This issue presented a much-welcomed development in the Punisher character. Or, should I say, in the arsenal of Punisher. I’m not sure, in retrospect, how much Rick Remender did by way of character development. But I suppose you could say the same thing, to some extent, of most good Punisher stories. Writers seem to have great difficulty articulating the soul of the character. He’s a tough one to write well. People say Superman is hard to write because he’s so powerful that there’s never any tension, and I always say I’d rather write Superman than Batman. Superman’s all-or-nothing, lawfully good to the extreme perspective makes him susceptible to bad judgment and heartbreak. Those are the things that develop a person’s character. Batman is a tougher person to define because his character is so bleak and cynical that there’s little room for learning. And learning is character development at its essence, isn’t it?
Punisher is the same way: He has a rigid mission, and anything that compromises or impedes that mission must be jettisoned. No romance. No subtlety.
The best Punisher stories show how he got the way he is: The stories of him in Vietnam, Punisher: Year One, and Jason Aaron’s brilliant Punisher MAX run about the early days after Frank Castle returned from the war but before his family was killed. Only Garth Ennis was able to write straightforward pulpy violence that withstands scrutiny on later reads, and that’s because he’s so great at dialog and description.
The only other good Punisher tales rely on gimmicks to tell a fun story. And that’s a summary of Remender’s run: Whather it’s Castle using superhero tools or becoming an undead force of monster vengeance, it’s all gimmicks. Good ones, though. Damn fun reading.