With “Valley Forge, Valley Forge: The Slaughter of a U.S. Marine Garrison and the Birth of the Punisher”, Garth Ennis begins his final arc on the title he completely redefined and refocused nearly 8 years ago. Even writing all that is still severely understating the impact Ennis has had on this character. Before Ennis, the Punisher had fallen to C- maybe D-List status in the Marvel Universe. After Ennis, he was finally able to reach his “Most Bad-Ass Badass in the Marvel Universe!” potential, and even surpassed it to the extent that the editors decided to remove his sadistic adventures from the Marvel Universe proper. Ennis was born to write the Punisher… and if we didn’t know better, we would credit him with the character’s creation.
So, final arc of the series… there exists a ton of unrealistic expectations from the fans, especially after the last arc, which featured the long awaited rematch between Barracuda and the Punisher, completely blew the doors of decency off this mother. Adding a few more layers of epic to an already epic run, Ennis decides to go back to the “beginning”; back to 2004, the year “BORN” was released. Born, a mini series written by Garth Ennis, tells the story of Marine Captain Frank Castle and his third and final tour in Vietnam. It reveals the Punisher’s true birthplace, Firebase Valley Forge, on the border of Cambodia. With the final page of issue #4, Ennis plants the seeds for this, his final arc. The last page features Frank Castle in the midst of bullet-riddled and smoldering bodies… last man standing, the moment he was “born”.
In part one of his swansong, Ennis treats us to the always rare and delightful appearance of Nick Fury. Whether or not this is in MU continuity is uncertain, but who really gives a fuck? It’s in Punisher continuity and I’m loving it! Fury shows up to pass on some critical information and act as the author’s messenger, voicing negative opinions about the US government, the war in Iraq and the idiotic notion of “saving the world”. I forgive Ennis this, mostly because I agree with him, but also because something tells me that Nick Fury’s unsolicited opinions will definitely play into the final issue’s climax.
ENTER: The evil American generals… and the objects of the Punisher’s wrath. These guys did some rotten shit around 4 years ago (?), and it seems the time has finally come to pay for their crimes against humanity. Well, these assholes aren’t going out like bitches, instead, they’ve hatched a plan to pit Castle against the one thing even he will have trouble killing: American Soldiers. You see, Castle may be a cold-blooded murder, but he’s got a code. He doesn’t kill kids and he doesn’t kill the Good Guys… Super-Heroes, Cops and US Soldiers. The plan seems foolproof, except of the fact that Special Forces guys can’t legally act on American soil. The generals are going to need someone who knows how to exercise the utmost discretion; they find their man in Colonel Howe, a special forces Colonel who actually volunteers for the job. As Howe explains it, “He’s one of ours. We trained him. And it’s up to us to close the book on him for good.”
Sorry Howe, but Frank’s got some plans of his own. Remember that critical info Fury passed him? Oh yeah, time to go to war. Punisher has always been one of those titles that gets shuffled to the top of the pile every month and now that we’re so close to the end, I can’t help but feel sad. Sure, the book will continue without Ennis, but we Punisher fans know that shit just won’t be the same. Actually, I’m kind of hoping he dies in the end… to me, that’s the only way Ennis can payoff his seminal run. But, Marvel will never allow that. Not now that the Punisher’s been built back into an A-List player. Shit, we got another crappy movie coming out. Oh well, the curse of rising to greatness… eventually some fuckhead has to come along and knock you back down again.