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'Punisher' #12 tries your patience, but gets to its ending eventually
Marvel

Comic Books

‘Punisher’ #12 tries your patience, but gets to its ending eventually

‘Punisher’ #12 finishes off the series delivering a new kind of Frank Castle by the end.

Between Amazing Spider-Man and Punisher, finales are the name of the game this week in Marvel Comics. Punisher #12 has been a year in the making, exploring Frank Castle’s past and revisiting his origin. The last issue argued that maybe Frank Castle was a little deluded about how peachy his family was when they died. The reader was offered the notion that killing in the name of your kids isn’t the brave idea many attributed to the vigilante hero. In Punisher #12, Frank Castle gets his final push toward the change Marvel promised him from the very start, but is it good?

Punisher #12 opens where we left off in the last issue. Frank Castle has been shot and is hanging on to enact one last kill. He wants to take the life of the woman who gave him his powers, his wife, and his new lease on life. As the story progresses, we get major appearances by superheroes like Wolverine and Doctor Strange, witness Frank’s first killing of criminals after his family was killed, and a period at the end of this part of Frank Castle’s journey.

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This issue largely rests on two characters who give speeches. The first is the Archpriestest of the Hand, who is sickened by Frank and upset that he didn’t fulfill her prophecy. It’s a bit long-winded, but she gets her point across as she vilifies him and complains at Punisher. The other is Moon Knight, who gives Punisher his take on everything. Like the archpriestess, he talks at Punisher, explaining how killing all these years doesn’t quite add up. In this speech, he essentially comes to a conclusion revealed over the course of the series: That Punisher was born this way.

Punisher #12

She’s pulling a Bilbo!
Credit: Marvel

Paul Azaceta draws the flashbacks, starting with the day Punisher killed everyone in a mob bar. The style continues to pop thanks to its more indie-comic feel compared to Jesus Saiz’s art in the main story. Azaceta’s action scenes infuse this issue with action and movement, which is important since much of the main story has Punisher either relying on his blood or sitting around getting barked at by superheroes.

Which wherein lies the biggest weakness of this issue. While it has an epilogue, in actuality, the entire issue reads like one. Punisher is defeated at the start and then made a prisoner by the superheroes. As they mull over what to do with him off the page, Frank is stubborn and only wants to make sure his wife is allowed to live a full life. It’s the final issue that requires a possible reread of the entire story because, at face value, it feels very slow and a bit muddled. Having Cap, Doctor Strange, Black Widow, and Moon Knight all talking at him, it’s like a round robin of scolding.

Ultimately this feels like an ending, but also, it reads like we got the brunt of the entire point of the series already, and thus we’re treading water until the epilogue. That epilogue gives us a glimpse at a future (heroes never die or retire, right?), but it’s a bit out there and unclear what it’s even supposed to mean. It also appears as if Frank has gained some kind of peace, but it’s hard to gather if he ever really earned it or how he got there in a genuine way. Maybe that comes next, but either way, the Punisher character seems to have done all the growth we’ll see on the page before this issue starts.

Possibly the most important thing in this entire issue is a one-page letter from Jason Aaron. It makes statements in case they weren’t clear on his take on Punisher, including that Punisher’s story is tragic. It’s a goodbye to the series and the character, and it feels profound when reading it.

Punisher #12 ends the story in a way that makes me want to read the entire series again, but maybe not for the best reasons. It was clear with the last issue what this was all about, but this final issue is less a period and more of an ellipsis, as all “final” stories are for superheroes.

'Punisher' #12 tries your patience, but gets to its ending eventually
‘Punisher’ #12 tries your patience, but gets to its ending eventually
Punisher #12
Punisher #12 ends the story in a way that makes me want to read the entire series again, but maybe not for the best reasons. It was clear with the last issue what this was all about, but this final issue is less a period and more of an ellipsis, as all "final" stories are for superheroes.
Reader Rating2 Votes
8.4
Azaceta's flashbacks are phenomenal with mood and edginess
Epilogue and letter by Aaron make strong statements
More like a trial of Frank's patience as each superhero gives him a what for
Given how stubborn Frank seems it's hard to say if he's grown at all or if that comes later
7.5
Good
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