Marvel Legacy revives two old brands: The Punisher and War Machine.

Marvel Comics announced they would be reviving War Machine and putting Frank Castle into this signature suit of powered armor. The Punisher will become War Machine.

The former wearer of this armor, James Rhodes, was killed during the Civil War II  event under less-than-ideal circumstances. The details of Frank Castle’s transformation are unclear, but it will be part of the newest company project, Marvel Legacy.

Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso informs us of the intent of Legacy is to reboot the underlying premise of the Marvel Universe.

“MARVEL LEGACY will present all fans – new readers and current readers – the very best jumping on point in the history of comics. What Jason and Esad have crafted is more grand and more gargantuan than anything we have ever seen before and introduces concepts and characters the Marvel Universe has never encountered. Fans are going to witness an all-new look at the Marvel Universe starting at one of the earliest moments in time carried all the way into present day. Not only will this be the catalyst for Marvel evolving and moving forward, but expect it to be the spark that will ignite the industry as a whole.”

Rhodey tries to convince Tony to upgrade the War Machine armor. [Marvel]

Ignoring the fact that the only functional War Machine armor was destroyed when Thanos killed Rhodes in Civil War II, their revival of the brand shows a degree of contempt for the long-time wearer and hero most associated with the armor. Comic writers joked between Rhodes and Stark about the fact that Stark couldn’t afford (or wouldn’t) update the War Machine armor design. The supposition became problematic when Rhodes fought against Thanos and the armor wasn’t up to the task. Rhodes was killed. To magically give Castle a newer version of the armor feels wrong to me and I considered it nothing less than a cultural and racial slight.

Marvel wanders through a drought of ideas

I contend Marvel has lost sight of what makes their comic characters viable and how to write stories without resorting to tricks and gimmicks. Marvel’s latest strategy appears to be little more than throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. Marvel’s titles reek of pandering fan-fiction, mixing and matching ideas hoping to find something resonating with their core demographic.

Examples include: Weapon H (or how to add claws to the Hulk); Thor losing his hammer, Mjolnir, to self-doubt engendered by Gorr, the God-Butcher. Jane Foster recovering and using said hammer. (While the Jane Foster-as-Thor stories haven’t been bad, it was a weak premise.) Odin being unable to lift Mjolnir. The Living Tribunal being killed. By anyone. Franklin Richards resurrecting Galactus. Nuff said.

Classic Punisher, just the way I liked him. [Garth Ennis, Punisher, MAX series - Marvel]

Classic Punisher, just the way I liked him. [Garth Ennis, Punisher, MAX series – Marvel]

Frank Castle shouldn’t be War Machine

It was a sad thing to me Brian Michael Bendis killed James Rhodes, a character who was never truly allowed to come into his own, until the year before his unfortunate demise. He died, we are told to allow both sides of the Civil War arc to have feelings about his death.Then he was replaced, first with Riri Williams (a young, Black, engineering savant) whose engineering capacities should have had her create something completely different than retreading the Iron Man armor designs. She doesn’t remain War Machine long as she instead becomes Ironheart, replacing Tony Stark. The Marvel Universe is still in flux from the Incursions, Secret Wars II and now the Hydra-Cap stories. None of these should change Frank Castle from his anti-hero origins. To see him in the War Machine armor may appeal to some, but in my mind, it cheapens his unique perspective on the Marvel Universe.

Punisher's First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #129 [Marvel]

Punisher’s First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #129 [Marvel]

Appearing for the first time in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 as a pawn of the Jackal, the Punisher fought against crime, whether it be mob bosses or superheroes. Misled into believing Spider-Man was a criminal, the Punisher took the contract to dispose of Spider-Man.Frank Castle stood for the Human in the Marvel Universe, the symbol of what a motivated, intelligent and completely ruthless individual who was not content with what was passing for judgment and decided these particular men had earned his brand of frontier justice. In his way, he was a poignant character because even from his first appearance, he was already aware of the idea that his story would eventually lead to his personal destruction.He realized no one would be able to understand or sympathize with his perspective until after he was dead. The Punisher’s story has been embellished in a number of series since his debut with the most famous and well-read series being the eighty issue run of The Punisher’s War Journal.Punisher's First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #129 [Marvel]Frank Castle was motivated by the loss of his family and his feeling of being discarded by the government. Adding insult to injury, his awareness of the judicial system which allowed well-heeled criminals to avoid justice enraged him enough to cast away his individual happiness to destroy what he thought of as vermin complicit in the destruction of our society. Making Frank Castle, War Machine seems like a good idea but it undermines the history and the legacy Rhodes tried to bring to this suit of armor. Rhodes had hoped to redeem it from being a weapon of mass destruction to a guardian of the people.

If Marvel Legacy reboots the Marvel Universe in a way which makes Castle’s relationship to Stark’s armor seem reasonable, I’d be happily surprised. We can always hope it’s just a temporary event.

A friend pointed out in passing: “One of the reasons the Punisher worked was because of his one-man war on crime. He used stealth, technique and overwhelming firepower to alpha-strike his enemies. Does War Machine strike you as a stealthy way to approach the criminal element?”

Not even close.

Marvel Legacy promises to rebuild the Marvel Universe from the ground up.

Marvel Legacy promises to rebuild the Marvel Universe from the ground up. [Marvel]


Thaddeus Howze

Thaddeus Howze

Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.