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Punisher #13 Review – Surprising Heart In A Problematic Character

Punisher #13 by Becky Cloonan, Kris Anka and Matt Wilson is a self-contained tale that contains a surprising amount of heart and also relatively bloodless for a Punisher story. Which for me is a good thing.

Let me be straight-up here: I hate the Punisher. The whole concept of the character bugs me. That's not to say there haven't been times the character can be done well or interesting (the version of the character in Netflix's Daredevil is a really deep and interesting take on the character), but a lot of the time he is basically revenge porn, or even torture porn, and I personally find that tacky.

Moreover, he is problematic as hell. Now, anything we like is going to be problematic to some extent, the very concept of superheroes has problematic elements. But I find the Punisher especially troublesome because of how he's often described.

Cover by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire

He's often put down as a vigilante, or anti-hero, or loner. When he's not: he's a terrorist. His war may be aimed at criminality, but it often spills over, and he terrifies everyone. The character is the literal comics interpretation of the troublesome media hypocrisy we see today when violence on a Punisher scale gets a duality of coverage dependent, seemingly, entirely on the religion and ethnicity of the one who commits it.

So yeah, I would not normally pick up a copy of The Punisher. But I like Becky Cloonan's work, and I am a particular fan of the work of Kris Anka, so I decided to give this one a shot.

And amazingly, I quite liked this issue.

Art by Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson

As I mentioned, this issue is relatively bloodless. There's a few brutal action sequences that are frenetic and top notch, but I think Frank Castle only actually kills one person on panel.

Instead, Cloonan has constructed a story that is much more about the threat of Frank Castle. How the mere threat of the Punisher for many is enough, and how Frank's vengeance is deeply impersonal. When a character asks if his plan was to save her, he points out it wasn't: he just wanted his property back.

This is expertly illustrated in the artwork. Frank Castle cuts an immensely imposing figure in the story, generally looking bigger and broader than pretty much every other character in the issue. Moreover, for much of the issue the Punisher's face is almost entirely shrouded in deep shadow, inscrutable and dark.

Art by Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson

We get a Punisher who is like a threat looming through people's lives, and ultimately of extreme karma that leads to heavy injury and yes, death to those most deserving of it.


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Joe GlassAbout Joe Glass

Joe Glass has been contributing to Bleeding Cool for about four years. He's been a roaming reporter at shows like SDCC and NYCC, and also has a keen LGBTQ focus, with his occasional LGBTQ focus articles, Tales from the Four Color Closet. He is also now Bleeding Cool's Senior Mutant Correspondent thanks to his obsession with Marvel's merry mutants. Joe is also a comics creator, writer of LGBTQ superhero team series, The Pride, the first issue of which was one of the Top 25 ComiXology Submit Titles of 2014. He is also a co-writer on Stiffs, a horror comedy series set in South Wales about call centre workers who hunt the undead by night. One happens to be a monkey. Just because.
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