Comic Book Review – Punisher: Dark Reign & Dead End

Punisher: Dark Reign (2010)
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jerome Opeña

Punisher: Dead End (2010)
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Tan Huat

punisher dark reign

The Marvel Universe has come under the sway of Norman Osborn. The Skrull invasion was thwarted by the business tycoon, and in the aftermath, Tony Stark and the Avengers are smeared as criminals. Frank Castle the Punisher has decided to take Osborn out himself but finds out the “reformed” villain has support in the form of The Sentry and The Hood. Punisher gets help from Henry Russo, a young man with street smarts and tech skills who fills the role of the vigilante’s late support Micro Chip. The supernaturally-powered Hood decides to taunt Punisher by using dark magic to resurrect long-dead villains as well as people that will dig into Punisher’s deepest psychic wounds.

I have never been a fan of the Punisher character. When I was a kid and first read the premise of this character I didn’t see an interesting hook. I guess I have never been a fan of the street-level vigilante. I was never enamored with Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, any of those types. I’ve always preferred the more mythic or classic superheroes. The Punisher, in particular, feels like the most basic of crime fighters: family killed, he gets guns, he gets revenge. There is nothing heroic about this character; he is a homicidal sociopath who happens to be classified on the hero side of the spectrum. Why he’s placed on that end has never made sense to me.

punisher dead end

The most critical parts of Rick Remender’s first half on The Punisher are almost every other character. The backstory reveal of Henry Russo is an excellent addition to the mythos of The Punisher. The resurrection of people close to the gun-wielding psycho is a beautiful raising of the personal stakes. The villains like The Hood, Human Fly, and others are compelling, and I wanted to read more about them. The Punisher was utterly dull and never showed any hint of characterization. I don’t blame that on Remender; it’s merely the nature of the character who headlines the series.

I think the problem with The Punisher is that he has such a single-minded agenda that leaves little room for a supporting cast. The world of Spider-Man feels full because it is populated with interest allies and enemies. The Punisher only has one constant cast member and this person is one-dimensional. Remender tries to compensate with some interesting low tier villains, my personal highlight being The Human Fly. As a result of The Hood’s occult powers the resurrected villains are distorted and none more than The Human Fly. Taking a cue from Cronenberg, The Human Fly vomits up acids that he uses to meltdown and devour his victims. This horrific reimagining of a C-tier Spider-Man rogue is a perfect match for the Punisher’s hunt to take down evil.

punisher 07

This first half of Remender’s run on Punisher is not what most readers remember, and it makes sense. The story is pretty standard fare for The Punisher with no real surprises other than the reveal about Henry Russo and some fun villain moments. It will be the second half of this iteration of the character that remains embedded in the minds of comic book fans.

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