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Punisher War Journal #9

Posted: Friday, July 13, 2007
By: Kevin Powers



“Duel”

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Ariel Olivetti

Publisher: Marvel Comics


Punisher War Journal continues as Frank Castle has adopted a costume similar to Captain America’s and dives head first into the hot topic of immigration. Matt Fraction has done an outstanding job with the Punisher’s transition back into the mainstream Marvel Universe. Many Punisher fans are so used to Garth Ennis’ blood, sex, gore and supporting cast development that the Punisher himself needed a new angle. While I am still wondering why the Punisher’s origin was not “ret-conned” from Vietnam to the Gulf, Fraction has given the Punisher a renewed sense of purpose and a renewed sense of Patriotism in the wake of Civil War.

Frank Castle is more than just a vigilante with a vendetta and a lot of guns. He’s a methodical sociopath who will often plan out the way he will go about killing a man before he actually does the deed. He’s has the military training necessary to lead a small attack on any number of enemies, but he also has the ability to infiltrate an organization before carrying out his attack. That is one aspect of this story that Fraction has made very interesting. In this issue, especially, the similarities between Hate-Monger and the Punisher are definitely present; they are just on two different ends of the spectrum. The Punisher’s original purpose was to go to the border and kill Hate-Monger for using a costume adopted from Captain America’s, but this story has since been given more depth and has added to the Punisher’s character.

The general theme of this story arc has been hate and what hate does to people. For the Hate-Monger and his army of Nazis, hate is what fuels their patriotism. Fraction captures the feelings of a white supremacist and their twisted beliefs of supremacy and creates a villain that works on a classic level. The Hate-Monger wants to use a device to spread feelings of hate throughout the U.S.-Mexican border and eventually the entire country as a way to “manage” border control. I was kind of hoping for a little more back story on this new version of the Hate-Monger and why he is taking his fight to the border.

However, Fraction is not focusing in on the supporting cast like Ennis does; instead he focuses on the feelings running through the Punisher’s body as the hate device takes effect. Rather than the Punisher feeling hate towards those that are different like the Hate-Monger, he falls on the opposite end of the spectrum and becomes overwhelmed with hate towards everyone and the desire to kill. There’s a shocking twist that is part of the Punisher’s initiation as he infiltrates the Nazis. What he is forced to do will no doubt have repercussions throughout the rest of this series, so long as his sidekick is involved. It’s unclear whether or not the Punisher went all the way with his actions, but he can’t control himself. The narration of his feelings during this scene is brilliant and really conveys the type of person the Punisher is.

My favorite part of this issue came towards the end of the story when the Nazis discover that Frank is really the Punisher. The “Captain Punisher” costume is donned, and he goes into action. Fraction and Olivetti prove that the Punisher can still effectively exist in a PG-13 environment without excessive blood, capturing a level of action and excitement true to the Punisher. Ariel Olivetti’s painted artwork continues to shine capturing a level or detail, edge and action that really stands out in this issue.

Fraction also continues his style of non-linear storytelling and while it was a bit strange at first, it works more and more effectively as this story progresses. The ending of this issue is great and puts the Punisher into a predicament that should be interesting to see him get out of. With the conclusion of this arc looming, Fraction brings his story to one linear time frame, and I’m hoping for some wild action next issue.



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