After about two years or thereabouts, Greg Rucka’s iconic run on Marvel’s favorite lethal hero comes to an end. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE #5 wraps up the run after much delay. What will happen to Sergeant Cole-Alves? Will the Avengers halt the Punisher’s war against crime? And more importantly, will they want to? And what role with Wolverine play in this drama?
I’d love to wax poetic, but I’ve opted to save that for the retrospective on the Greg Rucka Punisher run that may eventually come out. Maybe even sometime this year. Point is, this story ends here.
When Marine Sergeant Cole-Alves – the erstwhile apprentice to the Punisher – accidentally killed a police officer, the public demanded her blood. If they couldn’t have Frank Castle, they could have the rookie Punisher. Meanwhile, Spiderman (circa before being subsumed by Otto Octavius) had enough of letting a murderer stalk the underworld unchallenged. He demanded his allies stop passively endorsing Frank’s crusade. So they finally stirred from their complacency and went to bring the Punisher in.
In a rather boneheaded move all things considered, Thor opted to let Castle go even when he had him in his power, with the understanding that Cole-Alves couldn’t be allowed to take the fall for her teacher. And so PUNISHER: WAR ZONE #5 begins with a daring daylight breakout of Cole-Alves by Castle.
But the net closes fast. And indeed, from a certain perspective it closed long ago. This series is just catching up.
I stated before that this series met delays, and it’s readily apparent from any cursory glance. By the time this issue came out, Doctor Octopus already took over Peter Parker’s body. Of course this is likely not to last, but if you weren’t genre savvy enough to realize this (or haven’t been reading Superior Spiderman where it’s all but confirmed to be a temporary arrangement) you’d think it this was the new status quo. Moreover, we already know what the Punisher does in-universe after this story: he becomes a member of the Thunderbolts team in their ongoing series.
I myself have only a limited understanding of what’s going on in that series, but it makes perfect sense now, in hindsight, that PUNISHER: WAR ZONE leads directly into Thunderbolts. It’s embarrassing that it took me this long to figure it out. As such, if you really want to keep reading about the Punisher, you’re free to do so there.
Personally, I’m done for now. Greg Rucka did what for me is the definitive run on the Punisher. Just as anyone who talks of the X-Men talks of Chris Clairmont, or anyone who talks of Starman talks of James Robinson, so do I talk of the Punisher in terms of Greg Rucka. And since he’s left Marvel to pursue his creator owned works, I think that incarnation ends here. Maybe you’ve got your own ideas of what made the Punisher who he is. Maybe you prefer his MAX series or his Bronze Age years.
Heck, maybe you loved Franken-Castle, where the Punisher gets chopped up and brought back to life as a Frankenstein’s monster. Whatever, I’m not judging.