Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Jesús Saiz, Paul Azaceta, Dave Stewart, and VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: May 31st, 2023
The cult of assassins known as the Hand made Frank an offer he couldn’t refuse. Now, Frank serves as the Hand’s Fist of the Beast with some supernatural transformations and abilities linked to the Demonic Beast himself. After multiple confrontations from a variety of heroes, the Punisher has decided to stop his war on crime with a desire to finally return to his resurrected wife Maria. Nevertheless, by the scenes, Maria has figured out what’s been going on with Frank, the Hand, and his new abilities causing her to gundown Frank with the mystical handghun used to stop Ares. Where will that leave the Punisher? Let’s dive into the Punisher #12 by Jason Aaron and find out!
As one would suspect, Frank isn’t dead. That would be a funny way to end this series. However, what was interesting was the relationship showcased between Frank and the Archpriestess. It’s almost as if she’s wanted him to fail from the beginning yet simultaneously gave her life for him personally making many of her statements seem almost hypocritical within Punisher #12 itself.
Moreover, the Archpriestess’ reasoning for jettisoning Frank as the Fist of the Hand seems counterintuitive as well. Why? Well, in this Punisher series so far, Frank may not have stopped himself from killing anyone on this murderous rampage. Nevertheless, the Hand has been molding Frank since he was little. My point is that there have probably been countless times Frank has spared people’s lives before, whether it be children or heroes. Why does that suddenly disqualify him from being the Fist of the Hand now? Sure, he hasn’t done it in Aaron’s run BUT he has before in past issues and series. He’s actually spared many lives. So, her remarks just seem trite and overblown to provide flimsy reasoning to take his powers away, which I didn’t like at all.
Plus, the way the Punisher loses his abilities as the Fist of the Hand is pretty lame. A gunshot from the mystical gun used to take down Ares and a near-death experience is enough to stifle his abilities after everything he’s done this entire series to date. I’m just not buying it. Additionally, another aspect of the Punisher #12 I’m not buying is the Maria angle. How does someone who was dead find, buy up, and then divide all Frank’s assets and safe houses AND know where they all are in order to get a divorce? Sorry, Natasha isn’t a good enough justification. Why? Well, because if Natasha would have known this entire time where Frank’s assets have been then why wouldn’t they have stopped the Punisher long ago? This is quite a stretch in order to make a point by Maria. A stretch and point I just can’t buy.
Furthermore, the biggest problem of all is the lack of an ending. Sure, we get an ending for Maria… kind of. But we get nothing from Frank. What are his next steps? Where does he go from here and why? Are his powers gone forever? Yet this lack of an ending hits Aaron’s M.O. dating back to his Thor run, as well as many others. Aaron is fantastic at building up a great story. He’s outstanding at giving his stories a strong foundation. Aaron is a master at fortifying his stories with innovative complexities that really get the reader to think. However, when the rubber hits the road, he can’t land the plane. How on earth can we spend so many issues building this series up to have the Punisher #12 just end without… an ending.
Punisher #12 lacks the same action, suspense, and creative narrative twists that fortified this series to this point. Now, I know many Punisher fans have been upset with the direction the character has gone this past year. And I get it. However, to change the character as much as Aaron has and to not really provide fans with an ending that provides closure to this story is a bit upsetting. It ultimately hurts fans who hated this change to the character as well as those who loved it. This lack of closure basically hurts both sides of the aisle. Why end the series this way? Everything about the character and his backstory is now different. Moving forward, he’s also no longer the Fist of the Beast. So, he’s not the same Punisher, his motivations have all been altered through the series, and now all for what?
Plus, I strongly disagree with Aaron’s personal, ending statement about this character being a tragedy. It WAS a tragedy until he made him into a child psychopath who was molded at birth by the Hand. It was a tragedy until fans saw a raging lunatic from a horror film with an insatiable desire to kill. You see, his family being gunned down as the cause of his war on crime is what made the character so tragic. Take that away, as well as an ending that manages to close the circle on this series, fails to retrieve anything that was once the character. It’s almost as if Aaron couldn’t pick a side to end this series and left the character half-altered on an island. To anyone taking over the character in a future series, I simply say good luck. I was on the side of the change. It was wildly creative. However, without a solid ending, all the foundational character changes become pointless. Let me know what you think, have a great week, and God Bless.