Originally Posted by Primortal
Wow... I thought Garth's intentions were to steer Castle away from stuff like that short-lived "Holy-Assassin Punisher" period in the mid-late 90's. o.o
Indeed but I think you're not going far enough. The problem with the Punisher is that his motivation died out as soon as the '90s hit.
In the '80s back when he was a new character, the problem was keeping him facing enemies to keep the Punisher interesting. Jigsaw, Saracen, and the Rev at least came back to keep hassling Castle. Unfortunately, as you can see in some of the early '90s comics (especially Punisher War Journal), it quickly became 22 monthly pages of crap. The Punisher goes on a movie set! The Punisher hides in a mafia wedding cake! Etc, etc. The character quickly lost focus and simply became a Rod Serling with guns and a lack of truly witty one-liners. While some things were done to keep him fresh ala 'events'--"Final Days"--these eventually turned to crap and turned the Punisher from a vengeance-driven vigilante to a suicidal version of the same. Note that 'Suicide Run' was marketed as the Punisher's last big hit against crime. The 'Reign of the Punishers' was an attempt to get more supporting characters but the problem with the premise was that only the Punisher and Microchip would live. The Punisher ended everything in death and it was not so easy to continue this trend. The stories got stale and all three of his books ended.
Then it was restarted with the gigantic Onslaught crossover where Marvel tried to fit the Punisher into the Marvel Universe to such an extent that the X-Cutioner character from X-Men was assigned as his sidekick. This didn't work because the Punisher works best in the dark corners of the Marvel Universe and changing the premise from 'Punisher goes to work for a mafia family' to 'the Punisher exists in a post-Onslaught Marvel Universe' simply didn't work. All the while, the character of the Punisher was essentially forgotten. He was simply a guy with guns who had an axe to grind. When the 'Holy Punisher' relaunch came around, it was merely just one more nail in the coffin. There was nothing special about the character and when he was killed off in the Onslaught-Era series, it was more of a blessing than a curse.
My point? Ennis bought back some of the character to the Punisher. He took the dark humor that always existed in a tame format and made it the point. As he says in his own MK Omnibus, he bought the fun and the inherent humor in such a premise to the forefront and kept some of the dark pathos. The Punisher now is not a moebius strip of constant vengeance, he's come to terms with his fate and is now going about it with a certain amount of glee not allowed in his earlier incarnations. Along the way, very goofy and sick things happen. The Punisher now interacts with people in a way that makes you regret when they are killed or destroyed by their own means. The Punisher may be a one-dimensional character, but his own motivations are now suspect (and be used against him, as the first few issues of the New War Journal have shown in relation to his new 'Microchip') and makes him a character that you don't feel comfortable backing. He's a complicated character in a complicated world that occasionally has some really sick moments that range from the horrifying to the humorous. Ennis brought forth what was always there on the periphery and that's why he deserves some credit. He may hate superheroes, but at least that hatred changed a vigilante in a superhero world into a character of his own right who happens to have superheroes in his world but does not usurp it.
All and all, Ennis did a good job reinventing the character. Or rather, peeling back the layers and showing us a Punisher that always existed but we never saw. It's disturbing, but it's fascinating reading.