Half a year ago, a civilian named Jones lost his entire family at the hands of a bastard frost giant named Kasyckla. The Punisher swore vengeance, put on a viking helmet, hooked his trusty battle van to one of Thor’s goats and declared war on all the otherworldly monsters who benefited from the Earth’s misery during the War of the Realms. Along the way, murderous happenstance crafted one of the strangest and most memorable Punisher team-ups in the character’s history, pairing Frank up with lawyer and Daredevil confidant Foggy Nelson, the Juggernaut and the Black Knight. As much as this run took things far off course from the street world of The Punisher, it’s equally been a steadfast reminder of the DNA necessary to make a good Punisher comic work and an examination of some of the magic lost in some of the less risky, but ultimately off-course 616 runs over the past decade.
On The Writing:
With this closing chapter, writer Gerry Duggan showcases what makes him one of the strongest Punisher writers of the past decade.
I) Respect for The History: There’s respect for the format (which can’t be said for multiple writers of the past decade) in maintaining Frank’s “War Journal/inner monologue”, characterization and ACTUALLY having the villain die at the end of it…in an incredibly stylish and badass way too!
II) Understanding of Depth: There’s also recognition of the fact that at its heart, The Punisher is a very human comic about how a single moment of suffering and loss can turn into a lifetime of suffering and hatred. As much as a beloved arc like “The Slavers” is remembered for its excessive and satisfying violence, it was equally compelling for its narrative treatment on the loss and suffering suffered by victims of human trafficking and the emotional parallels with Frank Castle’s life. It’s notable that “Suicide Run”, the culmination of three main Punisher runs was rooted in The Punisher being willing to risk it all and die due to his frustration over his general non-effect on the crime world over his vigilante career. Pain was always part of the Punisher package and the way this story tied the knot of Jones tragedy remains one of the more memorable endings of a Punisher comic, a bittersweet closing that grounds this wacky and wonderful adventure and gave us another glimpse into Frank Castle’s psyche.
III) Delivery: In the same way that Born and The Punisher MAX couldn’t have been written by any other writer except Garth Ennis, it’s hard to see how Kill Krew could be written by anybody other than Gerry Duggan. Duggan’s competency of Marvel lore gave this series a unique framework and set of connective events to go through. The scenarios, comedic timing and omnipresence of the greater heroic world felt natural and gave us special moments like Cosmic Ghost Rider making a cameo, Juggernaut crying over the drawings of orphaned children, the Avengers caught in a post-battle pizza party, Frank Castle shooting a snark response to The Black Knight as they are waiting to get eaten and Foggy Nelson riding the battle van to save the day by launching asteroids at frost giant fortresses. From the settings to the kills to the team-ups, this is a event that will not be forgotten anytime soon.
On The Art:
Juan Ferreyra pulled the difficult task of doing ALL of the art on this mini-series and in doing so, laid down his foundations as a quintessential Punisher artist. The Punisher looked badass with his whole viking get-up and it was a joy to see him through every panel of this series. For all of the kills throughout the years, things can blend together and be forgotten. Luckily, Duggan‘s script and Ferreyra’s sick delivery gave this series some of the most disgusting and graphic violence not seen in a 616 Punisher comic in awhile. I think back to this series and still think about the impact of the Juggernaut and how splattered frost giants look like dead rats in mouse traps. Ferreyra showed command of environment and competent diversity in coloring, mood and angles to smoothly show the movement and feel of every action. The whole “intro” of this issue down to Frank’s Olympic “sword vault” separating Kasyckla in half and in half again was beautifully rendered. The two page spread showing the conclusion and disbandment of the krew was bittersweet and it was interesting to note Jones’s eyes in the last pages being dark as Frank as a cue of emotion/soul. Reading this comic on my lunch break, I was surprised at how much the ending hit me, going from a cynical bleak but violence seeking outlook to genuine pathos and surprise. The last page is a goddamn painting and perfect summary of Frank Castle.
Tony Moore closed out with a sick issue showing a glamour shot of the krew covered in guts. Wherever each of them came from, they came through as a team and the shot solidifies that.
Overall Verdict: From the beginning to this triumphant end, Punisher: Kill Krew has been an ambitious AND largely successful exercise in maintaining the dark spirit of Frank Castle in cosmic circumstances widely out of his and the usual hardcore Punisher fan’s comfort zone. This miniseries has been a bloody statement of capability that writer Gerry Duggan can work just as well with bleakness and sorrow as he can with comedy and the fantastic. This series should be a big resume point should he put his bid into becoming a writer for a Punisher ongoing. Whoever the next writer is, I am 100% on board with Juan Ferreyra joining the effort. However brief, this has truly been my favorite run since Ennis left the title.
IMPORTANT NOTE TO MENTION: In the pizza parlor scene, you may notice a certain chef/waiter that looks exactly like the head of Punisher Central, Ivo Santos…or Jason Statham, your call! Thank you so much to Juan Ferreyra for his down to earth conversation and genuine connection with the fanbase.