By Tim Stevens
As readers of PUNISHER know, things have been getting very ugly between the Hood and Frank Castle. In issue #9-written by Rick Remender, drawn by Tan Eng Huat, and out in stores on September 16-things head from bad to worse.
"The Hood has become Frank's Moby Dick, the thing he focuses all his attention on, all his rage and pain and black stuff," reveals Remender. "The Hood is a bright guy, he can see this and he also realizes that Frank is his whale. Two Ahabs, two whales. Both hunting each other for a million reasons that have almost nothing to do with any personal beef. So The Hood is going to change that. He's going to make the fight very, very personal. But so is Frank, nothing is off limits; these guys are going to tear each other apart."
A large part of the Hood's plan to make it personal hinges on former Punisher ally and recent returnee to the land of the living, Microchip. The machinations of Frank's former flunky head into overtime in PUNISHER #9 as his plan to utilize the resurrected victims of Scourge enters its next stage.
"Hijacker is the second round of Microchip's plan of attack for the Deadly Dozen," divulges the writer. "He's rolling through [New York] in an indestructible tank chasing Frank Castle who also happens to be in a heated exchange of death with the rest of the Deadly Dozen."
Readers may have noticed that some of the villains, the Fly in particular, seem to have come back a bit different. Remender confirms that this is no illusion and the list of those changed does not stop with the Fly.
"The Hood was using the powers of Dormammu to cast a spell that incorporated the blood of Dracula held in the original casket of Mephisto, aka bad evil business," he explains. "The resurrected villains have all shown varying degrees of instability but all of them have shown new, more focused, malevolent traits. Maybe their souls were in a bad place; maybe some of that place came back with them. In the case of the Fly and the Hijacker, a lot came back."
For fans of these formerly dead villains, Remender offers reassurance that stage two of Microchip's plan will not be their last hurrah:
"There are so many of these amazing villains, I've had to focus on a handful of them and leave the rest for later."
Unfortunately for Castle, he has a lot more problems facing him than just the Dirty Dozen. Chief amongst them? His partner in cleanup, Henry. Up until now, what drives Henry has remained mostly obfuscated-come September, that changes in a big way.
"Henry has been an enigma so far," Remender admits. "He's a good kid, straight-edge punker with a solid moral compass, but why is he doing this? Why seek out Frank Castle and help him kill criminals? Sure he saw Osborn corrupting his country but he also had personal motives for teaming up with Frank. When we learn what those motives are, [when] Frank learns, the series takes a giant left turn.
"An enemy of Frank's finds out first. By the time the information is leaked to Frank, well, the next few months are going to suck for Frank Castle. Henry's role in this does a good bit towards reshaping Frank. There is a reshaping on the horizon."
That re-shaping begins with PUNISHER #9, which kicks off the climax of the "Dead End" arc and seems poised to push the book in a bold direction.
"Everything we've been building to is coming to a head," the writer confirms. "PUNISHER #9, #10, DARK REIGN: THE LIST - PUNISHER #1, and then back to PUNISHER #11 are all one seamless story, one issue playing off the next to give big reveal and big payoff one after another. We built the foundation in the first eight issues and now it's all one big fireworks show. Issue #10 will be unlike anything you've ever seen in a Marvel comic-as ugly as you can imagine. It's an exercise in gut wrenching. So, yeah, the revelations will blow the lid off of anyone who's a fan of the book. It's big."
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