A Punishing Read

Having finished Nathan Edmondson run on the Punisher coupled with the news that there will be a new Punisher series with Becky Cloonan and Steve Dillon feels like the perfect time to talk about The Punisher. Despite having no powers, any form of empathy or a sense of humor, the Punisher remains one of the most successful character creations of all time, having had three movies made about the character already, as well as the upcoming appearance on the second season of Daredevil as well. But the real mystery is why? He’s a rather one trick pony, an ex-marine who does nothing but kills bad guys, and depending on the writer in increasing elaborate and gruesome ways. The latest Marvel series has the Punisher murdering a person in the middle of the street in broad daylight as people watch and record it on their phones as a message to let people know that a murderous thug is back in their city.

The new series offers more of the same, with the same murky morally righteous murder machine we’ve come to expect from a character like Punisher to the point where he’s been describe as “Jason Vorhees”, by Ms Cloonan. Even though I’ll probably pick it up, albeit in trade form, that doesn’t really interest me at all. Not because he’s not an interesting character, but because they’re basically telling the same story repeatedly.

The description of Jason Vorhees for the underworld by Ms Cloonan is rather apt, because the Punisher really is a slasher villain to the underworld. He is the urban legend, he is the one all gangsters and mafia types check under their bed before going to sleep at night. But just having a character running around murdering bad guys gets old fast, even if he is The Punisher and looks cool as ice doing it. We need a reason to care about him, to cheer for him. He’s a killer who doesn’t deny it, and if the best story you can come up with is Punisher kills mobsters because reasons then perhaps it’s time to rethink your story.

A while back I mentioned in Original Sin review I enjoyed the teaming of The Punisher and Dr Stephen Strange and how awesome it was seeing two heroes who normally wouldn’t cross paths teaming up and sowing disdain for each other despite that recently, both are the same side of the coin. My question is, why haven’t we got it yet? That is the type of comic I’d read, and it would re-invent a stale character that has been treading the same waters over the years.

When Frank Castle was part of the Thunderbolts with General Ross, that was interesting, because it was the Punisher in a team book with a bunch of other loners. When Castle was mentoring Rachel from Greg Rucka’s run that was interesting, because it was a female version fo Frank, and we’d be wondering how far into the dark would she travel. Frank Castle getting involved in politics from the street level isn’t all that interesting. It’s time to shake up the character, and since he’s already been likened to Jason Vorheess and because of some weird rule with horror, where all horror movie sequels must at some point go into space, why not send Punisher into space? I’m sure there are other criminal elements out there that need to be stopped, and since Bucky Barnes is no longer then man on the wall there is an opening for Frank to take over. It would just as entertaining has having the Punisher mow down a drug dealing gang for the 30th time.

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