Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Jesús Saiz, Paul Azaceta, Dave Stewart, and VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: December 7th, 2022
Frank Castle wants to end his war once and for all as this week’s Punisher #8 by Jason Aaron unfolds. But the God of War has other ideas. And now Ares is coming for the Punisher, with an army of heavily armed Apostles at his back, looking to turn Frank back into his old self by murdering his family all over again. Let’s dive in and find out how well Ares plan works!
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Jason Aaron spends Punisher #8 as a solid, slow build-up to the fight between the Hand and Ares that’s been brewing ever since issue one. It’s finally on the Punisher’s doorstep and Aaron navigates this week’s installment filling it with the same slow, eerie, suspense that’s been guiding this series to date. The good news is that it appears as though we’ve made it to the big time… the throwdown… the final battle. The bad news is that if we haven’t, I feel that readers’ patience will begin to wane.
Additionally, Aaron continues to retcon the entire backstory of the Punisher, Maria, and his family. It appears even more so that the Hand has always been lurking in the shadows, watching, and keeping a stern eye on Frank. And again, as I’ve stated in past reviews, I love the idea. Nevertheless, something has to connect the Punisher we once knew our entire lives to this current iteration. The retconned version is almost an emotionless husk, detached from society, and a cold-blooded killer from age 12. He’s basically… psychotic and… demon-possessed.
However, the story we’ve been spun to this point in the entire history of the Punisher is that Frank was a marine who went to war, came back, and tried to fit into society, but his family was brutally killed and taken away from him. So, he unleashed a fury of emotion to take vengeance on their killer and to look out for anyone who’s been wronged to punish them. And that’s the problem… that’s not the motivation of this new Punisher Aaron has created. So, unless we see a reconnect or bridge from Aaron that makes sense, I feel this entire story may be for nothing.
And trust me when I say, I love this run. It’s deep, provides some unique insight into Frank’s backstory, and better explains the motivation of someone who could do what the Punisher has always been able to do, even if he’s an Ex-Marine who lost his family. Aaron seems to be making that catalyst, Maria. Maybe she’s the bridge that drives him home toward the Punisher we once knew. Nevertheless, I can’t shake this feeling that Aaron has been setting us up this entire time for a big switch-a-roo. Was the Hand actually behind the death of his family? Have they been pulling the strings this entire time? Something just isn’t sitting right with this reviewer as this series comes to its back quarter.
Jesús Saiz and Paul Azaceta continue to provide a clean, polished look to this series that’s vivid, detailed, and packs a punch. Furthermore, I enjoy the change in styles whenever we get a flashback to Frank’s past verse the current setting. The flashback style is less detailed, more grainy, and has sharper edges that make it feel almost dated compared to the current, modern look attached to the present. Additionally, it’s the colors that construct the dark, eerie veneer that makes Aaron’s Punisher run almost frightening. Yet what’s even more impressive is the ability of this creative team to use darker colors and renderings but still make the illustrations vivid, clear, and less muted than so many other comics today. I love the fact that they’ve figured out how to make a dark comic still be… bright and easy to read unlike most illustrators today. Simply rock solid work by this team as always.
Punisher #8 focuses on Maria and makes you wonder how she stuck with Frank for so long. It makes you wonder why she persevered through the marriage in the first place. Frank was a walking husk of a man driven solely by a desire for death. Yet, she gets glimpses of hope periodically as if someone else was trapped inside with Frank. Simultaneously, readers watch the build of the Punisher gaining more power, more strength, and assurance that he’s not your average killing machine.
So, if there is some type of switch-a-roo that’s going to take place where Frank pulls the wool over everyone’s eyes, it’s becoming harder and harder for that theory to make sense without Aaron really throwing a wrench into the story that simply doesn’t fit. Meaning, this retcon changes the very foundation of Frank Castle and kind of doesn’t jive with what we’ve always known about the character. I hope that Aaron spends some time connecting the character before with his new version to marry the two together in a more believable light. I genuinely love this version. But my continuity-driven brain needs the part of the map that’s missing to better connect the pieces. Hopefully, that’s what we get as this series comes to a close on these final issues. Let me know what you think, have a great week, and God Bless!