“To me, it’s disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He’s supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can’t depend on institutions like the police or military to act in a just and capable way.” — writer Gerry Conway in a Gizmodo interview.
These sobering words from Conway and the thoughts expressed are often lost on Punisher stories. Conway views Frank Castle as a tragic figure that shouldn’t be murdering as a vigilante. As much as writers like Matthew Rosenberg try to insert little messages about the dangers of violence, Punisher comics rarely, if ever, escape the fetishizing of militaristic violence.
So overall, on a moral level, Rosenberg unfortunately keeps reveling in violence. However, there are other more specific problems at bay with #11.
This arc is most interesting when its focus turned from lumbering Frank Castle and instead on Baron Zemo trying to present Bagalia as a legitimate nation. Those moments best exemplify Rosenberg’s quirky sensibilities that were honed in more comedic indie series. While there’s some of that quaintness here, most of #11 is spent on mind-numbing action. At least it looks good.
I’ve not been a big proponent of Szymon Kudranski’s work on Punisher. His splotchy, wavering linework is unique but he dangerously skimps on backgrounds, usually muffling any sense of scale. Oddly enough, since this issue is mostly explosive action in city streets, his work gets by without finer details. When it comes to visceral bike chases, Kudranski is your guy.
Whether it’s Rosenberg or Kudranski (or both), the best page comes when Jigsaw and Frank take turns shooting at each other between a wall; all on one page. It’s not brilliant but it shows the team takes a little more effort than some with their storytelling.