Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Wolverine are hell-bent on stopping Frank Castle from doing what he does (i.e. killing people all the time as the crime fighting vigilante, the Punisher). Frank eluded them once, and incapacitated Spider-Man and Wolverine during a second encounter, but Daredevil proved more of a challenge. Meanwhile, an unnamed man is being mysteriously "cared for" by Frank at an undisclosed location.
Frank's fight with Daredevil from last issue continues, and Frank manages to get the upper hand. While Daredevil lay on the ground, badly injured, Frank warns him to leave him alone, and disappears into the night. DD then goes to where Spider-Man has been left standing on a detonator for about a dozen or so bombs, and convinces him the bombs could not be armed, reminding him the Punisher never kills "innocents". Spidey lifts his leg cautiously, and sees that DD is right. The two of them decide to write the encounter out of the official history.
Page by page, the story of our costumed vigilantes continues. Frank feeds his mysterious captive more stew. Spider-Man helps pop Daredevil's dislocated bones back into place. Wolverine lay healing in a bathtub.
And page-by-page, the story of Soap grows slightly more bleak as he sits in the restroom of the bar contemplating suicide. Kevin the bartender shows up just in time to dissuade him from such rash actions, and asks him to at least go home and do it, lest he be left to clean up the mess. Soap is sent into a rage, pointing his gun to Kevin, and lamenting all the times Kevin aimed at making Soap's life less worth living. Kevin pleads for his life, saying, "Soap, yeh're a cop." "Yes... so I am, "Soap replies, and decides it's about time he started using his position as head of the Punisher task force to bring Frank Castle to justice.
Frank is busy, however, calling the law office of Nelson and Murdock to inform Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) he wants to arrange a meet, and that Wolverine and Spider-Man should be persuaded to attend as well. Frank wants to put this to an end once and for all, and this final battle should do just that. Frank then goes back into the building where he had been keeping the strange man, who seems to be suffering a pretty painful stomach ulcer. "It's time you stopped whining and got on with doing what you do, you pathetic little maggot," Frank tells the man, and begins beating him within an inch of his life, throwing as many insults as punches. Finally, beaten and shaken, the man tells Frank to run, and his face begins growing a familiar shade of green...
So Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Wolverine stand on the docks waiting for Frank, who shows up right on schedule. Frank has brought an uninvited guest, however, by the name of the Incredible Hulk.
I don't know, you guys. This arc had been getting fairly positive reviews before I was asked to finish it off, and I feel like I'm coming off as a comic-hating jerk by jumping in head first with nothing but bad things to say. Trust me, I'm not a jerk, and I don't hate comics. This particular arc, however, is really failing to captivate my interest.
For starters, the story is moving far slower than it really needs to. I mean, honestly, go up to the top of this page and read the section entitled "Background." That is my summary of everything that happened so far in this story arc. In three sentences, I somehow managed to encapsulate everything that happened in the last three issues, and have I really left anything important out? This is not a sign of my own competence as a writer, but more a sign that, in the last three issues, only three sentences worth of story has developed, and that is simply unsatisfactory. When Lee was writing Spider-Man back in the day, a story like this would have taken five pages, and would have remained far more interesting throughout.
Don't get me wrong, I know it's unfair to compare a contemporary comics writer to a living legend, but I think it serves as an interesting example of how a lot of comics today tend to drag out simplistic storylines completely without warrant. I appreciate the depth a lot of contemporary comic writers bring to their stories by spanning them out across several issues to make room for further character development, but that simply isn't happening here. In fact, writer Garth Ennis is showing no real reason for taking as long to tell this story other than the fact that, the more issues he writes, the more steady his paycheck becomes, and the business of comics is no excuse for artistic compromise.
The art remains, in my opinion, disturbingly elementary, and as I said in my review for the last issue, the fact that John McCrea is being paid to draw such rudimentary imagery is an insult to competent artists everywhere.
Again, this issue didn't feel like a COMPLETE waste of time, but it could certainly be done far better with little extra effort.