Crime, Punishment, and Justice like Lightning in "Punisher #13"
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg, Artist: Szymon Kudranski, Colours: Antonio Fabela, Letters: Cory Petit, Cover: Greg Smallwood.
After going on a rage-induced revenge frenzy through the Hydra-controlled, East European, pop-up country of Bagalia, the Punisher is back on more familiar turf, beating the streets of New York as he attempts to hunt down the last dregs of the terrorist organisation, including their elusive leader — Baron Zemo — for their actions during the events of "Secret Empire" and for making him complicit in their crimes.
However, after leaving the scene of his latest extra-judicial murder, the Punisher is subject to a random stop by two street cops, who — rather than arrest a man who literally has blood on his hands — prefer to pose for selfies whilst beaming about what big fans they are and proudly show off the skull decal they have attached to their patrol vehicle in a scene that is surprisingly meta. Why?
Well, you've probably seen movies like American Sniper, or heard the story about a Kentucky Police Department that was up until recently displaying the skull emblem on their own patrol vehicles. So as a guy whose real job (when he's not writing comic book reviews) is that of a cop of some 16 years service and has seen some of his own officers displaying a skull patch on their uniforms, this is a scene that resonated with me on both a personal and professional level. Frank reminds not only the two hapless officers, but also the reader, that he isn't the good guy, that our police and military swear an oath that the Punisher gave up on years ago, and that if they're after a role model then they should look at Captain America.
It's pretty serious stuff for a comic book — serious enough that even Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway weighed in on the debate a while back — and whilst I'm glad writer Matthew Rosenberg addresses the issue and seemingly makes clear both his own and Frank Castle's feelings on the subject, I'm also glad that he doesn't dwell on it too long. We're here first and foremost to be entertained, after all.
Real life political issues aside however, Punisher #13 is an issue that DOES entertain pretty much from start to finish, as Frank's return to American soil creates an unwelcome problem for Helmut Zemo. Zemo has fled across half the globe to escape the Punisher's wrath, and he in turn decides to pass the responsibility of dealing with him onto the elected Mayor of New York — Wilson Fisk — by reminding him that as the Punisher is one of Fisk's citizens and he is therefore his problem!
Fortunately for Fisk, Frank Castle's newfound status as an international terrorist —having pretty much destroyed an entire country— has allowed him to not only justify deploying hundreds of Hydra agents onto the streets (disguised as U.N peace keepers), but also reform the anti-vigilante Police division V.I.G.I.L (last seen in the classic 80's Punisher story "Suicide Run"). He has also commissioned a very special task force lead by Baron Zemo himself, who adopts a guise he's famous for having used previously, and is backed up by some very familiar faces!
Artist Szymon Kudranski's work on the title continues to conflict me. His depiction of Frank Castle is an imposing one, however his portrayal of other characters as well as his background work is often much less impressive. However, Matthew Rosenberg's writing continues to deliver one of the most solid Punisher runs in recent years.
Punisher: Suicide Run, collecting:
Punisher (Vol 1) #85-87
Punisher: War Journal (Vol 1) #61-64
Punisher: War Zone (Vol 1) #23-25