The Punisher 2: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Michael: Comic book readers are probably familiar with the idea that “Batman always wins” – he’s an inevitable force of nature. I think that The Punisher is similar in this respect. Frank Castle is primarily a hunter, but when the roles are reversed he’s as wild as a cornered animal, finding any and every way to disarm opponents and escape. Such is the case in Matthew Rosenberg and Szymon Kudranski’s The Punisher 2.

Frank Castle isn’t a complicated man – at least he probably doesn’t consider himself to be. He’s got two rules: kill criminals, don’t kill cops. That second part tends to make Frank’s life a little more difficult, as he has to get creative when he is evading New York’s finest – as well as its superheroes. Continue reading

The Punisher 1: Discussion

by Ryan Desaulniers and Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Ryan: We all know Frank Castle’s deal: a veteran whose family was unceremoniously gunned down takes to arms in a one-man war against crime or for whatever cause he sees fit to fight for. In the numerous Punisher stories since his inception in 1974, and particularly since the seminal Garth Ennis PunisherMAX run with the character, writers have been trying to find ways to connect a man who commits so many reprehensible acts of cruelty and murder with an audience. Castle sports the label of “anti-hero” to an audience that consumes his stories in various mediums, but writers keep pushing to see how far his character can go and still elicit sympathy from the readers, using different tactics to do so. The Punisher 1 by Matt Rosenberg and Szymon Kudranski, however, leaves all of these devices behind, giving us a Frank Castle title that is bereft of almost any means of identifying and excusing Frank’s actions, save for the fact that Castle fights against even more villainous figures. Continue reading

Punisher 1

Alternating Currents: Punisher 1, Drew and Shelby

Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Punisher 1, originally released May 4th, 2016.

Drew: The intro copy of Punisher 1 reminds us that “Frank Castle died with his family. Now there is only… The Punisher.” It’s a classic premise for a comic series — one that has been used long before and long after the Punisher’s debut (The Spirit and Spawn spring immediately to mind) — but not one that makes for the most compelling central character. Writer Becky Cloonan embraces the vaccuum of Frank’s personality, treating him in this issue more as a rarely-seen force of nature than a human being with real emotions. The result is something closer to Jaws than Kill Bill, but distancing us from Castle forces us to see his actions as truly monstrous, creating a much more unstable lead than could be achieved with a more empathetic approach. Continue reading

Punisher 4

punisher 4Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Punisher 4, originally released April 2nd, 2014. 

slim-bannerPatrick: I can’t think of a superhero with a more troubling psychological origin story than Frank Castle. The circumstances are as cliche as they come: Frank’s family is murdered, driving him to take revenge on those responsible. But Frank’s able to abstract that responsibility and extend it to All Criminals. Very pointedly, he is not an agent of justice, and he’s not looking to make anything right — his goals and his ideology are so neatly wrapped up in his code name. Punisher. Obviously, his approach requires a horrifically oversimplified view of criminals, there’s no room for mercy or subtlety. But that also means there’s no room for complication: Frank’s MO is too pure for corruption. The world around Punisher isn’t so simple, and as issue four simultaneously focuses in Frank’s character and broadens out to illuminate his world, it’s clear that he’s up against threats on a scale totally inappropriate for a street-level executioner.

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Punisher 2

punisher 2Today, Spencer and Greg are discussing Punisher 2, originally released February 19th, 2014. 

slim-bannerSpencer: As Frank explains in Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads’ The Punisher 2, there’s a strata of villains too big for the cops to handle, but not big enough for the superheroes to take notice of. This is the league of villains the Punisher usually goes up against — the kind that can give him a proper fight — but it looks like all that’s about to change. Not only are the Howling Commandos on Frank’s tail, but the Dos Soles gang also has a powerful new weapon that’s out of Frank’s usual league; this is some definite superhero-level business Punisher’s got himself tangled up in here.

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Punisher 1

Alternating Currents: Punisher 1, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Punisher 1, originally released February 5th, 2014. 

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Drew: What defines a character? This is a question at the crux of many narratives, but takes on an added importance in comics, where characters may be written by different writers, and the grind of publishing stories into perpetuity may squeeze characters into ever stranger situations. Is Superman still Superman if he doesn’t wink at the end of his stories? What if he doesn’t wear a cape? What about Batman? Is it still a Batman story if it takes place in Iowa? How many of these details can change before the character is no longer recognizable as the character? Editor Jake Thomas acknowledges this phenomenon directly in the letters page of Punisher 1, where he suggests that Punisher is remarkably capable of being put in different scenarios while staying true to his character. Unfortunately, I see that flexibility as emblematic of Punisher’s lack of distinguishing characteristics, and this issue does little to convince me otherwise. Continue reading