Friday, June 15, 2012

There's only one way Frank's story ends; here's one version:

Make no mistake: this is one of the most brutal, harshest, most depressing comics I'll ever read. And the end, I find it strangely uplifting. From 2004, Punisher: the End #1, written by Garth Ennis, art by Richard Corben. Spoilers this time around, but the title should be a tip-off...

Set "soon," the warden of Sing-Sing has just received orders to shoot the prisoners: as he explains it, "we can't have murderers and dope-dealers running loose in an atomic wasteland. That would be just plain untidy." With peace talks broken down, war is a given at this point. (Through Frank's later commentary, Ennis makes clear the notion that shouting "War on Terror" at China probably isn't a good idea...) The guards plan on riding out the war at the prison's bomb shelter, after they take care of the last prisoner, one kept far away from the others: Frank Castle, the Punisher. Finally caught by the police, Frank had been in good enough shape to keep killing criminals in prison. The bombs hit, killing the power, before the guards can take Frank out.

A year later, Frank leaves the shelter, with Peters, a short-con operator. Frank notes that the clouds appear to be burning, and Peters is dismayed that the radiation is still so high--they'll both be dead within 72 hours. But Frank has a goal, based on info from a dead prisoner...

The goal is another bunker, built under the site of the twin towers. The captains of industry, the kingmakers, the ultimate Haves, the secret owners of the world; and to Frank, the ones who wrecked the planet. And he's come for them.

The designer of the bunker, questioning the ethics of his employers getting away from a disaster they caused, ended up framed, thrown into Sing-Sing, and stabbed to death in a bunker. Which would've been the end of it, except the Punisher was in the same bunker. And the designer knew Frank wouldn't let that go...

One of the men tries to stop Frank, even though he knows he has nothing to bargain with: money's worthless, and Frank is dying of radiation poisoning anyway. But they have tapes from other bunkers: mainly, screaming and gunshots. These men, regardless of their crimes, may be the last humans on earth; and they have frozen embryos: they could save the human race.

Frank guns down the lot of them. "They could sell anything to anyone. Except me." Peters is appalled, but Frank says he's seen what the human race leads to. He then ask Peters why he was in D-Block. Peters admits he set a fire for insurance fraud, and accidentally burned down a kindergarden. Frank chokes him to death.

Quite possibly the last man on earth, Frank goes up to the street. As his hair falls out, and he catches fire, in his mind it's 1976, and he's on the way to Central Park, and his family. "Maybe this time I'll be in time to save them."

Even with an extinction-level event, and with Frank coughing up blood and sloughing skin...I still find this issue somehow, impossibly uplifting. Frank had a goal: punish the guilty. Through adversity, he stuck with his goal and achieved it. And now, at least, it's all over for him. There's only one way Frank's story can end, isn't there? Plus, Richard Corben just kills it on the art--think The Road as a revenge movie with Lee Marvin. If you ever take my word for anything, buy this issue. Now.

Weird, but three or four of the issues we looked at for Abject Depression week, are complete favorites of mine. This one especially.


Dale Bagwell said...

Yeah, I've heard a lot of good things about this particulary issue, so the next time I'm in my comic shop I'll try to an remember to look for it. And yes, you're slightly weird, and that's coming from a guy who calls himself "Mr. Morbid."

Ha ha, have a good one buddy.

Anonymous said...

Stories like this probably inspired the following comment from Deadpool: