Ah Fraction, I love you man. The last year of this series has, for the most part, been mediocre or worse, but you know what? Fraction knows that too. In this issue, the writer tells us why this series didn’t work. Sure, you could just have some fun with this zany Christmas adventure, but this is really a commentary on the entire series and the Punisher in general.
“You punish the guilty, Frank. Not the stupid.” That’s from Rhino, the ridiculous voice of reason. Think about it, when has this series worked? When it embraced its idiotic nature. Punisher hits Stilt Man with a bazooka? Hilarious! Punisher blows up a bar with a bunch of Z-List baddies? Classic! The Hate-Monger saga? The ultimate Jigsaw story? Not so much. The fact is Punisher shouldn’t fight supervillains. I mean, I guess he could if Marvel would actually let him kill a true criminal, but he can’t. He can only deal with the bottom of the barrel. Stilt-Man is of course the obvious example and hey, Matt Fraction thinks so too because guess what this issue is about?
It’s Christmas day and Frank is sitting on top of a roof with a big silly gun spying on a bunch of idiots. “What kinda criminal would be dumb enough to come back to a place the Punisher already hit?” That’s right! This is the bar Frank hit way back in issue #4. These morons are arguing over who gets to be the new Stilt-Man. While Frank is watching his prey, the Rhino shows up with a Santa Hat. He’s here to feed the Vulture’s pigeons, but he’s also here to talk some sense into the Punisher.
This issue is drawn by Andy McDonald. I’m not too familiar with the man, but he has produced some wonderful work here. He hits all the right notes. Cartoony when it needs to be, but it also provides some realism to add to the humor. It’s sad that this is McDonald’s only issue on the book.
I’m a longtime Punisher fan, but even I’m having doubts about whether “the big guy with the skull on his chest” is really necessary in the regular Marvel universe. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to follow Remender to the new Dark Reign book. I don’t really see how that series couldn’t suffer from the problems here. Then again, Punisher Max hasn’t impressed me either since Ennis left. Still, one thing’s for certain. Punisher War Journal goes out with a comical bang and I couldn’t be happier.