Terribly wounded after a battle with Daken and Wolverine, Franken-Castle makes his way to Monster Island to recuperate… or rather, his partner Henry tricks Frank into crashing on Monster Island in order to let the Bloodstone which is embedded in Frank’s chest work it’s magic. His boat destroyed by the sewer-dwelling Legion of Monsters, Frank is stuck on the secluded island, far from humankind or his never-ending mission against evil. It’s a much needed, if unanticipated vacation which sees the Punisher’s wounds healed and his body restored to its prime by the cursed rock that has become a part of him.
While on leave, Frank takes up hunting the monsters that inhabit the island and the Bloodstone begins to take over his mind, amplifying his thirst for vengance and driving him insane. Led by monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone (the daughter of the stone’s former owner), the Legion of Monsters pay a visit to Monster Island in the hopes that they can convince Frank to give up the stone willingly… but is it too late?
This issue brings the Franken-Castle storyline to a close and gives us exactly the ending the story deserves. It continues to build off the concepts that Rick Remender has been utilizing since his run on the Punisher began, furthering the notion that Frank isn’t all that different of a breed of monster than the ones he hunts. As N’Katu the Living Mummy observes, the only redeeming quality Frank has is the fact that he only kills the monsters who deserve it. It’s entirely fitting that a gathering of hideous monsters are the ones who point this out to him.
Also fitting is the beautiful painted art by Dan Brereton, which adds a Warren Magazine-esque feeling to the book. Since Remender began the Franken-Castle arc, the whole thing has felt like a blatant love letter to EC and Warren publications so it’s absolutely perfect to bring the entire Legion of Monsters in for a finale on Monster Island and Brereton’s art is an absolutely perfect fit. And speaking of love letters, I fell in love again and again every time I turned the page.
And as much as detractors hate to admit it, it’s also entirely fitting to have Frank Castle take part in a story featuring zombies, werewolves and vampires. After all, he’s been operating in a world filled with gods, mutants and gamma-irradiated beings for over 30 years now. But the naysayers need not worry any longer, as the old Frank Castle they know and love and so fiercely protect is back in the epilogue at the end of this issue. And what an epilogue! As far as I’m concerned, it effectively puts a sock in the mouth of those who have anything negative to say about the series and puts Frank right back where he started, in the middle of his war on crime, sending a message to fictional criminals and real life readers alike: The Punisher is back.
Oh yeah, and it also doubles as a clever way to restore a Vietnam veteran to his youthful prime. As elegant of a retcon as there ever was! Kudos, Mr. Remender.
So there you have it. What was easily my favorite Marvel storyline of the past year has come to a close and it couldn’t have ended better. It took the Punisher in a vastly different direction while staying true to the core of his character, firmly entrenching him in the monster side of the Marvel Universe and then returning him to his street-level roots without missing a beat. And with this issue, it absolutely ended on a high note. This story has been a perfect example of why I love comics!