Writer – Mathew Rosenberg
Artist – Stefano Landini
Colourist – Lee Loughridge
By now any healthy skepticism I had about the Punisher exploiting War Machine’s armour (R.I.P Rhodey) has vanished. This is a testament to Rosenberg’s understanding of Frank Castle, and his latest arc with the character continues to bring exciting action and consequences. Last issue, some of NYC’s more prominent protectors finally questioned Castle on his decision to side with Hydra. As this was a step too far even for the dark antihero that is the Punisher. Landini did a superb job of showing his immediate remorse last time around. This time around, his detailing on Frank’s early victims’ facial expressions successfully foreshadowed their inevitable execution. What I instantly noticed about the art was how the colour tones offset the typical workspace and how the scale of the armour against the office cubicles created a hopeless atmosphere. This is a calculated soldier who will always set up a kill zone whether he’s in a closely packed building or outside. The first few panels give a visual of the layout, quickly allowing the reader to see how these people are just fish in a barrel. Since we know Frank, we know this would be the case even without the deadly firepower. This is where Landini and Loughride’s work stood out to me the most.
This confrontation became the catalyst for what made this issue work. Apologetic is something Castle has never truly been. So of course his priority is to make things right the only way he knows how. His mission against Hydra leads to Zemo. Who expresses himself like his usual fanatic self. Here’s where my biggest negative of the issue comes into play. Instead of seeing an all out, no holds barred brawl between the punishing machine and wine loving Zemo, we are left to the obvious revelation that his opponents were Taskmaster and hired help. The fight itself lacked some flair as, aside from Frank briefly using a sword, he doesn’t get a chance to show his usual spur of the moment creativity.
However, I couldn’t help but to smile at the interactions between Clint and Bucky. Tales of Suspense recently proved just how well the two of them work together and play off one another. Don’t worry readers, their dynamic doesn’t overshadow Castle in his own book. However, with the way this issue ended, I’m curious how the Punisher interacts with both Winter Soldier and Black Widow in the remainder of this arc. It will be interesting to see what lines they allow the crazed vigilante to cross, and what is beyond even their moral compass. Natasha did say she wanted to kill all of Hydra with him, but it won’t be that black and white.
This issue worked well as there is no easy or convenient ploy that forces the beloved superheroes to pardon Frank’s betrayal. In fact Rosenberg understands that it would be out of character for him to give in and seek atonement for his actions. Lastly, the issue and the arc is elevated as a whole as there is a strong sense of escalation throughout the plot. Escalation that subtlety acts as a setup for what comes next for the character. Frank Castle will have a renewed taste for his war on crime. A taste for bigger and more malevolent criminals. Losing the War Machine suit isn’t going to stop him from painting that mark of death on their backs.