during in issue because theres not much else there, ya know? Honestly, if you took the action out of this what would you have? Would you even read it? 🤷🏾‍♂️Verses say, do not fall in New York city which imo is one of the greatest punisher one shots ever. And 1 person dies in it. I’m not saying that every comic should have a low body count. I’m saying Frank castle as a character is more than bullet casings. And as much as Rosenberg knows as a fan, I dont think he knows that. And outside of relying on characters in the mu to get people to see what happens, this run takes no chances imo. No new characters or supporting cast introduced. No real plot which is fine as a run and gun story but at the same instead of the action helping the developing story in an interesting way, It is the story. It’s like watching a Jason movie which Rosenberg said was an inspiration and tho Jason is my fave by far it’s been awhile since there was a good Jason movie. They’re essentially snuff films. And that gets old eh 🤷🏾‍♂️ plus, please super hes killed since Mandarin. Hes not really killing big targets. Hes just fighting and endless army of flunkies. Ya know what I mean?

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          2. Hey man, three words: you were right. Ivo will post his review and I got my own closing essay on this whole series that’s not going to pull any punches. After nearly a decade and about $400 out of my pockets keeping up with Frank month by month, this was the last straw of just how much contemporary politics and a meandering and thoughtless editorial and creative team at Marvel could screw with a simple, enjoyable character. There’s some things to be said about money, there’s some bits to say about the people not pushing forth their word and dollar bills into the character where and when it counted, but the final proverbial axe to fall is on the people behind these lackluster series.

            I’m putting that on Rosenberg, Cloonan, Edmondson, Ostrander, Fraction and all of the people who ever had a hand in any of the nonsense I saw in Secret Empire, Purgatory of the Thunderbolts. If Ennis wasn’t there to sanitize my palette, I’d probably never pick up another Punisher book again unless I saw some real changes. I have no idea how the comic machine works, but I think it’s a damn shame that the people behind the curtain that show inklings of building something good don’t push management for something great.

            WHOOOOOSSHH.

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    1. No problem and I feel you on the Jason stuff. Let’s see how Rosenberg ends the story. You do have another completely valid reason why this run isn’t connecting with you.

      I feel this run is popcorn entertainment somewhat. A throwback more to the 80s with tinges of the present. The subtle statement I see being made is about Frank Castle and his relation to the greater 616…and how he’s making a stand for respect in his name. It’s not as bombastic and fast as say The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe…but for a great Marvel villain like Zemo, we’ve gotta tease the conflict out a bit.

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