Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Punisher: Franken-Castle (Dark Reign: The List, The Punisher #11-16, Franken-Castle #17-21, Dark Wolverine #88-89) PART TWO

"Quit squirming, you crazy sonofabitch.  We already had this dance!! We know how it ends." - Daken

Time to wrap up the Franken-Castle storyline. In the first part of this tale Frank Castle aka The Punisher was trying to kill Norman Osborn who set Wolverine's son Daken to kill him.  Which he did.  He sliced Fank into pieces but those peices were reassembled and given life again by some desperate monsters who were being hunted by a man called Hellsgaard and a small army of Japanese monster hunters.  After overcoming his initial reluctance, Frank took out most of the army and with the help of Manphibian banished Hellsgaard to the limbo dimension he had planned to use to dispose of the bodies of the monsters he killed inside.  However Frank was very badly injured in the battle and this half of the storyline picks up after he has spent some time recovering.  His next job now the monsters are safe is to extract his revenge against Daken.  But Daken is an accomplished fighter with claws and a healing factor just like his father. So defeating him will be no easy task, and how will Frank regain his normal human appearance?  Read on to find out.  Franken-Castle is written by Rick Remender with a variety of artists, Dark Wolverine is written by Daniel Way and Majorie Liu with art by Stephen Segovia and Paco Diaz.

This first chapter is drawn by Roland Boschi. We begin with Frank laid out in Morbius's operating table with Morbius saying there is nothing more he can do.  The Muummy says they have other options, and they owe it to Frank because he refused to abandon him, because "he wouldn't let Hellgaard's massacre go unanswered".  So reluctantly fetches the Bloodstone and places it inside Frank's chest saying it will regenerate him over time and it will also keep the stone safe.  Morbius says it's power could make him very dangerous if he doesn't take his synaptic bonding pills and goes on a rampage. The Mummy says they owe him a chance at life, Morbius agrees but says if he is wrong:

Morbius: "We will be responsible for creating the worst monster this world has ever known".

Then we jump to one month later.  Frank is still out cold.  Henry has been taking care of him all this time.  He wakes up grumbling about the music Henry is listening to.
Such gratitude!
Henry tells him he shouldn't be moving around just yet. Frank asks Henry if he has found them any work.  This irritates Henry who starts ranting about all the crap he's been put through over the past couple of months.  After he watched Frank die, then he showed up while Henry was sleeping and frightened the life out of him, then he was dragged into the battle with Hellsgaard and this ended up with him living in a sewer nursing Frank back to health.

"You find us some work?" repeats Frank. Henry says he has not because he's been cleaning his bedpans, watching his sutures, feeding him applesauce and juice and trying to set up a base in the Morlock hole they're living in.  He's been tending to him like he his mother and he doesn't know why.  So now the sarcastic crap has to end.  Frank pauses, then apologises and calls Henry a "good kid".   Now he will he find him some work?

He walks out into the Monster Metropolis and Manphibian walks with him, telling him after the assault on Hellsgarrd's castle there were "complications" and he shows Frank the prisoners they took. They don't know what to do with them and thought Frank might have some ideas.  Frank puts a gun in Manphibian's hands and walks off.  But Manphibian tells the panicking prisoners he isn't going to shoot them.

Frank is out and about driving his motorbike.  Henry tells him over the radio he's putting some missions together for him. Frank arrives at the graveyard his family are buried in.  He kneels by his wife's grave and touches the cold stone. Then suddenly two ninjas attack him.  Frank tells them they crossed a line and grabs one by the leg and smacks the other one with him.
A touching moment.
He shoots one and holds the broken body of the other upside-down and asks who he reports to.  He is about to spill the beans when a woman in a black catsuit and mask shoots him in the head with a sniper rifle and then speeds off. Frank jumps on his bike and goes back to base telling Henry to track her and also to set up a satellite to evaporate anyone who touches their graves.

Back at base, Henry says it all traces back to a "Lady Gorgon" who was one of the people who tried to kill Frank when Henry's dad "Jigsaw" put a bounty on him a few months ago.  Because she failed she was cast out of "The Hand" a ninja clan who get up to all sorts of shenanigans in the Marvel Universe.  He's found her, and she is in Tokyo. Frank tells him to gather all the intel for everyone on his list, he's off to Tokyo.

The next chapter is drawn by Jefte Paolo.  Lady Gorgon is contemplating how to get her and her team back into The Hand's good graces.  She has a sword called the "Izanami-no-Mikoto". It has a gem on it that glows when it predicts it will draw blood.  She believes delivering the sword to Yoshiokya will restore them to their rightful positions in The Hand.  A message is delivered to her, information on a man she killed to get Frank's attention during their previous encounter.  This means he's here and out for revenge.
Lady Gorgon in just her undies?
The room goes dark and Frank guns everyone down bar Lady Gorgon who lights the room with the blade. She runs to the helicopter and finds Frank waiting.  He gives her a short history of the man she killed, a man who ended up a vagrant.  She says killing him did him a favour.  Frank says "I'm here to return it."

She tries to dominate his mind, but the jumble it's in now means she can't.  So she psychically links him with the ninjas that jump down to kill him "you will suffer each death".  Frank doesn't care and hacks them all up.  He grabs Lady Gorgon by the throat and says he won't give her an honourable death in battle.  Then he tosses her off the roof.  She survives the fall though and Frank jumps down after her.  

She tries to psyche him out by linking him with the terrified driver of the car she is on.  He crashes his bike in it and pulls the driver free before the car blows.  Henry is still tracking her, she's gone to the heart of The Hand's district.  She barges into Master Yoshiokya room where he is meditating and offers him the sword.  He tells her to kill the man who hunts her, only then will she be able to rejoin.
Lady Gorgon, neutralised.
Frank runs a gauntlet of gunfire through The Hand building until he reaches Lady Gorgon and Yoshikya.  Before Lady Gorgon can do anything though, Yoshiokya runs her through. Frank walks off telling Henry to cross Lady Gorgon off the list and open Daken's file.

We then crossover with Dark Wolverine, art by Stephen Segovia and Paco Diaz.  Daken is in a sushi bar being fussed over by some girls while he looks bored. He gets up and goes to the toilets and stabs a man inside there.  He tells the other man standing there terrified that he is to call his primary client - The Silver Samurai - they need to meet tonight at his office about matters that can't be discussed over the phone.  He leaves the man vomiting in fear.

He leaves the restaurant and detects Frank following him and attacks him from behind.  "You look different.  Have you had some work done?" he sneers at Frank who answers him with a laser to the head that Daken just manages to dodge.   He says to Frank that he gets the pleasure of chopping him to bits all over again.  Frank says if he is trying to piss him off, it won't work - "Little boy, I'm always pissed off."
Let battle commence!
As they trade blows Daken notices that Frank's chest is glowing. He asks what it is.  "Wouldn't you like to know." responds Frank. Then rather graphically Frank snaps Daken's arms and smashes him through the roof of the building they are fighting on.  Daken says Frank used to be more gentle, Frank says he's not that nice anymore:

Frank: "But I'll do you a favour.  The same favour you did for me.  I'll take it slow.  And save all the important parts for last."
He pulls out a knife while Henry tries to warn him over the radio about his vitals. Then  Frank notices one of the people in the same room as him and Daken holding her son saying "please don't hurt us."

Frank punches a hole in the wall and goes through into an underground tunnel, Daken follows so they are away from innocent civilians now. Frank takes a pill while Henry scolds him over the radio.  "Stop whining" says Frank.  "I hate you" responds Henry.  "No.  You don't" replies Frank looking a little pensive.  

Frank: "You don't know what it's like to hate.  To have your entire life become nothing more than an expression of hate.  Nothing else matters.  Nothing else can compare, or taste as sweet".

And we see Daken having regenerated his broken arms clench his fists and snarl.  Then we're back in the Franken-Castle series with art by Tony Moore again. Daken has changed into his brown Wolverine costume and is tracking Frank through the sewers.

Daken: "Stale.  Blood of an old man too dumb to know he's already dead... because I'm coming Frank.  I'm coming to kill you all over again!"

He shouts down the sewer that did anything The Punisher ever do change anything?  He also knows what's in Franks chest and he wants it.   Jumps down and lands on some disturbed ground and it collapses into a hole full of bladed spikes. Frank comes and stands over him.  He bellows at Frank that he'll kill him again. Frank says he didn't kill him, he was just the "gun I used to shoot myself"  But he is feeling better now.
Inconvenient brain spasm.
And he drops a grenade into the pit and walks away from the explosion.   He readies a rifle to shoot Daken's head off as he climbs out, but then collapses.  Henry says his heart rate is going wild. He runs off holding his head saying "attacks. Brain... C-closer.. Upredic-table". Henry reassures him the Bloodstone is eventually going to heal him but maybe he should put off this revenge tip until it does.

Frank takes a pill and pulls himself together. He picks up his gun and says he is going to kill Daken, so Henry can help or shut up.  Henry says he'll help but there has been a complication.  Before he can tell Frank what it is, Daken attacks and cuts off Franks ear.  He knocks Frank down and rips open his chest to reveal the Bloodstone. He stabs Frank in the throat but Frank is unphased and grabs Daken by the neck hurling him through a wall, across a station platform and onto the train tracks.

But as Frank comes after him, Daken slices off his power supply and knocks Frank onto the tracks.  He tries to get the Bloodstone again, but Frank grabs him and a track and electricity surges through him electrocuting Daken.  Then a train appears, Frank jumps out of the way but it hits Daken and runs him over.  He is still mobile and staggers off to heal up.

He runs into a building site and thinks rambling thoughts about the Bloodstone and how Frank is "a gift-bearing angel resurrected and sent down to me.  Straight from Black Heaven".  Then Frank swings towards him on a crane hook.  Frank knocks him onto some metal poles running him through as he remembers their battle when Daken killed him.  Daken snaps the poles and charges at Frank who riddles him with bullets then slices him up with a circular saw.
So satisfying.
Finally Daken stops moving.  Frank grabs him by the hair and takes him to a pit where he has readied some concrete to be poured.  He is about to throw Daken in the pit saying he'll probably suffocate in there when suddenly two sets of claws are stabbed through his chest and he collapses.  He turns and sees Wolverine standing there. 

Wolverine: "Kid's a knucklehead.  But I can't have you killin' my boy Castle".

Back in the Dark Wolverine series, same artist as before. Wolverine tells Frank to get lost before things turn ugly, "too late for that" says Frank and they start fighting.   Wolverine slices off two of Frank's fingers.  Henry tries to warn him things are going bad but Frank can't hear.

Oh great. Wolverine.
Wolverine tells Frank that Daken isn't worth it.  Frank refuses to back down.  Wolverine slashes and stabs him saying he knows he's not himself right now and warns him Daken is after the stone.  Frank smashes Wolverine into a wall stunning him and asks Henry to find Daken. The Japanese police are on their way, Henry is doing his best to sabotage their comms but Frank needs to get out of there now.

Frank picks up Wolverine and is about to dump him in the concrete pit when Wolverine comes too and slices off Franks fingertips saying he won't let him near Daken.  Then he collapses and Frank tells him "he isn't worth your protection".  Henry finally gets through to Frank that he needs to leave and Frank starts to walk away from the unconcious Wolverine.  He drops down into the sewers and climbs up some way away.

And he is hit by a truck driven by Daken.  Almost out cold, Frank can't do anything to stop Daken cutting the Bloodstone out of his chest.  "So sorry Frank" says Daken, "you lose again".
Daken about to take the stone.
We return to the Franken-Castle series, this issue with art by Tony Moore, Paco Diaz and John Lucas. Frank is almost unconcious but recognises the sound of Daken laughing and rage consumes him.  "I need to kill him.  Turn that laughter to choking.  Gargling.  Begging" he thinks, but the "world goes drunk and the kid has my ace card".

The Japanese police have them surrounded.  They tell Daken to raise his hands and drop to his knees.  Daken says he will in a moment and punches Frank in the face.   Then he starts laying into the police, not noticing that Frank has managed to get in the truck.  Frank then hits him with it and crushes Daken into another vehicle.  The police surround Frank, but he doesn't speak Japanese and they don't understand his warnings about Daken...

...Who starts tossing cops about like they were nothing. He yanks one out of a car and runs his claws through his head, saying he sees them thinking about their terrible life choices, not too different from what he sees in Frank's face:

Daken: "Dusty old turd from an entitled generation doesn't know when to shuffle off to the old folks home."

And he tosses Frank into a neon sign which collapses on top of Frank. Daken drags him out continually trash talking Frank about his age, "a sad ego pleading for relevancy" which was what lead Frank to target Osborn a man "fantastically out of your league".   He leans over Frank saying he couldn't even protect his family when the cops open fire on him.  He runs into cover and where the bullet wounds were suddenly there are tumourous skin growths.  Confused he tries slicing one off making him yelp in pain.
Frank really likes to vent.
Frank crawls towards a live electrical cable hoping a jolt will get him on his feet, but exhausted he can't make it. Then Wolverine appears and jams the cables in him which gets Frank back on his feet.  Wolverine says it's Frank's fault Daken has the Bloodstone and now he's going to help getting it back off him. Frank rages at him:

Frank: "Your boy's a ruthless, blood-soaked monster!  How far's he gotta go before you do somethin'?  The cur's gotta be put down - and you know it."

Wolverine just reponds with silence. Daken hijacks a helicopter but Frank and Wolverine jump on it  and in the struggle the helicopter crashes into the roof of a building.

Daken climbs out of the wreckage to come face-to-face with Frank's big gun.  Frank says all his big talk was funny coming from Daken.

Frank: "Reputation coattail rider, dressed up like someone else, lecturing me about overcompensation.  I built my own reputation.  Ground up. You?  Snuck into the show on another man's back.  You're just a poser".

Daken is covered in more fleshy growths.  As he lunges at Frank in a rage, Frank punches a grenade inside him and it blows.  Daken then explodes into a mass of lumpy flesh  which ends up covering the whole rooftop

Wolverine asks what Frank did. Frank says the Bloodstone is a healing relic, he figured when he saw the first tumours it might react this way to Daken's healing factor.  "Your idiot kid gave himself super lupus".  Wolverine tells Daken what a disappointment he is as he cuts the Bloodstone out of the mass of flesh.  Daken says "likewise".  Wolverine then puts the Bloodstone back into Frank's chest.
Wish I had a Bloodstone in my chest.
Frank recovers enough to stand and says he won't stop coming for Daken until he's dead and if Wolverine wants to keep him safe he'll lock him away somewhere. "I plan to" says Wolverine. But he turns and finds Daken has cut himself free.  Frank has gone too leaving Wolverine alone, "right" he says and leaves as well.

Final chapter now, art by Dan Brereton, Andrea Mutti and Luca Malisan. Frank has decided to go and heal on an uninhabited island. Actually it's Monster Island but it was the closest Henry could find. Henry tells him they can't have him around people until he gets a hold of himself.

Henry: "Dig in - recover,  The Bloodstone will do its work if you let it.  Once you're mended you hit me back... we'll come get you".
The line goes dead and Henry says Frank won't be happy about this.  Morbius says it was their only option after the mess in Tokyo. Henry wonders if he'll be safe there, Morbius says it's not his safety he's worried about.

We then jump to some weeks later.  Frank is fully healed and human again.  His mind though is in bad shape.  He can think of nothing but vegeneance, on everyone. Especially those who left him here.  The Bloodstone is feeding his revenge fueled nature and he is mentally talking to his dead wife Maria all the time.

Frank:  "I am Frank Castle.  I am The Punisher.  I am going to fix the world".

At the Hall of Monsters the assembled squabble over whose fault it was that Frank's gone as mad as he has.  Then Elsa Bloodstone, the English monster hunter, daughter of Ulysses Bloodstone and one of the stars of the amazing NEXTWAVE series appears saying she'll help them fix the mess they made.
Fabulous hair Frank!
Frank is brooding over his plans to lay waste to the criminals of the world while eating by a fire.  Then Manphibian appears and gently tries to explain that the Bloodstone is clouding his thinking and turning him crazy.  As Frank's inner voice tells him to kill Manphibian his words start to get through to him.  Then Elsa fires on him, but Morbius yanks the gun and she misses her shot.

Manphibian tries to calm him down but all Frank can think is he brought someone here to kill him.  He and Elsa get into a punch-up.  She holds her own saying she's fought Frankenstein and that Frank is no Frankenstein.  Manphibian, The Mummy and Jack argue about what to do and Jack decides to take Frank on directly.  Frank fires on him but bullets don't phase Jack, then the Mummy uses bandages to smack Frank into a tree and Elsa fires a bullet that goes through him.

He and Elsa struggle and Frank pushes her face into Man-Thing's hand and she burns at his touch.  Jack snatches her up and dunks her in water.  Frank asks why he cares about a monster hunter.  Jack says she doesn't deserve to die.  She's just doing what her father taught her, "I don't agree with her methods, but her intentions are clean".   Frank says if he kills her he'll be saving the lives of all the monsters she'll kill in the future. 

The Mummy: "It is not your responsibility to kill anyone capable of crime.  That is the road of a tyrant.  You kill those who prey on the innocent.  The stone is destroying your ability to see the difference.  Taking away your one redeeming quality...that you only kill those who deserve it".
Silently Frank pulls the Bloodstone out of his chest and gives it to Elsa, then he turns his back on all of them and walks away saying "we're done."
Seriously Frank. Learn to gratitude.
Weeks pass. Some young men are talking in incomprehensible youth speak on the streets of New York.  They go upstairs to a flat and inside they find Frank in his Punisher outfit. He tells them to both sit down or he'll kill them slow.  When he has finished talking with them, one can leave.

He tells them to put their guns on the table, "I understand one of you recently graduated to cop killer" he tells them.  They both accuse each other, but Frank says the cop was killed with a .357 Magnum.  That leaves G-Dey off the hook.  He then tells G-Dey to pick up the Magnum and shoot his friend in the head.  The terrified G-Dey does so.

Then Frank tells G-Dey he is going to send a message for him. He puts a sign round his neck and tells him to stand by the window and G-Dey "leaves" the room in a hail of bullets, landing on the hood of a car and the sign has the Punisher's skull symbol on it and the word "BACK" written on it.  And that brings The Franken-Castle storyline to a close.
Yes, most definitely back.
While I prefer the first half of the storyline more thanks to its varied slection of cool characters and more consistent art, this second half is still very enjoyable even though it is about 90% fight scenes.  Daken is the Scrappy Doo of the Marvel Universe as far as I am concerned and seeing him getting an extended beatdown and a vicious verbal assault from Frank that skewers him for being an poor copy of his incredibly overrated father is very satisfying.  Of course Frank is being a little hypocritical when he tells Wolverine his son is an unrepentant killer who needs to be put down, because Frank is pretty damn unrepentant even if he covers himself with the figleaf of only killing those who in his eyes deserve it. Still it was cool that he managed to bring down Daken using his superior brain, even as messed up as it was it was still able to recognise a way to use the Bloodstone to incapacitate Daken in a huge flesh explosion similiar to what happened to Tetsuo at the end of the Akira film adaptation. This second half suffers a bit from the art changing styles so dramatically, but kudos to the writers of Dark Wolverine for making their issues work seamlessly with the Franken-Castle ones.  I said this in my summation of Part One but I cannot understand why people hate this chapter in Frank's life.  To me it is everything awesome about comicbooks, only in comicbooks could such a cheeky way be used to bring a character back to life and change him so drastically and the prior existence of The Bloodstone means there wasn't even an asspull required to bring him back, just an item with plenty of prior history in the more monster orientated annals of the Marvel Universe. The whole fourteen issue storyline has been collected in one bumper volume which is where I have got this from and is a great and good value read for Punisher fans with a sense of the absurd. Like me.


  1. So I'm reading...

    - "The Hand" you say? The mindcontrol resurrection ninjas? Naaah... this can't be important in any way shape or form. :3

    - Random Wolverine appeared! (...) Castle uses Common Sense. It's not very effective.

    - And today we learned that there is such thing as too much healing.

    - Ah... I wanted the resurrection ninjas. :( But this worked too.

    PS.: CAT THOR!

  2. "I cannot understand why people hate this chapter in Frank's life."

    I mentioned the "stop having fun guys" on the previous part. Now that I thought a bit more about it there is also the "it wasn't what I expected/wanted, therefore it must be bad" mindset which is understandable sort of...

    I mean I'm known for my burning hatred towards A-Force (the Secret Wars mini, I opted not to torture myself with the ongoing that died 10 issues in). But at least I admit that it's perfectly subjective.

    Why yes, I did erase a paragraph worth of rant why I hate A-Force... ^^; Because I'm a mature adult damn it! :3

  3. I've managed to move beyond my 'how dare you take a character I only know about from a couple of blog posts and do something with him that I've decided to assume is different, even though he was apparently a demon once' stance

    This did seem fun. There are some seeming meta references so I wonder if the "I'm back" was a sop to the fans who were whinging about a return to standard t-shirt wearing, taking out regular human criminals fare?

  4. Sorry about the delayed response again, I thought I popped up a post saying I was off convalescing for a few days but I must have imagined posting it >_<

    I'd like to have read that paragraph of burning hatred Malitia, and I don't even know what A-Force is!

    Alan, I definitely think the "Back" sign was nice and meta. Now I'm happy because when I got home today Punisher MAX vol.6 was waiting for me, only taken me two years to finally get the full set so next time I write about Mr. Castle it'll be Ennis's take again.

    And finally: CAT THOR!!

  5. "I'd like to have read that paragraph of burning hatred Malitia, and I don't even know what A-Force is!"

    OK. It might become a bit longer than a paragraph... when I begin to rant I can't stop easily. ^^;

    So what was A-Force?

    It was Marvel's latest effort to make an all female superteam happen (I personally know of at least two more "Fearless Defenders" and the last pre-SW "Adjectiveless X-Men"). It was also a SW tie-in more heavily advertised towards women, especially social justice minded ones (what the fanbros would call the "tumblr" demographic).

    Basically what they promised: "ALL YOUR FAVORITE HEROINES LIVING IN A FEMINIST UTOPIA AND HAVING ADVENTURES!!! IT'S EVEN WRITTEN BY FAN FAVORITE G. WILLOW WILSON (Kamala Khan - Ms. Marvel)!" the reaction was the predictable "YAY!" from the target audience (me included, despite having doubts if Wilson is a good fit for a team book as her strengths lie in writing family dynamics).

    What we got: A promising (but sort of aimless) first issue, a second where a family was the comic's saving grace* (Wilson's strength), a third in which the plot devolved into an incredibly embarrassing cliché storm, a fourth where it pissed away any resemblance of an actually thought out anything, and a fifth and last which was a pointless fight scene... sorry, not pointless but I'm getting ahead of myself.

    So from that pitch they sold it with: Our favorite heroines were reduced to flat characters, the feminist utopia was barely shown (and even that seemed to lack world building to me), and the adventure was nonsensical and trite (also managed to "build" a mystery that was somehow both blatantly obvious and not set up properly**). The best way I found to describe this comic is that it's not bad in the traditional sense it just wasn't interested in the things people read it for. Which I found anger inducing.

    What was it interested in? Well, at the end of the first issue a new character (Singularity) falls from the sky (I'm literal) from that point on she is very cute and sort of there, occasionally helping too, which culminates in her sacrificing herself in that last fight scene. And than on the last pages the book promises that she'll return in the ongoing. So basically the whole thing is a professionally produced Black Hole Sue fic.

    And I wished Singularity would die in a random act of cosmic fire. (If I can't get justice I will settle for revenge.) Sorry... I need to go and punch something.

    * Loki's. It's destroyed in the name of the "plot".
    ** Hint to writers: Loki (or similar character) betraying someone is not a twist. And asking people to trust you (the writer) just to betray that trust is also not a twist (even if they probably didn't see it coming).

  6. Well I asked for it. Man that sounds depressing. All that potential totally thrown away always a problem sometimes with these type of demographically moulded comics. And it always sucked when characters you love get suborned into propping up a creator's pet. No fun. I understand your anger now!

    Next month I am doing one of my months periodically covering female lead or dominated titles, they are all pretty damn good, though I know for sure you've read at least one of them (a rodenty one...).

  7. Possibly the most telling thing about that comic is this:
    - Issue #1 -- Ms. America (A-Force team member, adoptive daughter of Loki) is banished according to Battleworld (Secret Wars) law because of an accident. "Well, it's a hard decision, but the needs of the many out-weight the needs of the few."
    - Issue #2 -- Singularity would also fall under the same law... "NOOO! SHE IS AN INNOCENT! WE'VE TO SAVE HER NO MATTER THE COST!"
    - Me: *facepalm*