I feel like not enough people are talking about Becky Cloonan’s run on The Punisher. For one thing, Cloonan may be the first female writer for Frank Castle in a long, long time and the first one ever for his solo book. The Punisher, for reasons that should be apparent, comes across as a very masculine character, driven by the deaths of his wife and children. For this reason, Cloonan’s run on the character is interesting, because it hasn’t been extremely different than past runs — Castle is still a hard-edged anti-hero going up against drug runners that are worse than he is and teaming up with a female DEA agent to take them down his way.
The difference, however, comes with the approach Cloonan takes with writing Castle. There are pretty much two ways to write the Punisher: by looking at the man underneath and how broken he is or by approaching him from other people’s points of view, as a force of nature. Greg Rucka favored the former, while Garth Ennis mixed the two. Cloonan, however, definitely favors the “force of nature” approach, as most often her Punisher is seen through the eyes of others. Hell, in the first issue, when someone yells at his henchmen to kill the Punisher, another character calmly explains, “You can’t kill Frank Castle. He’s already dead.”
Nowhere is this approach better illustrated (by Kris Anka) than The Punisher #13, a done-in-one story where Frank returns to New York City after a short vacation (i.e. killing drug runners in the backwoods).
Unfortunately, that’s when Frank notices that one of his guns is missing. So he decides to find the thief and pay him a visit. And one visit from Frank Castle is all it takes to get pretty much anyone talking.
Eventually, Frank tracks down his gun to a woman who needed protection against her abusive ex-boyfriend. In an altercation, the ex-boyfriend ends up getting the upper hand and getting the gun.
And that’s all the story was about — not Frank killing some gang members or mob bosses or anything, just a short story about Frank getting his gun back. I feel like this should be the way to write the Punisher — not just as a character himself, but as something to which other characters react. It’s no coincidence that The Punisher books either rely on a lot of narration boxes of Frank’s thoughts (like Ennis did) or they introduce a new character to give us another perspective (like Rucka did).
Becky Cloonan appears to be going for the latter approach as well. The way other people see Frank Castle lines up pretty well in showing the Punisher as a force of nature.
After all, you can’t kill him — he’s already dead.