Matthew Rosenberg took over Punisher and instantly wowed longtime fans by pushing the envelope. Imagine if Punisher had a super suit capable of killing hundreds of bad guys and allowing him to fly to distant locations on a whim? It’s a version of the character that can bring justice literally anywhere on a much larger scale. It’s an exciting take on the character which continues with this second volume that concludes his reign as the War Machine.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Back in the U.S. of A! Frank Castle brings the War Machine armor home to renew his one-man war on crime. And, better armed than ever before, nothing can stand in the way of the Punisher and his mission! Well, that is, unless Captain Marvel and other heroes of the Marvel Universe have something to say about it…
Can I jump in easily?
Your best bet is to read Matthew Rosenberg and Stefano Landini’s first volume. If possible though, reading or at least understanding what happened in Secret Empire is important too. Rosenberg started his Punisher run with this take on the character and continues to tell his tale in the ongoing Punisher series, so if you want his full take you need to read this. This volume also features many heroes who are in Frank Castle’s tale, attempting to stop him from his killing spree.
Reason 1: He’s a deadly serious silent killer.
Rosenberg writes Punisher in a realistic way. He’s a man with a singular vision and a man of few words. To be able to kill with ease as he does, you have to imagine he’d be a man who takes this work so seriously there’s no time for banter or concern. He knows what must be done and does it. Rosenberg does play a bit with the character though when interacting with the heroes. He speaks in a muted, no-nonsense way that can be comical in its own way. You’ll dig his barbs at Winter Soldier or how he couldn’t care less about Carol Danvers’ pleas to stop.
Reason 2: Uncompromisingly violent.
The violence in this book is for mature audiences only, which is a surprise coming from Marvel Comics. Given the fact Punisher kills it suits this story, but when he’s carrying arm cannon with limitless ammo, you can imagine how bloody this one gets. We’re talking heads exploding, bodies being turn in half, and violence only a super-powered suit can accomplish. Stefano Landini draws it all in vivid detail, giving the book an almost body horror vibe that never skimps on the mayhem Punisher is capable of. It’s the sort of Punisher story that will make you wonder why the superheroes let him continue to get away with his antics.
Reason 3: This is a redemption story.
An underlining element of this story arc is Frank’s guilt for working with Hydra. It comes up throughout, especially when the heroes get in his face. Much of what he does in this story is a means to make up for his joining Hydra at all, which builds towards the ending that puts him face to face with evil Captain America and Baron Zemo. At one point Nick Fury points out Punisher would kill a hero who turned Hydra agent without a second thought and Rosenberg gives Frank a moment to pause and reflect on that. Fury is right, and yet Frank carries on. The amount of guilt and anger he must have for himself must be incredibly difficult to swallow. It’s an interesting element to hang Frank’s motivations on since it’s an element that drives his purpose of ending all injustices. Typically depicted as a man filled with rage due to the loss of his family, this story gives him a new purpose and a complexity that is interesting to explore. It isn’t explored overtly, but you gather that deeper meaning in every kill he partakes in.
Reasons to be wary?
The story finishes in a somewhat unsatisfying way since Frank never actually completes his mission. I suppose his mission will never end at the end of the day, but everything drove towards some kind of meaningful change and instead carries on as if none of this mattered. Maybe that’s due to editorial not wanting big time villains to be taken out, or maybe Frank needs to understand failure even more, but it does make this book end in a slightly unsatisfying way.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
I had a lot of fun reading this book and seeing what Punisher is capable of when nothing is holding him back. It’s also fascinating to see how an Iron Man suit can be used when killing isn’t a problem. Rosenberg and Landini have created a story here that stands out from the pack and is so shocking and different it’s basically a What If? story.
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