Monday, July 06, 2009

Hero of the Week #6: The Punisher

Real Name: Frank Castle
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #129 (February, 1974)
Group Affiliation: Marvel Knights
Gaming Credentials: The Punisher (1990); The Punisher (1990); The Punisher (1993); Spider-man (2000); The Punisher (2005); The Punisher: No Mercy (2009); Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (TBA)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #62

Given the penchant for gunplay a good many gamers share with The Punisher, it's a wonder there hasn't been more opportunity to spend time behind the scope of the character's gun in games. You certainly couldn't say there hasn't been ample opportunity with a trio of releases coinciding with the character's height in popularity in the early-nineties, and the memorable 2005 torture heavy third-person game.

As you no doubt know by now, you can finally retire those clunky Doom mods. Marvel's most lethal vigilante is indeed available for first-person power fantasy in the recently released PSN downloadable exclusive,  The Punisher: No Mercy.

Diehard shooter fans will split hairs over arbitrary aesthetics and preferences for gameplay style, but for the comics fanboys, the standard fare of familiar icons and names will add an additional layer to the usually impersonal practise of following a disembodied hand and gun. 

The cast of playable characters range from the obvious (The Punisher, Jigsaw), to slightly more obscure characters plucked from the long running critically acclaimed asociation between the character and writer Garth Ennis. Bushwacker, Silver Sable, and Microchip will delight the superhero traditionalists in the audience, while Barracuda, Finn Cooley, and Jenny Cesare will bridge the gap between comics readers and gamers.

Life's a mardi gras for Irish bomb-man, Finn Cooley.

No Mercy follows in the digital footsteps of controversial Watchmen tie-in, The End is Nigh.
Built on the back of the successful film adaptation, the game used conventional beat 'em up gameplay to to elaborate on references to the backstory of starring heroes, Rorschach and Nite-Owl. Just like Watchmen, the Punisher appears to be a reasonably simple concept in execution, this time with greater emphasis on multi-player arena fighting, which will likely have a far greater potential for connecting with the interests of online gamers.

While the Punisher's most recent film exploits marked Marvel's worst cinematic outing in recent years, the game needn't worry. On top of a cast of recognisable characters pulled from the Marvel Knights/MAX era of the comics, a modest single-player story mode boasts artwork by grimey Dark Avengers penciller, Mike Deodato.
It might've been fun to be able to clash with more of the Marvel Universe in ways reflective of the current Punisher series of comics, but all in all, it seems it's game that will walk a friendly line between staying true to fandom, and entertaining accepting fans of arena shooters. Which makes Frank Castle the obvious choice for this Hero of the Week!

Those interested in pursuing the character in comics will find recommendations on plenty of websites for trade collections, or split their monthly interests between the mature readers over-the-top violence of The Punisher: Frank Castle (printed under the Marvel MAX banner), or the slightly more ingrained Marvel Universe series, Punisher, which currently ties into the Dark Reign story and sees Frank Castle hunting Norman Osborn, The Hood, and various sinister players in the heirarchy of the world.

More information is available at

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club is updated with varying consistency, promising a feature fight for every Friday on the calendar (even if sometimes they're late). The site acts as an information resource, discussion site, review blog, and a cosmic good time.

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