Punisher: World War Frank – Matthew Rosenberg, Szymon Kudranski & Antonio Fabela (Marvel)

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The handy guide to writing the Punisher used to be a single sheet of paper with one simple rule scrawled on it in crayon, “Let Frank be Frank”. For the most part, writers adhered to it without question, followed it religiously and provided their artistic partners in carnage with scripts, plots and ideas that allowed them to saturate Frank’s world in gore.  That was fine and dandy and worked well for the Punisher as it meant he could do what he’d always done. He could be the avatar of justice that secretly, deep down in the darkest parts of their souls that nobody ever talks about under any circumstances, everybody wants to be.

Then Matthew Rosenberg went and threw a spanner in the works. Having assumed the responsibility for guiding Frank through the social and moral miasma that he “willingly” entered during Hydra Steve’s tenure in the White House, Mr Rosenberg realised that the golden rule of Punishment wasn’t going to be enough to cut it anymore. Frank’s life had become increasingly complicated and his previously straight forward mission ever more clouded through, and by, his association with Hydra. So Rosenberg rolled up his sleeves and added the first addendum to the Punisher Guide Book, which after he’d finished with it and left it alone to brew some coffee and consider the future ramifications of what he’d just done, now read “Let Frank be Frank and crazy is as Frank does”. And in World War Frank the Punisher goes for gold in the Crazy Olympics and all hell breaks loose in New York City.

Having been stripped of the War Machine armour and freed from the clutches of authority by the Black Widow and the Winter Solider, Frank returns to his stomping ground and driven by a burning desire for vengeance and to “do what’s right” sets out to dismantle Hydra piece by piece and limb by limb.  But Hydra have been playing a long game and now lead a nation seeking to become part of the body that governs all countries, which brings Frank into direct conflict with… Well, just about everyone. Never one to let the odds to get in his way or dissuade him, Frank focuses on his mission and slowly, but surely and in an orgy of blood splattered violence, marches toward victory. And he probably would have got away with too if it wasn’t for all of those pesky laws and heroes who sometimes, in the most dire of circumstances, are forced to do things that would normally turn their stomachs and make their collective conscious run screaming for the hills. With the popular tide having turned against him, Frank, as the lights fade on the first chapter of his glorious homecoming is once again left up the creek without a canoe or an M-16, which is exactly where he likes to be.

Matthew Rosenberg is the perfect writer for Frank and in Kudranksi he has found his artistic soulmate, who adds the realism, detail and brutality to Frank’s escapades that Rosenberg’s narrative needs to breathe. Incorporating a number of fellow writer and metal (the music not the weaponised variety) in jokes  into his story, Rosenberg pushes his “hero” to his absolute limit and far beyond and let’s Frank’s particular brand of insanity guide proceedings, which ultimately means that the story delivers on every single Punisher level that you want, and need, it too. Frank’s back and he’s learned to love his crazy. Here is punishment, here is justice, here in World War Frank… Tim Cundle

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