Arch-nemesis brawl: Punisher

The next three days and Monday may be my most ambitious series of articles yet.  I’ve taken four specific arcs that span across three years and 53 issues.  Hopefully at the end, a complete story with the full circle of character interactions and fates revealed.  Or I could be in a wave splashed with delusions of capabilities far exceeding my own.  Either way, I hope you enjoy it, and more importantly, I hope you don’t mind a crapload of Punisher.

Did you know that the Punisher (real name Frank Castle) has an arch-nemesis?  Y’see, he has a tendency to kill everyone evil he runs into, not leaving much of an applicant line to take up the prestigious #1 baddie spot.  But one villain continues to evade Castle’s sights.  I introduce Jigsaw (real name Billy Russo).  He made his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #162, written by Len Wein and drawn by Ross Andru way back in 1976.

Know the most shocking part about those panels above?  The Punisher actually used the words, “my friends.”  Okay sure, Castle doesn’t remember Jigsaw then, but he certainly does now.  And why all the beef between the two?  We jump to Punisher: Year One #4, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and drawn by Dale Eaglesham.

And voila!  Supervillain successfully created!  Enough back story.  Let’s get to the meat of our story today with Punisher: War Journal #18-23, written by Matt Fraction and Rick Remender and drawn by Howard Chaykin.  Shall we enjoy some Jigsaw characterization snippets?

1) Doesn’t like the Punisher.

2) Brainwashes crazy people to dress up like the Punisher and do his bidding.

3) Hires ninjas to take out Castle.  Use the resources available, I guess.

Our story really picks up with the Punisher, his tech guy, and his maseusse hanging out in their secret hideout.  As you can imagine from a man whose every waking moment is spent putting down the worst of humanity, something really bad always happens.

Want to see the Punisher fight an entire horde of ninjas?  Too bad, buy the book.  But one reason that the Punisher has retained so much popularity (I’m assuming) is his fantastic noir-esque narrations as he goes about his business.  Even against ninjas:

The importance of the next few scenes?  Exposition really, though we’re like four or five issues in already.  Importantly, the next fight sets up the entire climactic Jigsaw fistfight.

Meet SHIELD agent G. W. Bridge, the law enforcement officer tracking down Castle for the past twenty issues.  Gigs up.  Castle lost.  Bridge gets to gloat with the mandatory morality brag.  Don’t blame him, because in the superhero world, the obligatory psychological breakdown is as mandatory as the Miranda Rights.

By the way, in these past panels, Bridge has spoken more than the Punisher has said in the entire arc so far.  Dude’s a man of action.  Oh, and everything goes in a horrible new direction.

Aw, someone wears his heart on his sleeve.

Now, that’s about as noble an intention as a supervillain can manage.  Jigsaw has a criminal empire to run, heroes to snuff out, and illegal goods to move.  All that suffering and misery needs complete attention.  As strong as his feelings for the man who made him into a monster, he needs to get to the second, non-Punisher phase of his life.  Or he’s an insane psychopath.  One of the two.

Unfortunately, the Punisher hasn’t experienced love for a few decades.  Forgot the warm and fuzzies.

Well, at least the two can settle their differences like men.  Two very unfairly mismatched men.

Want to know why the Punisher makes for a terrible arch-nemesis?  Oh, certainly the killing thing. But (and I counted) since the truck exploded, Jigsaw has said 301 words to the Punisher.  The Punisher’s word count?  Two.  And one was a cuss word.

Go back and read the scene with Bridge and Castle in the transport van.  I’m not really sure why the Punisher does what he does next, but my theory (and it’s very much just a theory) is that Bridge just made the only accurate morality rant that has ever graced the pages of comic books.

Don’t worry, prison and the Punisher don’t go well together for long.  Though we should focus on two specific epilogues.  You just re-read Bridge’s theory about Castle’s potential for mercy, so how about Castle’s point of view?

Some prison yoga, meditation, and push ups will do a soul good.  Well, not for everybody.

Let this be a warning to you all who plan to brainwash and control your very own Punisher clone. Actually, we pick up tomorrow with the very next issue to fill in the next piece of our puzzle.  Pardon the pun.

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One Comment on “Arch-nemesis brawl: Punisher”

  1. wwayne says:

    A blogger told me that Marvel cancelled all the Punisher-related titles. This made me very sad, because, since Ennis started working on him, Frank’s stories have always been wonderful. I don’t like Ennis as much as I like Miller, for example, and I didn’t enjoy some of his most successful works, but his run on Punisher is a real gem, especially the first (and most ironic) arcs.
    Ennis and Milligan put a lot of black humour in their earlier works, and this is what made them superstars. At some point, Ennis decided to change his style, to make it completely sharp and cynical, but, being a talented writer, he went on writing very well. Milligan, on the contrary, has become the shadow of his former self, since he stopped writing in a satiric, provoking and nonconformist way. I hope he will reach the peeks of his earlier works again.


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