Marvel’s Best Book, “The Punisher”, Concludes
The Punisher #16
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Illustrator: Szymon Kudranski
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Since the first issue of “The Punisher” was released, I have had high incredibly praises for this book. So high that I considered it to be Marvel’s best ongoing title. That title reigned for 13 months and 16 issues. Sadly, the 16th just so happens to be the final issue of this amazing run, which came to be a surprise for most of us. Thankfully, this creative team did not hold back on making sure the readers were not going to end up disappointed.
The final issue picks up right where the last left off. Frank is now teamed up with several other anti-heroes, like Moon Knight, Night Thrasher, Black Widow, and Ghost Rider, as they make their way through Zemo’s Hydra agents in the traditional manner of violence and explosions that has been consistently delivered throughout this story. Throughout this run there has been usually at least one moment in every issue that makes you want to slow down and appreciate just a little bit more. The treat this time is seeing Frank manning a turret while riding in a sidecar being driven by Ghost Rider as Hydra agents are mowed down while trying to get to Zemo who now has Rachael, who is essentially a female Punisher, hostage. If that sentence alone doesn’t make you want to pick this book up, it’s probably not your book. Finally, we get the fight between Zemo and Frank Castle, which is just as bloody and violent as one would only expect at this point. Unfortunately, before Frank can deliver the final death blow to Zemo, and that blow would be stabbing Zemo in the skull with his own sword that just so happens to be sticking out of Frank’s chest, Ghost arrives to give Zemo a chance to escape and get to Fisk for safety. Meanwhile, Wilson Fisk confronts Zemo for his neglect on the agreement set in place between he and Fisk. Zemo meets Fisk and is quickly killed by Ghost for his insubordination, and is seems as if Ghost is now Fisk’s number two. As Castle gets to the rooftop to confront Zemo, he’s obviously too late, but still met by Fisk who is being guarded by Nick Fury and a team of heroes consisting of Hawkeye, Bucky, Black Widow, and Luke Cage. Castle isn’t too receptive of the notion that you can’t kill the Mayor, even if it is Kingpin, so naturally more violence ensues. While the heroes do their best to not hurt Frank while detaining him, Black Widow accidentally goes overboard with her stunner and Frank goes over the side of the building falling into the carnage and flames down below. The Punisher is pronounced dead at the scene, knowing that chances of survival of that fall were very slim, and recovering a corpse would be almost impossible. Although we don’t see Frank again in this series, we all have to believe in Castle’s ability to overcome the odds of death, like he has so many times. Even Nick Fury admits he is looking over his shoulder daily.
Matthew Rosenberg has delivered the most consistent version of Frank Castle that I have had the pleasure of reading. Throughout every single issue, The Punisher has been the best version we could ever want. Ruthlessly relentless. Not even a Penance Stare could stop Frank, and that really sums up the attitude of story that has been given to us by Rosenberg from the very fist issue. The dialog, although minimal, was always crisp and witty, and even more so, believable. Every single interaction between every set of characters felt incredibly genuine. From the first arc involving Daredevil, to the final confrontation with Wilson Fisk. Never once did the “he/she would never say/do that” thought pop in my head, solidifying my reasoning for making the claim that very few writers care as much about making sure there subject material is as true for the readers as can be. The story that Rosenberg has given us, although too short in my opinion, was a complete 16 issue arc that will go down as one of the greatest Punisher stories ever told.
Truthfully, as good as this story is just on paper, it would not be nearly as great without the perfect art duo of Kudranski and Fabela to help bring the vision that Rosenberg had to life. This team has come together to deliver the gritty visuals that a “Punisher” title truly deserves. Knowing that because Frank is a man of few words, this would have to be driven mostly through the art and many, many panels of ultra-violence and explosions, but at the same time making sure the reader doesn’t get tired of seeing pages of flames and people just getting shot. The expression of violence was always very imaginative. The panel of Frank trying to stab Zemo in the head with a sword sticking through his own chest will forever be etched in my brain, and if that’s not an indication of great art, I don’t know what is. This title was filled with visual moments that are worthy of being framed, which is why I have praised this book as being not only the best written Marvel title, but also the best drawn from the very first issue. Although it’s sad to see Fabela and Kudranski leave this title, I’m incredibly excited to see what they have in store for us in the future. One could only hope that we see this team come together again.
Even though it’s sad to see such a great title disappear from the new release shelves, it’s comforting to know that if somebody were to ask me for a recommendation, be it “Punisher” or not, I can confidently recommend another Marvel title that I know can be enjoyed from beginning to end both visually and story-wise. Although I would love for this book to keep going, the ending still somehow felt right, even though it came as a surprise. On the bright side, this leaves an opening for the next Marvel book to take the title of best ongoing series. The bigger question at this point may be weather or not Garth Ennis, an already solidified “Punisher” legend, can match what Rosenberg just threw down in the next iteration of Frank Castle’s story.
Although I would love for this book to keep going, the ending still somehow felt right, even though it came as a surprise.