Over what was most likely a perfect cup of Moroccan Mint green tea, Greg Rucka sat down for a discussion with Mark Waid and Steve Wacker about “The Omega Effect,” an upcoming crossover between The Avenging Spider-Man, The Punisher and Daredevil debuting in April.
In the story, the Man Without Fear will find himself in possession the Omega Drive, a file connecting five powerful criminal organizations — dangerous information that everyone’s going to want to get there hands on, right? That’s a well-used motive in our genre with the added twist of science; you see, Spider-Man is operating at the behest of Reed Richards, who invented the Omega Drive to begin with. So either Richards has been collecting dirty sheets on crime bosses in his spare time, or there’s something more delicate to what’s holding all this information in the first place. Remember all the math he used to keep in the basement telling him how to nudge society around? Yeah, this could get ugly.
That’s why we have the Punisher, who’ll go head to head with Spider-Man and Daredevil to put this information to good use — which, as we can guess, probably means shooting some fools. Waid and Rucka are more than willing to throw their supporting casts into the mix, as well as relevant story arcs that coincide with the trouble at hand. Spider-Man vowed that no one else would die on his watch, and that’s a hard vow to keep next to Frank Castle. Daredevil has had a long history with the Punisher, both falling on different sides of the very concept of justice. With his most recent fall from grace and return with a fresh attitude, how will the new Daredevil handle a man acting as judge, jury and executioner?
And the Punisher? Follow me on this one, guys, but what is Frank Castle going to get out of all of this?
(WARNING: Spoilers ahead for PunisherMAX #21 and Punisher #7, out this week. Grab your copies and follow along!)
Yeah, he’ll get answers, information and his sticky little fingers into some Marvel Universe action. But really, what does a man like Frank Castle get from hanging out with the cape-and-tights set? Recently, I’ve wondered at the idea of the Punisher playing well with others, and I think that has a lot to do with the MAX line. The Punisher’s most modern character revival came at the hands of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, cementing the idea that the character comes along with some …. well, mature issues. Even Jason Aaron’s PunisherMAX #21, leaves one with a feeling of utter despair and the ugliest truth about Frank Castle’s ultimate destiny. If I could get a little spoilery for a moment — please read this series, it’s coming to a swift conclusion and is absolutely brilliant — through PunisherMAX #21, we see Frank experience flashes of his life before the Punisher; it was a lot of missed moments, a lot of actions taken that shied away from what would have been a happier, if not simply more normal, life. Being alive means something entirely different to the Punisher, like a means to an end — ab end that will never arrive.
Punisher #7 also came out this week and, in Greg Rucka’s own title, it’s very clearly stated to the readers and that one cop guy that “eye for an eye”-style justice doesn’t fly in a truly moral world. And, despite its grit and shades of gray, the Marvel Universe is a truly moral world because of the heroes that inhabit it. The Punisher works as a man outside the boundaries of where our heroes live. He’s a guest star at best, a morality tale for people who do have the luxury of friends, family and an alternate identity. Frank Castle works best when he’s not reined in or festooned with gimmicks, and he’s certainly not going to be joining the Avengers any time soon (please, dear God, no). His path is different and should certainly be less traveled by men like Daredevil and Spider-Man.
So why stand them all next to each other in this new story? Mark Waid in the discussion said: “I think we start with Spider-Man with something tonally that is very close to what Spider-Man is, but the moment the Punisher walks into the room, thanks to Greg, the tone shift. That’s part of the fun of collaborating on this thing; bouncing back and forth without it being jarring.”
So we won’t have to change anyone’s M.O. to be there; Frank Castle won’t be held back, and Daredevil and Spider-Man get to be seen in a different light, one perhaps with a little more shadow. If anything, both Daredevil and Spider-Man are going to have to go up against (and possibly work with) a man who is the physical embodiment of some very personal issues. Spider-Man has shouted to the rooftops that “as long as he’s around, no one dies,” and that’s going to be challenged by the Punisher simply being nearby. Daredevil just got back from the darkest turn in his career, full of death and judgment. His recent brush with the dark side under the Hand and how far his own life had been pulling away from friends and family might bring some new facets in the relationship between Daredevil and the Punisher.
Sounds good all around until you wonder what the Punisher is going to get out of all of this. Sure, we’ll be seeing Spider-Man and Daredevil in the tonal shift that comes with having the Punisher guest star in your books. But how will their tone affect the Punisher? He’s going to give some different depth and development to the other two and, considering his co-star’s viewpoints, it would be easy to paint him as a villain (or more like … an anti-villain?) but there’s got to be something more.
The guys in charge are clearly thinking along the same lines, given what’s hinted at here:
I love Frank as a thinker, but the second we put him in 616, the second he’s not in a MAX world, he has access to 616 resources,” Rucka said. “In a couple of upcoming issues, he’s going to get his hands on a variety of resources. One of those is going to be incredibly useful to him. He will recover something from one of the people that he’s fighting that is going to make him — I don’t want to say bulletproof — but it will prove to be of great assistance.”
The story purposefully started small, but the reason ‘The Omega Effect’ story is placed so well is that Frank’s story is about to be big,” said Wacker. “He’s not only going to have to be bulletproof, he’s going to have to be SHIELD-proof as well.
Is he going to get a thing? Reed Richards’ famous mathematical sociology that charts the course of mankind? Some sort of terrible intel on S.H.I.E.L.D. that makes them look even worse that they did in “Dark Reign”? A device that bequeaths terrible cosmic powers?!!
Who knows (but I’m really not voting for the latter)? Most importantly, the Punisher will gain purpose in a world of gods, powered armor suits and super-humans. Maybe by getting him to play with others and socialize some, the grim future shown in PunisherMAX might change. From the plans they shared with us, fans will certainly find some new and fascinating corner of the character given light by two talented writers with a clear course into the unknown. April can’t come soon enough.