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It is Thor’s turn to go after the Punisher as the Avengers continue to hunt Frank Castle. It’s also what should have been the trickiest issue for Greg Rucka to write, having a god of thunder confront a man with guns. If any issue of this limited series wasn’t going to work, it was going to be this one. I guess no one told Rucka about that, because he makes this issue work in a way that seems effortless.
Last issue saw Black Widow make a play for the Punisher and come up short, which Spider-Man confronts her about here. What it came down to was saving the lives of some innocent children or continue to chase Punisher. An easy decision for any superhero, and it highlights exactly why the complaint that the Avengers or anyone else haven’t taken Frank down is silly. They all have better things to do. Black Widow made the call that saving those kids lives was more worthwhile than capturing Frank Castle, and it’s decisions like that which have kept him relatively safe from most of the superheroes over the years. Rarely do the major players in the Marvel Universe have so much free time from serious threats or personal attacks that chasing after someone like the Punisher seems worth the effort. Even now, the Avengers are only committing one or two Avengers at a time to chasing him rather than mobilizing the whole team.
With Wolverine taking a pass on the entire thing and Black Widow shrugging off her failed attempt, Thor steps up to the plate. This is a confrontation Rucka has quietly been building up to in prior issues, portraying Thor as having some curiosity about Frank. Now, we get to see how that plays out, and it does so in an very unexpected way.
I don’t think Rucka has ever written Thor before this. At least, not in any major way. Yet, he really manages to focus in on one of the things that has always made Thor interesting to me. Thor is a god, and his perspective on things isn’t the same as anyone else’s. It’s something I always wish more writers would play with, so I’m glad Rucka takes that approach here with Thor’s perspective on the Punisher situation.
In fact, it’s Thor’s perspective just in general that makes the first half of this issue so compelling. The casual way that Rucka and Carmine Di Giandomenico have Thor descend into the Punisher’s world says it all that this is a god. He moves and talks as though nothing around him is truly any concern to him, which it isn’t. The soldiers and their weapons pose virtually no threat to him.
Then, Thor finally gets his hands on the Punisher. The big confrontation of this issue turns out not to be one at all. Thor just wishes to talk, so they do. It really does capture both characters so well. Thor has killed more people than the Punisher probably ever will and continues to use lethal force against his enemies. Due process and the laws of mortals don’t honestly mean much to him. He sees Punisher as a warrior lost in battle, which is a much more familiar concept to the Viking god. He also sees in Punisher something a few major writers of the character have touched on in the past, which is that Frank is a soldier who needs a war to fight.
Seriously, Thor and Punisher have a six-pack of beer. That is just all kinds of awesome.
What this issue also does it put the overall conflict into a whole different context. The trial of Rachel Cole, Punisher’s partner from his recent ongoing series, has been going on in the background of the Avengers’ hunt for Punisher. It now looks to be heading for the forefront, and the resolution of that situation may turn out to be the resolution of this story rather than what the Avengers decide to do with Frank Castle. Cole’s trial has become a proxy trial for the Punisher, leaving her to pay for his sins. So with the Avengers on his tail, Frank is coming to the point where he has to decide what to do about that.
I really do wish Greg Rucka’s Punisher series sold better so that it could have continued indefinitely, but if it had to end, Punisher: War Zone is turning out to be an excellent conclusion to what was really one of the best Punisher runs. It is also showing off what a strong grasp Rucka seems to have of various Marvel characters, making it even worse that this is going to be his last work with Marvel for the foreseeable future.