"Means and Ends" pt. 5- "The Unraveling"
David Lapham (writer, artist and cover).
Summary- After a pitched battle against Daredevil last issue, the Punisher has been left physically and emotionally shattered. An innocent homeless man lies near death, after catching a stray bullet from the Punisher. In addition, a young boy named Martin Bastelli who idolized the vigilante tried to defend his family's business by shooting a mafia thug who was trying to shake down his father; in reprisal, mob goons later murdered Martin's father, and left his mother and sister Mary hospitalized and fighting for their lives. Sneaking into the hospital to check on the wounded vagrant and the Bastellis, the Punisher is shaken by how much Mary resembles his own late wife Maria. Martin arrives, with a crew of mobsters and crooked cops hot on his heels. Forced to drag the kid along to protect him, the Punisher is faced with a gauntlet of would-be killers, and even if he can survive that, a vengeful Daredevil is hot on his heels...
Comments- "The Unraveling!" follows the usual dynamic between the Punisher and Daredevil (or the Punisher and Spider-Man, or the Punisher and Captain America etc.). Matt Murdock thinks that Frank Castle is a psychotic murderer who needs to be taken down, while Castle looks at Murdoch as a well-meaning but naive fool who needs to open his eyes and see that killing criminals is the only real way to stop them. What's interesting though is that this time, Daredevil's argument has a little extra weight behind it- as of last issue, the Punisher's actions nearly caused the death of an innocent bystander, and his influence on an impressionable teenager indirectly led to the decimation of an entire family. Yet it's still the Punisher that saves that boy's life, acting as a sort of Guardian Angel of Death, even as his bloody and brutal methods show that boy that Frank Castle is nothing like the glamorized hero he had thought he was. It's a great take on the character, showing both the good and the damage he does every day, and how his personal war on crime has led to a deep and all consuming self-loathing.
This is one of David Lapham's first forays into mainstream comic book work and the subject matter fits him well, a natural progression from his defining work on his self-published crime comic Stray Bullets. As a late issue in a six-part story this isn't exactly an accessible issue to pick up on its own, but it's a solid chapter in a solid miniseries. "Means and Ends" may not be Stray Bullets good, but it's an entertaining enough read.
Final Rating- 7/10.