The Punisher Vol. 3: Franken-Castle
Words: Rick Remender, Art: Tony Moore, Various
Rick Remender’s run on Marvel’s Punisher was already pretty damn spiffy before he hit on an idea that was so genius you had to wonder how he was the first to think of it. Ever since Steven Grant led The Punisher towards some kind of respectability in the mid-’80s, most writers have chosen to depict The Punisher as, basically, a monster. A monster who consumers other monsters, sure, but a monster nonetheless. But Remender was the first to actually turn The Punisher into a literal monster. Franken-Castle to be exact.
The details aren’t really all that important (Wolverine’s son, Daken, chops Frank into pieces during a battle, blah blah blah); all that matters is that Remender is so clearly in love with his own idea and the stories that inspired it that it’s pretty damn difficult not to get caught up yourself. There’s a magic to Remender’s run that recalls the likes of Steve Gerber and Marv Wolfman and the rest of the pulpy, goofy horror of Marvel’s ’70s.
Which is where he draws from to fill up Franken-Castle’s supporting cast. After Castle is shredded by Daken, he’s retrieved and saved by former Spider-Man foe Morbius and his Legion of Monsters. The Legion is in the process of being exterminated by a Japanese group of monster hunters, who are obsessed with the notion of eliminating all of Earth’s monsters as revenge for the havoc they wreaked on Japan. Castle is recruited by the Legion as their one and only hope but it takes them a while to convince him that their foes need “punishing.”
Not all stories need to be realistically gritty.
And really, half the fun is in watching the dynamic partnership of Remender and artist Tony Moore, who had previously worked together on the stellar Fear Agent. Moore doesn’t fulfill the entire run here but his pencils are the most fitting for Remender’s peculiar brand of story craft. The transformation of Castle into Franken-Castle is but one of the visual rewards Moore offers up since the Legion of Monsters itself provides the perfect excuse to see Moore’s interpretation of the likes of Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing and The Living Mummy.
Moore gets opportunities to make some original creations too, with the enigmatic leader of the Japanese monster hunters being a clear standout (he’s best left to be discovered on your own). There’s gonzo braininess to Moore’s creations, full as they are of macabre machinery and oozing fluids that takes Remender’s ideas to an entirely different level.
Moore and Remender have an almost telepathic connection, like the ideas in Remender’s head are getting beamed directly onto the page. Their partnership is a large part of what makes Franken-Castle work even when it’s at its most zany, since Moore’s passionate laboring carries over to his replacement artists. That enthusiasm can’t help but carry over to the reader as well. Even if you’ve never been a fan of The Punisher or monster comics, how can you help but fall in love with Franken-Castle? Sure he’s ugly, but it’s what’s inside that counts anyway.
by Nick Hanover