There are times when it's nice to be proven wrong, and the "Frankencastle" storyline running in "The Punisher" these days is definitely one of those times. I think just about everyone (myself included) wrote off the idea of the Punisher being turned into a Frankenstein's Monster type of creature. After all, on the surface it sounds fairly stupid. The reality, though, is that Rick Remender is writing a story that keeps the heart of the character true to form and that's ended up driving the comic in a way stronger than anyone thought possible.
Part of this story is, after all, about the Punisher having to wrestle with the fact that after someone resurrected his family in an earlier story, he had them deliberately killed again and sent back to the grave. Even as he knows it was the right decision, Remender lets that moment continue to haunt the Punisher, and become in many ways a driving force to get him through his current problems. The Punisher's undercurrent of a death wish has risen to the surface in this story. It's a logical step, with the Punisher so close to death now that he would clearly believe it was immanent. So as he makes his solo strike on the castle of the villains, you know that nothing's going to stop him.
Of course, this is also a story where the strike on said castle involves a fire-breathing dragon with Frankenpunisher on its back, and zombie Nazi troops rising from their graves to try and stop him while samurai warriors guard the entrance. Remender is clearly admitting and reveling in the ludicrous nature of this story ("PunisherMax" this isn't) and going whole hog with the crazy. I freely admit that I actually gave off a laugh when the dragon showed up, and my reaction continued to zoom between shaking my head and chuckling for the entire issue. I like that even among the serious moments of "The Punisher," Remender isn't afraid to still have some fun with it all.
Guest artist Roland Boschi does an all right job, although if you're used to Tony Moore's art on this story arc you'll probably be eager for Moore's return. Boschi's figures seem a little weaker and almost washed out in spots; there's no real heft to them, and backgrounds are often sparse or missing entirely. It feels like a visually light issue, without a strong line for the people running around or even something in the background to help them pop at the reader. It's not bad, but it's not up to the standards of earlier artists on the title like Moore, or Jerome Opena.
"The Punisher" seems like it would be a big bag of silly these days, and maybe that's true. But there's also a nice amount of drama and pathos mixed in as well, and the end result is a comic that's satisfying to read month after month. I'm not entirely sure how long "Frankencastle" is going to run, but for now I'm content to see just where Remender is taking us. At the end of the day it's fun, and that's good in my book.