Review: The Punisher Vol. 13 #5 (2022) by Jason Aaron, Jesús Saiz and Paul Azaceta

Issue #5 had a cover and synopsis that indicated a turn of events in this run. Rather than a return to form for Frank Castle, we received yet another retcon in Frank’s origins.

STORY (Mild Spoilers)

The main focus of this storyline was developing Frank’s past through his middle school years and beyond. We got a bit of development of the main storyline, including a reveal on the Priestess’s supernatural powers and the fact that Maria still needs the dark magic provided by the Priestess in order to “survive”.

Art by Paul Azaceta

Jason Aaron introduced an important character into Frank’s past storyline: Steadman Sternberger, a kid that was bullied in school until Frank became his protector. Steadman is revealed to have been a crucial character, who gave a push to both solidify Frank’s relationship with Maria and push him towards a path of war with his career in the Marines. These flashbacks show how Frank was softened up by his relationship with Maria and reaffirms the idea that when Frank is at peace, others suffer. This issue draws into question Frank’s motivations to joining The Hand, by putting into light the shaky origins of Frank and Maria’s relationship. It’s a relationship that involves true affection, but also elements of trauma and PTSD from Frank’s crime ridden neighborhood and violent, homicidal childhood.

Jesús Saiz kept his artwork very sharp and clean in this issue, but the spotlight on this one was on Paul Azaceta. Despite the disappointment of this storyline, Paul really delivered his usual distinct artwork that is pleasing to my eyes. His art is rough, but combines very well with the theme.


Art by Jesús Saiz

My opinion regarding this run didn’t improve at all. I was expecting more developments during this issue about the main storyline, but it felt like a filler. Jason Aaron continues to push forward this new storyline without looking at Frank’s canon past that has already been developed by prior writers. I don’t know if the purpose of all this storyline is to make Frank a villain or and to force him to stray away from his anti-hero status. This run appears to be deconstruction the idea of The Punisher, moving him away from the classic trope of being an avenging angel pushed too far by the death of loved ones and making him into a deranged and wicked psychopath that has been scouted by The Hand from childhood.

It doesn’t seem that Aaron will mention Frank’s time in the priesthood or his origins in Year One (by Abnett and Lanning), crucial storylines that involve Frank developing his philosophy of The Punisher and dealing with the idea of forgiveness and the efficacy (or lack thereof) of the justice system. This Frank doesn’t deal with the idea of justice. He is a thoroughbred Punisher from his time as a child, already having killed and set on a path of killing. It’s not the war, it’s not the Central Park Massacre. Frank Castle is destined for a life of violence…according to The Hand.

The storyline feels like it is all about deconstructing the character inorganically and not in respect to the history of the character. These new storylines seem made to simply push his current storyline involving The Hand. At this current point halfway through the run, I’m having a real hard time finding things to like about this story.

Overall Rate: 5 / 10

Punisher #6 to be published on September 7th.

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