It’s rare the ending of a comic can surprise you like this. I think it’s been long enough that I can reveal the shocker that concludes this one: Castle takes on Daken, one-on-one, and… loses. Pretty badly. By which I mean, he gets sliced up into little bits.
I’ve been known to complain about the artifice of mortality that characters have in their own book before, so seeingthat subverted in such a blatant way is the very definition of refreshing for jaded, cynical bastards like me. Especially in the case of The Punisher, whose fights against superheroes often seem to involve a lot of contrivances anyway, given that he’s just a fairly old guy with a lot of guns.
Admittedly, when the next Punisher arc is called “Frankencastle” (presumably, he is rebuilt and re-animated by Dr. Frankencastle) it’s easy to see how they’re going to reverse the events of this issue, but that doesn’t change the fact that when you’re reading a Marvel comic, you don’t expect the heroic lead to die at the end of it. I know it’s grisly to admit, but there was a certain satisfaction in seeing the Punisher’s fight against superhumans way out of his league finally taken to the logical extreme.
There’s far more to the issue, of course – not least John Romita’s art. Romita himself spends so much time drawing Spider-Man that it’s easy to forget just how fantastic his work is, and the gritty, urban setting of the Punisher highlights completely different parts of his work, recalling the rooftop battles of his work on Man Without Fear (Klaus Janson’s inks no doubt helping that feeling along.)
There’s certainly an intesity to the way Remender writes the Punisher – events in the character’s solo title have no doubt added to the desperation he’s displaying in this story. Remender’s fights are always well-choreographed, and with Romita helping him along, the issue becomes one of the better “List” one-shots.