The end of a cycle has arrived. A bittersweet ending to the best mainstream Punisher run since Greg Rucka’s and a great series. For over two years and TWENTY SEVEN issues, Frank Castle braved the fallout of an unthinkable and absolutely horrendous decision on the part of Marvel Comics creative and editorial teams to allow The Punisher to ally himself on the side of Hydra during Marvel’s linewide Secret Empire event. As usual, he did it the only way he could…with blood, weapons and murder. But did he follow through?
Ivo Santos’s thoughts:
After last issue’s battle royale between the Thunderbolts and Frank’s team, the Thunderbolts were defeated and Baron Zemo and Jigsaw kidnapped Rachel Cole-Alves, luring Frank to come after them. This issue has almost everything you could expect in a twenty four page wrapup: a great fight between Zemo and Frank and a reaffirmation of a long held battle between Ghost Rider fan and Punisher fans over Frank’s immunity to the penance stare. HINT: He’s immune. At the end of it all, Frank Castle is a man that truly regrets nothing. While the prior issues carried levity and humor, this issue mainly stays on the side of seriousness, a necessary shift in tone to wrap up the series.
Pace-wise, there’s a crescendo of dramatic scenes that continues as the issue progresses and some well-written moments. Nevertheless, some huge problems got in the way of its enjoyment. Jigsaw is almost nowhere to be seen despite consistent appearances throughout the series. He just “abandoned” Zemo. And the real let down of this series came up with the inevitable end. Despite the murderous momentum and narrative build up over the past years, Frank Castle had his revenge against Baron Zemo spoiled by yet another “third party player”. After two long years, Frank Castle went the way of Hydra and failed to acquire true redemption.
Szymon Kudranski’s artwork was overall done well with some great designs and some very well built scenes especially the Punisher and Ghost Rider splash scenes. Despite this, Kudranski’s series long problems persisted with inconsistencies and nonsensical movement. In one panel, Zemo is ready to smash Frank’s head with his feet and the manner in which Frank grabs the feet doesn’t make much spatial sense. In another panel, Frank stabs Ghost in the chest (!) and in the next panel, we see the sword in his leg! Antonio Fabela did good work with the coloring as usual and kept it accurate to the tone for this series. Very consistent.
Greg Smallwood’s cover was the perfectly goodbye to the series. It has a bit of touch of a noir tone and in some ways, it reminded me of Max Payne. I really like the pink background with a shadowy Frank over NYC. Fantastic work from a very consistent cover maker through these 16 issues.
Overall Verdict: Sadly, it’s the end of this series. I really like what Matthew Rosenberg did with his run until the very last seven pages. Despite the War Machine arc representing a refreshing and badass change of pace and the beginning of Frank’s redemption from siding with Evil Steve Rogers in Secret Empire, I needed a bit more. I needed something that could clean Frank up from those events that I wish not to remember. Maybe this isn’t Matt’s fault and maybe it’s Marvel who wants it this way. Overall, these last pages won’t put down all the good work from Rosenberg, Kudranski and Fabela. This is the best Punisher series since Greg Rucka. I want to thank Matthew Rosenberg for putting up with the character for over two years. Twenty seven issues is no easy feat. He’s also been one of the best writers to have a chat with on social media and very responsive. Szymon Kudranski did a great job on delivering this run for so long and despite facing some bad critics, he kept on doing what he does. I would still love to see a black and white Punisher comic with his artwork! Thank you.
IVO’s RATING: 7/10
Coming up next month… Punisher: Soviet by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows!