MARVEL KNIGHTS PUNISHER #20-22 (2003): Brotherhood

Punisher goes after a brotherhood of dirty, drug-dealing cops.

The story arc brings back Detective Soap from Welcome Back Frank. Soap’s a more mature cop now, and when Frank brings him evidence of the Brotherhood, Soap warns him not to kill cops, or their “partnership” will end and the NYPD will come down hard on Punisher.

I love that scene for many reasons. It reveals that the cops could, in fact, go after Punisher–but instead they deliberately look the other way. It shows Punisher in a rare deferential moment, and honoring a partnership. Perhaps best of all, Punisher is a true solo book. There are almost no recurring side characters. But Soap is now one such character–and he actually changes. Spider-Man’s side cast is often revered as one of the best in comics, but half a Century later and J. Jonah Jameson still hates Spider-Man just for existing. Robbie Robertson is still the voice of reason who tolerates stupidity. Aunt May is still a doting parental figure. These people never change. Soap changes.

The story ends without Punisher pulling the trigger: The bad cops end up taking each other out. Yet another reason why this is an example of how fantastic a Punisher comic can be.

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