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Script: Rick Remender, Art: Tony Moore, Paco Diaz, John Lucas
The first time Daken, the Dark Wolverine, fought the Punisher it ended with the skull-clad vigilante getting both his arms sliced off… just before being decapitated. But death, nothing more than a mild irritant, wasn’t enough to hold back the Punisher. Instead of letting his defeat bring him down (also Daken through him off a building) Punisher simply came back as Franken-Castle, also known as Mary Shelley’s Punisher.
“Punishment” has detailed the second match between the two. Castle wants to kill Daken for revenge, Daken wants to kill Franken-Castle for kicks and Wolverine makes an appearance for sales. Despite the action-packed chapter author Rick Remender contributed previously, this issue is less about trading punches than it is about trading monologue time. They spend a lot of time analyzing the other and self-promoting. Occasionally someone gets stabbed in the neck or something explodes. Ultimately Daken escapes, Franken-Castle disappears and Wolverine is left feeling like the last person at a party he didn’t throw.
Nothing gets accomplished, but then something doesn’t always need to. If your story is about a cool match-up or something that is just supposed to be fun then there isn’t as much need to develop the characters or push their stories in new directions. But that means there’s that much more pressure to be amusing and, surprisingly, this issue misses that.
Instead what is seen is largely a reoffering of previous actions scenes, hitting people with trucks or blowing them up. Franken-Castle is forced into listening to a long, nihilistic speech about how Daken thinks he’s too old and self-important. Castle responds with a shorter, “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve earned my awesome reputation” counter-argument. For new readers this might be a nice introduction to the gist of their characters but, for most, the issue is too much talk and not enough action.