Frank Castle is going to war. B he’s not going alone… Your Major Spoilers review of The Punisher #15 awaits!
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editor: Dorkfish Walinski
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: September 4, 2019
Previously in The Punisher: You can’t fight City Hall…unless, of course, you’re Frank Castle. But he won’t fight alone! Unfortunately, Zemo’s got his new Thunderbolts, and they’re ready for war.
ZEMO ON THE WARPATH
We start this issue with a remarkably effective scene, as two of Baron Zemo’s lackeys stand guard, gossiping about the terrible things they’ve heard about The Punisher and what he’s done to their friends. The deaths and explosions are believable, but when they start discussing him working with others, the story gets unbelievable… then Ghost Rider rides up. (Danny Ketch flavor, in case you were wondering… I know there are several currently active.) While Zemo and his makeshift Thunderbolts team prepare for a fight (with some really sexist nonsense aimed at Moonstone, inarguably their most powerful and competent member), Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Moon Knight, Night Thrasher, Rachel Cole and Frank Castle make their moves, attacking Zemo’s army in force, killing a quarter of his 400 shock troops with some truly ugly violence and some awful dialogue. Weirdly, Zemo seems to be working for The Kingpin, who orders his team into action, leading to the ol’ superhero fighty-fighty! Of course, Night Thrasher is outmatched by Radioactive Man, Ghost Rider is totally unable to touch The Ghost, and The Black Widow is put on the run by Jigsaw… JIGSAW! The Punisher, on the other hand, quickly kills The Fixer and seeks out Zemo, only to see that the former head of Hydra has kidnapped Rachel and is holding him hostage, demanding a one-on-one confrontation.
REMARKABLY UNPLEASANT DIALOGUE
I can’t fault this issue for the violence, as you kind of sign up for that when you buy a book called ‘The Punisher’, but there is an undercurrent here that is unpleasant regarding the female characters. Rachel gets in a one-liner before becoming a hostage, Black Widow is overwhelmed by a character who she probably shouldn’t have been, and Moonstone gets verbally shut down and abused by Zemo in one of her only lines of the issue. Of course, the male characters are also treated pretty poorly, as Zemo gets bullied by Kingpin and the The Fixer’s end comes in a sudden hail of bullets, followed by a sneering “I don’t even know who you are” from Frank. Both Castle and Zemo get some really unpleasant dialogue throughout this issue, and while the basic plotting is okay, there are some issues regarding who is where, doing what throughout these pages. Kudranski’s art is quite good throughout the story, but some of his figurework is very stiff, featuring diving attacks with locked knees and very strangely angular bodies throughout the battle sequences. He delivers the best Night Thrasher since the days of his solo book, but a VERY dark and murky coloring job mars the issue, making it hard in some cases to tell WHO is on the page at any given time. When even Moon Knight’s white costume is just a pool of shadow flipping across the page, there’s a real issue with clarity, especially since the rest of the heroes here already wear black.
BOTTOM LINE: NOT FOR ME
In short, while the pieces of a good ‘Punisher-teams-up-for-the-greater-good’ story are here, the hard-edged dialogue goes too far, making even heroic characters sound like sociopaths or parodies of hard-hitting 90s grimdark storytelling. Add in stiff art and far-too-dark coloring and The Punisher #15 winds up somewhat disappointing, with a cliched cliffhanger that promises more of the same next time around, earning 2 out of 5 stars overall. It’s good to see Frank Castle working with others, it’s nice to see The Thunderbolts get some rare screen time in the current Marvel Universe, but the experience of reading this book was not a good one for me.
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THE PUNISHER #15
Flaws in coloring, layout and dialogue drag down an issue whose story has potential.