Yes, we knew that Punisher would return to its Legacy numbering with issue #218, and yes, we knew that Frank Castle would be donning the War Machine armor. But did we know the creative team would consist of Matthew Rosenberg and Guiu Vilanova? No, we did not.
Rosenberg, author of Black Mask comics such as 12 Reasons To Die, We Can Never Go Home, and the 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank annuals, first sold out his punk rock credibility and started working for Marvel in 2015, where he has slowly been seizing more power, writing such series as Secret Warriors and Edge of Venomverse. Vilanova has recently been drawing the Slayer comic at Dark Horse, following a stint on Weird Detective with Fred Van Lente at Dark Horse and a long run on Twilight Zone for Dynamite.
The storyline, as previously mentioned, will see the Punisher putting on the armor of the late War Machine, prompting criticism for replacing a black hero with a white one. Newsarama would never dare to ask a direct question about a controversial topic like that in a publisher-sanctioned EXCLUSIVE fluff interview, but when they asked Rosenberg how The Punisher felt about taking over for War Machine, he did his best to get in front of the story anyway, stating:
Frank likes Rhodey. He respects him more than he respects almost any other superhero. Rhodey is a soldier and a man of principle. But that has nothing to do with this. Frank isn't taking over for Rhodey or carrying on what he started. Frank is using his weapons after he died to kill bad guys. And that's how Frank works. There is a logical dissonance for him. He will do whatever he needs to accomplish his goal and nothing else matters. To Frank, it was Rhodey that made War Machine the hero, not the suit. In the same way that if he grabbed Hawkeye's bow and used it to shoot a mobster he wouldn't be Hawkeye, he'd just be practical. There are, of course, bigger ramifications and implications by using the armor than he thinks or cares about. But as long as he is putting bad guys in the dirt nothing else matters.
Rosenberg also says that it was all editor Jake Thomas's idea, and that he was reluctant about it at first, when asked how "this unique pairing came about."
As for where the idea came from, my editor Jake Thomas brought it to me. It took me a second to really get it. I love War Machine and Rhodey. I love him as a character and what he stands for. In a lot of ways, he is this optimistic view of what our government and our military stand for. Like Cap, he is the best of us going above and beyond to keep all of us safe and free. And obviously, he is much more than that too.
But none of that is what Frank is.
Frank is the inverted nightmare version of that. He is all the anger and hatred and vengeance that is built into our society, personified. The Punisher brings up a lot of uncomfortable questions about who we are as a society and what we are willing to let happen and what we'd like to see done. So, putting Frank in Rhodey's armor felt so wrong to me at first. It felt almost blasphemous. It wasn't until I realized this wasn't a superhero story anymore that I got it. This isn't a celebration of the Punisher taking on the mantle of War Machine and becoming a hero. This is a look into how easily War Machine can become overshadowed by the Punisher when it falls into the wrong hands.
The Punisher #218 hits stores in November.
THE PUNISHER #218
MATTHEW ROSENBERG (W) • GUIU VILANOVA (A)
Cover by CLAYTON CRAIN
FRANK CASTLE: WAR MACHINE Part 1
For years, Frank Castle has been fighting a one-man war against criminals who endanger the innocent, but when a certain one-eyed operative offers him the tools to take his fight global…how could he say no? Find out how Frank found his way into the WAR MACHINE Armor!