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October 6, 2009

Geeking Out From The Long Box

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You’re back? Wow, you like me, you do you do!  That or those hints at a bribe are working.  Last time I was geeking out about Ms. Marvel and I am again going to stay in the Marvel U and look at a sentimental favorite of mine; good old Frank Castle, but you might know his warm and fuzzy side better: the Punisher!  More specifically I will be taking a walk down Dark Reign lane (oh fancy sounding ain’t it?) and setting my sight squarely on Punisher Dark Reign and Frank’s war against Norman Osborn.

punisher-coverAs Dark Reign began to kick into full gear I kept looking at the Marvel web page to see what would be coming out that might catch my interest.  When I read that they would be launching an all new Dark Reign Punisher book I at first said wtf (that’s ‘what the f^#k’ for those who don’t know)!?” Do we need another Punisher book? Honestly, what the heck is Frank going to do that the New Avengers and the like can’t?  To me it just seemed like a gimmick to sell another book.

I was wrong.  I admit it.  That is right, your sort of friendly neighborhood Fenix admits that he was wrong.  I was so wrong in fact, that after browsing the first issue of Punisher: Dark Reign in the confines of my local comic shop, I made for the counter and said to Mr. Tim (my lcs pimp) to sign me up; I want in on this.

Maybe it was the fact that Frank tried to blow Norman’s head off with alien tech right from the get go.  Maybe it was how at the last second the Sentry showed up and saved Norman’s life by snatching the bullet from the air only inches from his head.  Maybe it was the feel that even though Frank knew he was outmatched and outclassed at every turn that he was not going to give up.  Take all this and roll it together and you have an interesting story.  Right from page one you know that Frank is not falling for Norman’s sales campaign; that he is reformed and he is the man to protect the world from not only itself but from anyone that may want to threaten it.  Normally a bullet would have ended this, but Frank didn’t plan on the Sentry; no one plans on him or can plan for him and Frank has only one option: run away, run away!


Which Frank does, and knowing that he can’t stop Sentry, he opts for just blowing up as much stuff as he can as he goes to try and slow the Sentry down.  All of this just ticks old crazy pants off and it should not be a surprise to the Sentry; it’s obvious to anyone that has ever read a Punisher book that offering Frank an easy or a hard option of how something is going to end is just wasting your time.  I am almost 100% sure that if you look in Frank’s dictionary you won’t even find the word ‘easy’ in it.  All he knows is the hard way.  He is also more than willing to do the things that the normal capes won’t, like play dirty.  Getting away from the Sentry is easy if you tell him that there is a bomb in the basement of a hospital and he has 5 seconds to get to it before it goes boom.  Now did Frank really put a live bomb in the basement of a hospital?  Well it is a yes and no sort of answer.  Yes there is what appears to be a bomb, but no it does not seem to be real.  It’s more like a clever mock up that serves to give Frank the breather he needs to put distance between him and the Sentry.  Even if it is only a short lived advantage, all Frank needs is a head start even against some like the Sentry, especially when he has help.  Making it back to his battle wagon Frank is about ready to pass out and has no clue that the Sentry is minutes away from turning his home on four wheels into modern art.  His new mystery friend does though, and they magically pop up on the screen of Frank’s equipment and communicator channels letting him know to get his ass moving.

Who is Frank’s new partner?  That is just what Frank wants to know as this guy shows up out of the blue and saves his sorry skin just when everything pointed at Frank taking a beating from Sentry.  Never one to trust a gift horse, Frank in normal fashion puts his excellent people skills to work, and tries the choking it out of him approach.

As it turns out the man responsible for saving his bacon, and then it seems collecting his unconscious and battered body and patching it up, is named Henry.  Henry has a plan.  A plan that he can’t pull off on his own and he needs someone like Frank to help him; Henry can find the deep dark things that can bring Norman down, but Frank will have to get him the proof.  They just have to do a little “shopping” first and when I say shopping I am talking about taking out a pawn shop that is a front for super powered weapons.  All of which just happen to become part of Franks personal collection after a smooth test run of his new partner’s ability to provide him on the spot updates while he is in the field.

So how do you celebrate a successful test run?  Maybe some pizza and beer like normal folks?  Or if you’re Frank you’d take down a prostitution ring that is tied to Osborn, then bust up a drug ring, and then take out a deal for a brief case bomb and get smart about it by taking pictures of all of it.  Then you turn them over to Henry and he does his magic and bam! this so called decline in crime that Osborn has been preaching about looks like a load of crap. That’s Frank’s style. He also ticked Osborn off big time because he controls the Hood who controls the crime syndicates.  So what is old Norman going to do you ask?  He is going to sick the Hood on Frank and tell him to deal with him, and by deal with him he is talking about killing him.

What happens over the next couple of issues is a lot of gun play and a lot of Frank proving that it doesn’t matter what you toss his way, with the right planning and the right toys, he is more than a match for anything the Hood or Osborn can send his way.  Norman and the Hood are finding that it is not so much the capes that they have to worry about, so much as if one man with a ton o’guns and anger could bring everything down on their heads and expose them to the world.


You should have brought more guns 'cause Frank has a knife

The Hood though, is really getting hot under the um, hood.  So much so that after weeks of the Punisher hitting his operations and shutting them down, he kills off a group of his captains for failing to stop the Punisher.  From the shadows a figure tries to talk sense into him about the situation over a game of chess.  Frank is not someone you can just throw men at; he is not some one that gets sloppy with success.  He is someone that gets guarded, and more cautions the more victories he puts under his belt.  With this pearl of wisdom dropped, the Hood comes up with a plan to end Frank and end him with extreme prejudice.  Several juicy tidbits are leaked by the Hood to draw Frank out, and bite on one of them Frank does as he closes in to shut down an organ harvesting operation in China town.  This trap almost works if not for Frank being Frank and Henry pumping him satellite updates, guiding him to an escape route as SWAT teams try to put one through his brain.  Only thing is one of them lets a tattoo show and Henry is able to find out that these are not SWAT, but the Hood’s personal hit squad.  Instead of taking him out though, Frank systematically picks this hit squad apart which just goes to prove you can’t keep a good killing machine down.

During all of this the Hood has his mystery man working on the sidelines trying to pin down not only Frank but the person that is helping him.  Scoring a bingo on the location of his allies, the Hood dispatches Grizzly to the location to “kill every one and eat them.” So off Grizzly goes, only to get turned into a crispy critter as the house the signal is coming from is a decoy location set to explode if anyone comes snooping.  It is around this time we finally get a look at who is helping the Hood, as he angrily lifts the gentleman by the shirt and asks Microchip just what the problem is.  That’s right, the Hood has brought Microchip back from the dead to help him deal with Frank.  The only person who could possibly know Frank better is Microchip.  It was at this point that I decided that writer Rick Remender should get a raise and his own dancing clown midget.  Honesty who saw that one coming?  It is brilliant!  The only person that can get inside Franks head and pick him apart is Microchip, which makes all kinds of sense. I applaud the man for having the stones to do so and all this in just the first four issues!

I know that at this point we are just getting to issue #5 but let me tell you something; Issue #5, oh man issue #5, is as the kids say these days, “the sh!t.”  Here we see not only how clever a writer Remender is but how strong of a will Frank has.

Readers already know that Microchip is back and helping the Hood, but Frank has no clue.  All he and his man in the van Henry know is that someone is working for him as his hacker and is trying to track them down.  Having made it out of the Hood’s trap Frank is ready for some payback, and the underground casino that Frank passed up before is now square in his sights.  Security, though, is so tight that Frank is going to have to use some top notch trickery to get inside.  Enter ye old pizza delivery schmuck; Mmm pizza with all its warm gooey cheese and gun toting Pym particle shrunken Frank just waiting for someone to eat him! He kills a guard from inside the guy’s body as he starts to resize himself.  If that was not kick ass enough, Frank blasts the guy’s buddy through the back of the head as he is giving his friend mouth to mouth trying to save him.punisher53

Nothing slows him down as he guns his way into the command center of the Casino, and it is here that Frank is brought face to face with a resurrected Microchip.  Remender’s work here is again top notch as Microchip dangles a deal in front of Frank that would return his family to him.  All he has to do is walk away for good; put down his guns and never pick them up again and the Hood will resurrect his slain family.  Frank could hold his wife in his arms that night, he could tuck his children into bed and all he has to do is turn his back.  So what would you do?  Well, if you’re Frank Castle you shoot everything in sight and blow the crap out of the Casino on your way out!  You also let a fleeing Microchip know that you are coming for him and the Hood no matter what.

All this destruction and property damage all add up to the residents of NYC starting to question the claims of Norman Osborn that the crime rate is down and the city is safer than it has been in years… actually they’re basically dancing around coming right out and saying Osborn is full of crap and they know it.

Issue #5 closes with the Hood standing in the middle of a room surrounded by coffins, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that nothing good can come of this.  It turns out that the Hood is thinking outside the box (no pun intended) in finding a way to deal with the Punisher.  Why get his men and stooges blown up when he can just resurrect villains who already have a grudge against Frank and have them deal with him?  Of course, this is what he does and his deal with the undead is simple:  kill the Punisher and they get to keep on living and can feel free to die again trying.

The next several issues are action packed as these back-from-the-dead baddies try to take Frank’s head off so that they can keep theirs.  We do get to see Frank match up against the Hood, or should I say we get to see the Hood yet again dangle Frank’s family in front of.  Using his powers for evil (he is a villain after all) the Hood creates an illusion to again try to temp Frank into walking away in exchange for literally putting his slain family right before him.

So what would you do?  Would you give in?  That is what I am thinking most of us would do.  This is Frank f@cking Castle though and he… has a tender moment and THEN he gets mad.  It is one thing to say “hey I can bring your dead family back for ya if you stop trying to shoot me in the ass,” it is another thing to dangle this before a person’s face.


Dark Reign The List: Punisher

Frank doesn’t give in and it is back to gun blazing action! You think that there is nothing else that Microchip or the Hood could say to take Frank down at this point but-  WRONG!  Microchip drops a Jedi caliber mind hump on Frank, and if I weren’t amped up on cold meds when I read this, I would have seen it coming.  He thinks Frank turned the Hood down because he knows that his family would not like the man the Punisher has become.  WOW!  That is kicking a man in the no no’s!

Which brings us up to the here and now which is only just the tip of the iceberg as poor Frank is in for more than even he can shoot his way out of.  Over the next few issues Marvel has huge plans for Frank, plans that may turn some readers off.  In short order we have an upcoming Annual which picks up and runs with the current story line, pitting Frank against Spider-Man (under mind control) and there is also the show down with the Hood in issue #10, and the Dark Reign one shot at the end of October.  One thing has been made very clear; Frank Castle will die in October.  The only thing that is not clear yet is will it be in issue #10 or the Dark Reign one shot? This is all paving the way for a new direction for the Punisher:  Frankencastle.

Basically they are going to turn him into Frankenstein but with a gun and an army of monsters to aid him in his quest for justice.  How long will this last, only time will tell.  So should you be reading the Punisher?  Did I leave out a few yummy bits? Yes, I did leave an item to two out because I do want you to pick this book up for yourself! You should be reading this title and you should not let this Frankencastle move scare you off, at least not yet anyway.

Jason Fenix




  1. Infinite Speech

    the last time Frank “died” and came back it was a HORRIBLE arc! Anyone remember the Angel Punisher?

  2. billy

    I saw an upcoming cover for “Frankencastle” and it looks really cool. Morbius and Man-Thing are on it.

  3. Not a Punisher fan, but I’m interested to read how he’s going to die.

    • Jason

      I have a feeling I know how he is going to die. I am almost 100% sure of it after looking at some of the artwork for Frankencastle…but I am not going to ruin it for everyone!

  4. Eli

    Somehow I forgot how bad*$$ Frank is when written well. I too am very interested to see how this ends up.

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