Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist(s): Leandro Fernande, Francisco Paronzini (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: The bullets stop flying this issue and we take time out for a psych session and two private meetings.
Commentary: Against my gut instincts Iím still enjoying Punisher War Journal. Amidst all the testosterone and violence Fraction continues to do something I thought couldnít be done, namely, make Frank Castle/The Punisher an interesting person. Castleís done things and behaved in ways over the duration of Fractionís run which continue to surprise and raise my eyebrows enough to keep me coming back for more. From his respect for Captain America, to his donning of Cap gear to honor his memory while defending human rights in his own deadly fashion. This is not your fatherís Punisher. Yet, we still get glimpses of the same heartless killing machine the Punisher was always made out to be.
Thereís a tug of war going on with the Punisher now between what he came to be and what it seems like he wants to be, namely; a feeling person. As much as he struggled and fought for nobility in ďThe Hate MongerĒ storyline he still falls prey to his darkest, most merciless instincts. Relive the brutal beating of his partnerís helpless girlfriend at Frankís hands just a few issues ago. It doesnít matter to me that the Hate Monger had a hate inducing machine going. It just brought out what was already in Frankís heart; attaining his bloody brand of justice no matter what the cost.
However, we see this issue that Frank shows some form of disgust and regret over his recent actions as evidenced by the two things he bestows upon Bucky/The Winter Soldier and why. I wonít tell you exactly what they are but it has potential ramifications for the entire Marvel Universe. Iíll give you his words and you can probably figure it out: ďIím done with it. Whatever it is, whatever it wasÖJust take itÖBurn it, bury itóI donít care. I donít want it bad enough. Itís just too heavy for me to carry.Ē Itís as if heís trying to convince himself out of becoming a better, more heroic person. That shows all too human fears and personal misgivings from the single-minded engine of revenge weíve come to know. As far as this issue goes, these are the only aspects that really grabbed me.
There were some downsides to this issue. Number one, the location of The Punisher and The Winter Soldierís meeting; The Jefferson Memorial. Here we have public enemy #1 and an internationally known shadow agent sitting on the steps of a high profile United States monument in our nationís Capital. They are having a heart to heart (in costume no less) which turns into a brief gun to fist altercation. Thatís just not sensible writing to me. Correct me if Iím wrong but after 9/11 I would think authorities in the Capital would be keeping somewhat of a close watch on our National Monuments. I find it hard to believe Bucky would pick so high-profile a spot to confront Frank. Secondly, the whole psych analysis of a young man name Ian who pretended to be a police officer in the wake of the Stamford explosions that sparked the superhero Civil War sub-plot didnít wow me. Especially when itís revealed at issues end that itís the former female Punisher and Jigsaw (both dressed as the Punisher) trying to create in Ian what seems to be another Punisher doppelganger. Havenít the multiple Punisher shticks been done to death? I donít think this is a wise move for a future storyline from Fraction. Also, the encounter with Tony Stark and G.W. Bridge just bored me. I guess Iím just getting tired of every other character in the Marvel Universe having standoffs with Stark where ultimately Tony winds up compromising his position so the other characters can get on with their lives. But, ďIíll be watching you,Ē becomes Tonyís stance. Sigh. How many times do we have to see this repeated? When is Tony going to actually enforce the laws heís sworn to uphold and actually arrest someone and not let them go? Well, they always have the Thunderbolts to do that dirty work I suppose. Still, this play is getting played out. Ultimately itís a third of this issue, but the scenes with the Punisher himself are what will keep me tuning in here.
Art wise I really like Leandro Fernandezís pencils and wouldnít mind seeing him as regular artist or regular fill-in artist on this book. Iíve liked his pencils ever since I saw them in a Wolverine story a few years back. Paronziniís inks do him justice too. We got another great Ariel Olivetti cover this issue too, which is both misleading and not as to whatís inside. Very strong art team here.
Final Word: Fraction continues to create a compelling character in Frank Castle though I have apprehensions about where the next sub-plot is going.
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