Sunday, March 27, 2016

Books: The Punisher - Welcome Back, Frank


In the 1980s, Marvel pumped out numerous titles devoted to the Punisher, but the glut in the market led to writers running out of ideas for the iconic antihero. Frank Castle went from waging a lonely war against crime to being a supernatural angel of vengeance, and then resurrected as a pulpy fantasy monster, "Franken-Castle."

"Welcome Back, Frank" (Punisher (2000) #1-12) is one of Garth Ennis's seminal takes on the Punisher, and it's a back-to-basics version - no Microchip, no Battle Van, and definitely no aliens or monsters. Instead, it's just Frank versus a hoard of colorful gangsters, including the cackling Ma Gnucci and the Russian, an insane (and insanely strong) killer.

The comic is bloody, but not as violent as the Punisher MAX series - illustrator Steve Dillon and inker Jimmy Palmiotti keep things cartoony rather than gory. Ennis also inserts plenty of sardonic wit amidst the carnage (this is the one where the Punisher punches a polar bear). The new season of "Daredevil" on Netflix, starring Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle, cribs liberally from this run, even basing an entire episode off the famous rooftop confrontation between the Punisher and Daredevil in issue #3:



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