Once upon a time there was a beautiful concept called Franken-Castle. Rick Remender wedded the one-note Punisher to Frankenstein’s monster. This beautiful, elegant, unexpected idea provided one of the most entertaining moments in the history of the character, perhaps in comic books. Sadly, the wonder concludes this issue, as does my association with the Franken-Castle title.
I mourn Franken-Castle, who possessed more humanity than the Punisher ever has. This was a being who could share candy with a young Moloid and be exalted as a hero by hunted underdwellers. Franken-Castle’s superhuman strength led to outrageous acts of mayhem. Pitching a fastball special with Man-Thing as the projectile, riding a fire breathing dragon that incinerates the opposition, picking up one lil’ ninja to block the throwing stars of another lil’ ninja, smacking Daken through concrete buffers, snapping his various bones then dragging the punk by the ponytail for future cementing in a building’s cornerstone–these are the things that made me grin. I don’t know whose decision it was to revert the glorious Franken-Castle back to the boring old gun-happy Punisher, but thanks to this person, a shining beacon of hope has dimmed.
Remender takes Franken-Castle to Monster Island, and the Bloodstone, which Frank now hosts, heals his body and twists his mind. The Legion of Monsters calls in an expert to confront the maddened Punisher, but they still try to reason with the shallow, sullen human killer. The Punisher’s not in a giving mood. His disposition leads to Elsa Bloodstone’s fight against one of the most accomplished monsters ever to evolve–man.
What can I say about this issue of Franken-Castle? Dan Brereton’s customary awesome unearthed pulp paperback covers grace each panel. Not one page of Franken-Castle fails to take your breath away. Brereton’s Elsa Bloodstone is a masterful visual characterization, and in a way this issue represents Brereton returning full circle. Brereton’s early professional work teamed him with Chuck Dixon for Eclipse’s The Black Terror. Based on the original public domain hero recently featured in Project Superpowers, the Terror was the first black-cad protagonist wearing a skull on his chest.
Remender’s writing in Franken-Castle is solid. The plot’s better than most renewals of the status quo. The Legion of Monsters interact enjoyably and humanely with the monosyllabic Punisher. Werewolf by Night Jack Russell adds his deadpan wit to the froth. I’m not absolutely certain Elsa Bloodstone’s phrases can be found in any dictionary (“Sod’s Law”) but she sounds proper, as if she had just stepped out of Nextwave. I also congratulate Remender for researching guns so that his Punisher epilogue with Andrea Mutti and Luca Malisan relies on convincing evidence.
In the end, I simply couldn’t become all that enthused. The final issue of Franken-Castle represents the end of a dream. Now, Frank will no longer pose, arms akimbo, smiling like Zorro as the bad guys burn from Man-Thing’s touch. Sigh.