H-he didn’t even twitch the whole time, boss. I thought maybe he had drowned.
Amazing Spider-Man #577
Zeb Wells + Paolo Rivera
That’s a difficult question, since they’re very different and unique runs! I like them for different reasons. In the end, I would say it always comes down to Ennis. He had a longer run on the character, and he defined Frank Castle in his modern interpretation. Punisher MAX, as a whole, is incredibly hard to match. Rucka’s run was very good, but his full intentions for the character weren’t completely realized. The run was canceled before Rucka was able to do all the things he wanted, so there is a lot of untapped potential, whereas Ennis had years to explore every dark corner he could. Those limited issues by Rucka are wonderful, but standing them up to the bulk and depth of Ennis’ work is just not going to compare.
What’s happening to me? I’m running on surface emotions. Reacting before I even realize it. All this rage. All this anger. Have to control it, but I can’t.
Punisher is different. There’s no rage. This is a job to him. His emotions punch a clock. He calls them up when he needs them.
If he ever needs them.
Marc Spector: Moon Knight #21
Chuck Dixon + Sal Velluto
Another common misconception is that Frank’s default state is one of anger. Frank is much more controlled and direct than that; he doesn’t have a short fuse. Ever through and through a soldier, it takes certain things to really shake him off his balance and get his temper going — and when that does happen, it’s still contained to some extent. Especially under Ennis, Frank’s rage is a cold, hollow thing: something he knows how to steer, as Marc says, when he needs it.
Dark Reign - The List: Punisher
Rick Remender + John Romita Jr.
After discussing why Billy Russo fails conceptually as a villain, there’s also the subject of what it would take for a character to succeed as a recurring Punisher foe. In the Marvel Universe, any extended rivalry will grow stale or reflect badly on Frank’s character if it is not resolved — or if there isn’t some challenge making it difficult for Frank to simply settle the score as he always does.
There was potential for something like that in the brief conflict between Frank and Daken. Daken is intelligent, skilled, and also has a healing factor inherited from his dear old dad Wolverine. That last part is key, as it would allow for an extended narrative to continue, since Daken is physically very hard to kill. More than just his mutation, Daken has wits to compete with Frank as well. It would test Frank’s abilities and build to a sincere challenge — which wasn’t fully explored in the following crossover, where their fight was more like a gratuitous Coyote and Roadrunner kind of battle.
One thing in itself should be a basis for an established rivalry: Daken killed Frank. The “he got better” trend of the Marvel Universe aside, that ought to be a big deal.
The Punisher #10
Nathan Edmondson + Mitch Gerads
Here’s something incredibly hard to swallow:
Sammy Stone is a police officer in LA, who knows the Punisher is in her city. The whole police department should be aware of this and researching Frank Castle — or at least googling the man and learning what his face looks like as he is a wanted criminal. Yet, here we have a really hamfisted moment where the news reports the Punisher disappearing, and at the same time Sammy wonders where “Franky” has gone off to, but she’s not acting like she thinks the two may be connected.
Frank has been wearing a mask while he operates in LA, true. However, that doesn’t erase the fact that his identity and face have been public knowledge for years upon years beforehand. He doesn’t even bother giving himself an alias at the diner; he goes by “Franky” and no one has figured this out. Maybe Lou knows already and is being sly about it, but Sammy has no excuse.
It’s incredibly hard to believe that she wouldn’t look into the vigilante who is operating in her city and saved her life once — that she wouldn’t try to find a picture of his face, or at least think twice about “Franky” being Frank Castle.
Just a thug. Like I said.
The Punisher: In the Blood #1
Rick Remender + Roland Boschi
Jigsaw is known as the one really definitive Punisher villain. However, as a character, he has never really worked. By simple premise, the idea of the Punisher, whose entire basis lies in his use of lethality, having a recurring rogue gallery makes little sense. It’s the butt of several jokes: if the Punisher has a list of established villains chasing him, then something is going wrong with the story. Even so, for awhile in the 90s, when Frank was booming in popularity, there were a few repeating faces — and Billy Russo’s viciously scarred one was among them. However, he never really existed as a threat.
Billy was never really written as being especially dangerous, powerful or intelligent. He is always presented as the Punisher foe in media; toys, games, films all cater to this rivalry. But it’s without much canon evidence to back it. Jigsaw’s storyarcs are petty and forgettable at best. Frank has never felt intimidated by Jigsaw; he often handles him with ease. Billy is even written to be openly afraid of Frank on several occasions, which is a fair response, but hardly presents a case for him as a worthy foe. He has never really had one big victory over Frank. He continuously fails and only really endures with a cockroach like determination — but often Frank actually lets him go, which is baffling as well as a bit sadistic.
Remender actually found a way to make Jigsaw work, but that was through his son, Henry. Jigsaw doesn’t intimidate Frank, but he intimidates Henry. Henry has that complicated relationship of abuse, scorn for his father mixed with affection that he cannot help. The concept looms over Remender’s arc from the time Henry’s heritage is exposed: Jigsaw has power over Henry, and since Frank also cares for the boy deeply (as Remender affirmed) that is where the real threat exists. That is the first time Jigsaw feels truly dangerous, and leaves a lasting impression where other arcs failed to register.
The new preview for The Punisher #10 asks a question and there’s an answer that should seem obvious. Although, it’s hard to say what we will actually get.
Panels from: Punisher: War Zone #5 (Greg Rucka + Carmine Di Giandomenico).