The Punisher by Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña

Back in the 1980’s, the Punisher was one of the most popular comics ever… as in complete human history ever. You’d walk into a comic shop and see boys openly weeping over these issues they were so excited. Why was this the case? I’m not sure, but combining the gun enthusiast angle with Death Wish seemed to fit the bill at the time. Remember, this was the era of Thatcher and Reagan where you answered force with force and no one wanted to hear anyone crying over who got hurt (I’m over-simplifying, bear with me).

z021706punisher_bigIn any case, the Punisher out-Wolverined Wolverine and made Batman look like a loon wearing his underwear outside his pants. Armed with however many guns the artist felt like equipping him with, Frank Castle was not interested in dealing out justice as many other heroes were. What he had to deliver was punishment, clear and simple.

Thanks to Garth Ennis and a couple of mixed results feature films, the character has been resurrected and whereas he may not be up to his previous level of popularity, Marvel is making many Punisher fans very happy. Garth Ennis’ comics have placed a very gritty lens of the character, allowing him to be as mean and realistic (even appearing to look his age) as many fans think he should be. Not to leave out the readers who enjoy seeing Punisher exist in the more traditional four color super hero world, Punisher War Journal has enjoyed a healthy run with moderate success. It has just been replaced with a new series simply titled ‘The Punisher.’One half of the War Journal writing team, Rick Remender (of Dead Space, Fear Agent, The End League and Sea of Red) has stayed on to continue the work he started.

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This series is not messing around. In the first issue, Frank attempts to assassinate Norman Osborn with a high-powered sniper rifle. For those who followed this year’s worth of Marvel Comics, Osborn (formerly the Spider-Man villain the Green Golblin) has not only been accepted as the leader of the government sanctioned super hero registration squad called the Thunderbolts, but he’s also been accepted as a national hero. Delivering the killing blow during the Skrull War on live television has forever cemented his reputation as the savior of humanity despite the fact the even without a Halloween mask on, he is a scheming evil man.

Frank’s plan runs into a snag when Marvel’s own Superman the Sentry catches the bullet and engages the Punisher in close quarters combat. That’s right, the Punisher tangled with a being capable of going toe to toe with the likes of the Hulk and Thor and lived to tell the tale. Even with his brilliant tactical mind, it gets pretty close and only the last minute intervention by a shadowy character saves Frank’s bacon. This new character promises to help Frank with his war on the super heroic community by equipping him with the right gear for the right job.

For the first time in decades, the Punisher has become interesting again. Raising the bar from mafia dons and drug-runners to ‘the man,’ even when that man is Osborn who is flanked by the Avengers… is a brand new game. With the new ‘Dark Reign’ status quot in place, the bad guys are no longer skulking in shadows, they are in plain sight. But Castle could care less, a crook is a crook and all of them need to be punished.

I still cannot believe I bought a Punisher comic book.

Recommended:
Punisher War Journal, Vol. 1: Civil War (v. 1)
Essential Punisher Volume 3 TPB (v. 3)
Punisher by Garth Ennis Omnibus

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