Punisher #13 “War in the Streets” pt. 2
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Art by Szymon Kudranski
Colors by Antonio Fabela
Published by Marvel Comics
The Punisher has always been the darkest of Marvel’s Anti-heroes. A man consumed by his own unrelenting pursuit of personal justice. This twisted idea has led Frank Castle from the mean streets of New York to the jungles of South America and even more exotic locals. Now, after a brief hiatus overseas in the country of Bagalia, Frank’s back.
After Frank forced Baron Zemo to flee Bagalia for New York, he set off after him. At the end of issue 12 Frank comes to shore on Coney Island and begins his hunt for Zemo. Since the end of the Secret Empire event, the Punisher has largely changed his MO. While once satisfied with the elimination of relatively low level street crime and the occasional proverbial big fish Frank now actively hunts bigger game.
The current issue opens on the streets of Boerum Hill, New York as a young woman returns home. There at the foot of the steps to her home she realizes she’s been followed. Frantically she searches her purse for some sort of weapon to defend herself. When she turns to confront her pursuer she is met with a grisly scene courtesy of the Punisher. With her stalker bleeding out Frank shows her the knife that was destined to be used on her.
After a few tense moments the grateful woman asks, “How much do I owe you?” To that Frank responds, “No. That’s not how this works.” Within moments Frank calls the woman by name and we realize that in fact he was following her himself. Quickly, it is revealed that the woman in question is a high ranking Hydra agent and merely the first in line as Frank searches for Zemo.
This sets into motion a later confrontation at the “Bar with No Name”. While in the offices of power Wilson Fisk and Baron Zemo discuss the death of the Punisher. While both of these are important parts of the story, perhaps the most important part of this issue is Frank’s confrontation with the Police after learning the location of the “Bar with no Name”.
While most comics shy away from politics or take an “in your face” approach, Rosenberg simply throws it in there as a chance encounter. Written almost as a direct response to the boys in blue that idolize the Punisher Rosenberg seems to channel Punisher creator Gerry Conway.
Back in January Conway was asked in an interview by Dana Forsythe on SyFy Wire, “What are your thoughts on the Punisher symbol being co-opted by police or the military?”
To this Conway responded, “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 the military to act in a just and capable way.
The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice system, an example of social failure, so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they’re basically sides with an enemy of the system. They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.”
In the issue Frank is stopped by the police after his encounter with the female Hydra agent. The police it seems are patrolling the area after a number of violent robberies in the neighborhood, when they stop Frank because he fits the general description of the perpetrator. As they question him they quickly come to the realization that they have stopped the Punisher. But, instead of putting him under arrest it becomes a fan fest as the officers ask for pictures with Frank claiming, “the guys in the group are not going to believe this.”
Within a few minutes Frank learns that members of the Police force have began a type of fan club for the Punisher. That they side with him and in fact are “…doing whatever we can to take back our streets…” After hearing this Frank removes his symbol from their police car and issues a rebuke and warning to the officers. This rather short encounter lasts only four pages but it has a power which goes far beyond the page. Whether you side with Conway and Rosenberg or not you have to admit that this encounter while issuing a statement serves to both move the story along and set up future issues. Rosenberg could easily use the seeds he planted here for his very own “Magnum Force” storyline.
As for the art here Kudranski does an admirable job. His Punisher is the grim and dirty Frank of old. His realistic art gives the story a grounding that sets it apart from standard superhero fare. Kudranski’s art is reminiscent of Alex Maleev but doesn’t yet possess the consistency of Maleev. This is seen in the depiction of Wilson Fisk. While always drawn larger than life Kudranski’s Kingpin is over the top and uneven. Thankfully, this doesn’t carry over to other characters and his Punisher is a thing of bloody beauty.
- This Wilson Fisk is terrifying for all the wrong reasons.
Overall, this really was a great issue of the Punisher. It fits nicely into the storyline and serves to move it forward as well as introduce a few new characters to the mix. The added bonus of a message whether you agree with it or not is just icing on the cake. There was a time when all comics were told with this subtle hand and comics as a whole were better for it.
Further reading from a 2017 article on Vulture.