By: Greg Rucka (writer), Marco Checchetto (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Rachel reaches the end of her journey.

The Review: Once in a while you get an issue where you can only marvel at the craftsmanship behind it.  This is one of those issues, with Rucka and Checchetto proving themselves both to be master storytellers.

Rucka, even in this final issue of the ongoing series, adds more wrinkles and more nuance to his take on Frank Castle.  We see a really surprisingly human turn by Castle this month that was almost touching.  It’s a compassionate side to Frank that actually makes sense and feel natural to the character.  Not only does it make us like Frank and see him as a human being, and a good one (which is no small feat on Rucka’s part), but this side of Castle is exhibited in a very “Frank Castle” sort of way.  Ultimately, Castle’s act of compassion this month is done through busting heads in typical Punisher wetworks fashion.  It’s not just kind words that Frank gives; rather, like so much else about Rucka’s Punisher, Frank shows who he is through his actions, not through his words.  That being said, while Frank speaks through his actions, when he does speak, his words hit like a hammer, every one of them mattering.  Nowhere is this clearer than one very simple line that Frank says to Rachel, which is hugely impactful and basically sums up the entirety of Rachel’s journey – in one sentence.  That’s amazing stuff.

Meanwhile, as Rucka shows a more human Punisher, Checchetto goes the opposite direction, doing what he does best, much as in the first few issues, in making the Punisher more “Punisher” than “Frank Castle,” a superhuman boogeyman who picks people out of the air, a myth made flesh.  I cannot emphasize enough how much I love it when Checchetto turns Frank into nothing but a silhouette with a skull on its chest.  It makes the Punisher more skull than Frank Castle, making him seem frighteningly superhuman.  I also loved Checchetto’s work on the surroundings.  In the climactic scene with Rachel, the pouring rain and the woods are used to capture the mood and the emotion perfectly.

Ultimately, this is a brilliant conclusion to Rucka’s run that is hugely cathartic.  Rachel’s trip through vigilantism comes to a close and every one of her lines drips with desperation, self-loathing, and emotional turbulence.  This is a heavy hearted read that grabs you by the throat.    Rucka gives us a comic with one woman finally being forced to stare straight at the price she paid for vengeance – and the ultimate hollowness of that vengeance.  All of this is watched by Frank: a man who knows about the worthlessness of revenge but, ultimately, as broken as he is, wants to save someone from going down his path, knowing that he is too far-gone himself.  In the end, there’s only one Frank, and that’s the only way it can be and the only way it SHOULD be.

Conclusion: Brilliant art, brilliant character work, and sophisticated storytelling by all involved.  This is an absolutely top tier comic and I’m more than a little pissed that it’s been canceled….let alone canceled for sure to be vapid, immature dross like a Daniel Way/Steve Dillon Thunderbolts book.

Grade: A

– Alex Evans