I have gone on record before as a staunch proponent of Rick Remender’s world class work on the “Franken-Castle” phase of his Punisher run. While the most vocal of the regular comics reading audience (I like to call them “The Grumpy 160,000”) immediately expressed outrage at such a flagrant upending of the status quo, Remender quietly created some of the most purely entertaining comics ever published. The book is overflowing with imagination and a blatant love for what makes this medium so unique, so seeing it so baselessly maligned is always sad to see. But it’s been a good while now and hopefully people have turned around, accepted this new status quo, and can take this book at face value.
Then “Punisher,” now “Franken-Castle” has always been at its best when drawn by Tony Moore and this issue is not only not an exception, but it is easily their best collaboration to date. Handling the inks completely on his own, there is more than one page that, in blistering detail and cartooning acumen, can stand up next to the best work of Frank Quitely. I don’t make this comparison lightly. Quitely is pretty much my all time favorite artist ever, and I have to say, there are moments where Tony Moore reaches those same heights. Moore, of course, is his own artist, with his own style. It’s more, well, the only way I can describe it is as being more… “American”. It has more attitude, more expression, more grit. His figures have less composure, more freedom to just kick the socks off each other. It fits this comic perfectly.
Oh, right. The story. Well, Frank is currently out for payback on Dark Wolverine, the guy who basically turned him into this monster. This issue is one long series of Frank dropping pianos on the head of his hapless opponent. You’re so caught up in the increasingly bombastic ways Frank finds to beat the crud out of this guy that the end of the book, which you probably figure you should have seen coming, is a blissful surprise.
Yes, there will be more comics after this one. There are probably other ones already read that are in many ways better. But when Rick Remender and Tony Moore work together to make comics about a reanimated Frank Castle doing pretty much anything, when you’re finished and you put it down, there’s really only one thing running through your head like a suspended Buick chassis rigged to slam you into a brick wall: “This is the best damn comic I have ever read.”