Comic Book / Welcome Back, Frank
Welcome Back, Frank is a story arc by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, with the long awaited return of The Punisher.

Punisher is back in town, ready to end the criminal family of Ma Gnucci once and for all. But first, to make things easier, he killed several of her hitmen, including her sons. She gets more and more hitmen, and eventually they trapped him without weapons at the local zoo. Still, he manages to use the animals to his advantage and kill people for him. He left Ma Gnucci with the polar bears, but she survived. Armless and legless, but she survived. He retreated for some days to the hotel (where he uses the alias "John Smith") until he heals and can go into action again. One of his neighbours noticed that it was him, and outed his identity to Ma Gnucci in exchange of a reward. The criminal attacked him and hurt him, but he was saved by his other wacky neighbors, Spacker Dave and Joan the Mouse.

Needing more power to finish the job, Ma Gnucci called The Russian, who attacked Castle as well. Punisher killed him, returned to the mansion of Ma Gnucci, killed all her remaining henchmen, and set the building on fire, with the crippled Ma Gnucci still inside.

Oh, and don't forget about Soap. The police does not want to move a finger against Punisher, who saves them so much work, but they have to. So, they assigned the "Punisher case" to the most pathetic couple of losers they could find.

Punisher's return also inspired three other vigilantes, "The Holy", "Elite" and "Mr. Payback". Punisher killed all of them.

Welcome Back Frank contains examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: Heat is the only thing that causes the Russian any significant amount of pain and it doesn't take very much of it. A hot pizza is enough to incapacitate him for several crucial seconds.
  • And Call Him "George"!: The Russian gives a mook a sidehug, crushing him without even noticing.
  • And This Is For...: The Russian is the president of the fans club of Daredevil Man Without Fear at Smolensk. He was aware of the humiliating team up earlier in the story, and punished Punisher for it. Did you got it! Punished Punisher! Good joke! Well, perhaps not...
  • Ascended Fanboy: The Russian may be a villain, but he's a huge fan of American superheroes. He's even the president of the fans club of Daredevil Man Without Fear at Smolensk. And when he's done with Punisher, he will go to meet the others and ask for autographs. Or perhaps he will join the Fantastic Four? Who is stronger, The Thing or The Russian?
  • A-Team Firing / More Dakka: Mr. Payback's modus operandi. When a bullet hits and kills an innocent cleaning lady behind a wall, Payback gets put on Frank's list.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Frank has to pay one to fix up Dave after he's tortured, and to remove the bullets there are still in his body after a nasty shootout. Frank thinks that he would've done it himself, but he needed someone who could help Dave.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Punisher's speech in the first issue about the afterlife. The angels would give him peace and reunion, if he did some work for them. He refused. So they sent him back to a world filled with petty criminals, thinking that in comparison it would be like hell for him...but they were mistaken.
  • Bandaged Face: Spacker Dave's face is covered entirely in bandages after being tortured by Ma Gnucci's goons. Even after his face heals up, he decides to keep them on because he decides he likes them more than his piercings.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Ma Gnucci will always regret following Castle into the bear's cage. And he had just attacked them and run, so they are more angry than the average bear!
  • Big Eater: Mr. Bumpo.
  • Blood Knight: The Russian, who we're told visits war zones for money or for fun.
  • Body Horror: Ma Gnucci ends up bald and limbless after getting mauled by bears.
  • Bond One-Liner: "The Holy" was pleading Punisher to lead him and the other two vigilantes, that toguether they can create a super group and destroy crime. Isn't that what Punisher wants?
    Punisher: No. (kills them)
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Punisher took advantage of it at the morgue.
    Punisher: Gunfight in the morgue, rule one: Don't hide behind the thin guy.
  • Came Back Wrong: The Russian is brought back to life, but with a pair of tits bigger than his head.
  • The Can Kicked Him: The Russian very nearly manages to kill the Punisher with his own toilet!
  • Car Fu: The mafia hires a former Desert Storm sniper to kill Punisher. Frank just runs the guy over with an SUV, then backs up.
  • Carnival of Killers: Deconstructed. A gangster employs three badass killers to take out the Punisher. The first guy is a Martial Arts expert "with a black belt in anything you care to name." Punisher says that he "knows a little myself", but settles on simply shoving the guy onto a subway track. The second guy is some kind of Neo-Cowboy Gunslinger, famous for a firefight with a police officer, where he ducked the bullet fired at him, and shot the cop dead. The Punisher riddles him with an UZI. note  Lastly we have an ex-Marine sniper and Desert Storm veteran. Punisher runs him over with a car.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: All three new vigilantes watch the same broadcast about them and the Punisher, and say "This gives me an idea!" at the same time.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Ma Gnucci says she wants to kill the one who crippled her, one of her mooks says, "You want us to put a hit on the bear?"
  • Combat Pragmatism:
    • One of the hitmen sent against Punisher was a black belt in all disciplines. Castle followed him in secret, stood behind him at the subway station when the subway was coming, and used his own martial art: Splat-fu.
    • Referenced by Frank when he kills the aforementioned Desert Storm sniper.
    Frank Castle: When you're on your own, behind enemy lines, no artillery, no air strikes, no hope of an evac, you don't fight dirty. You do things that make dirty look good.
  • Cultural Translation: Where one of the hitmen is said to "shoot faster'n greased lightning", the French translation went with "shoots faster than his own shadow".
  • Decapitation Presentation: Frank holds the Russian's severed head at the gate of Ma Gnucci's mansion. That's enough to make every mobster just walk away.
  • Driven to Suicide: The criminal profiler Buddy Plugg hangs himself after receiving disparaging comments from Soap.
  • Dumb Muscle: The Russian.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • The first thing Frank does is toss a mafia goon off a building.
    • The first we (sort of) see the Russian do is completely and utterly destroy a special ops team sent to kill him, sending the leader running while crying "Mommy!".
  • Evil Cripple: Ma Gnucci following the incident with the polar bears.
  • Evil Old Folks: Ma Gnucci. Calling her an old hag would be kind.
  • Expy: Detective Soap for Detective Paul Bridges, a similarly unlucky cop from an early arc of Preacher.
  • Eye Am Watching You: Punisher killed two rival gangs, but spared a guy who said that he was just an addict. He told him that he would be watching, and left. The guy called a friend, to come and retrieve the fortune in drugs that was lying there... and Punisher came out of the shadow, and killed the guy.
  • The Faceless: Elite is never seen without his mask. When he takes it off, we only see the back of his head.
  • Friend on the Force: Frank uses Soap as an informant, since the latter has figured out he's never going to actually catch Frank.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • On a filing cabinet in the police station, there is a stuffed pig in a policeman's uniform. Those cops must have a good sense of humor.
    • When Ma Gnucci is in the hospital after being mauled by polar bears, there's a get well card on the bed with a picture of a teddy bear on it.
  • Give Chase with Angry Natives: Frank runs through a cage of sleeping polar bears. The pursuing Mafia runs through a cage of pissed-off, very much awake polar bears.
  • Give Me a Sign: While burying his latest victim, The Holy begs for God to give him a sign on how he should confront his madness. A newspaper blows into his face, and on the front page is a news story about The Punisher.
  • Go Through Me: Hilariously subverted when Spider-Man shows up in the fight between the Russian and the Punisher. The Russian knocks him out, and Frank uses Spider-Man's body to take hits. When Spidey wakes up, Frank tells him they teamed up.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Frank uses the morbidly obese Mr. Bumpo to smother the Russian to death.
  • He's Back: Punisher is back!
  • Hope Spot: One of the hitmen was forced by Punisher to jump out of the car, which was going at high speed in the highway. That, or get a bullet in the face. He jumped, and crawled on his feet: he was very badly hurt, needing immediate hospital care, but he's alive! And then, a truck in high speed finished him. A truck of Tasty Franks no less.
  • I Let You Win: The Punisher lets Daredevil beat him down because he feels bad about the trap he's set that the latter doesn't have a chance against.
  • Implacable Man: The Russian, albeit a much more jovial version than is typically encountered.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Mr. Payback showed up at a corporate room, accused the people in there of several corporate crimes, and killed them. One guy was complaining later about those horrible things he said... but the CEO corrected him: he was right, they DID commit those crimes, and managed to conceal them.
    • Interestingly, the Punisher himself is fully aware of this, and brings it up when he confronts Payback. The Punisher tells him he's killed four innocent people, one of them being a cleaning lady who died when one of Payback's bullets went through a wall and hit her. Not only does this show Frank's contempt for vigilantes who don't properly plan ahead to prevent innocent people from getting killed, but it also shows that Frank had no problem whatsoever with Payback killing corrupt corporate execs.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Hey, Soap! Now you have an important case to lead, and your office, and your own special operations team! Yes, it was too good for that loser to be true...
  • Laughably Evil: The Russian's every other line is a joke.
  • Lesbian Cop: Detective Von Richthoffen
  • Pet the Dog: Frank sneaks back into his abandoned apartment and leaves behind huge piles of cash (taken from the safe of a crime boss he'd just killed) for his three neighbors to find. Each of them had helped him several times during the arc, and he felt obligated. The last panel shows him standing on the street outside, listening to them laughing with joy and planning on improving their lives with the money. Frank walks away, thinking: "Best I can do. Maybe I am damned. But I'm not dragging you good people down with me."
  • Psychopathic Man Child: The Russian. His guileless expression and easygoing attitude make everything about him more frightening.
  • Rasputinian Death: After the burnings, beating, stabbings, it takes being suffocated under a tremendously obese man and the Punisher to take out the Russian. And even then his head gets cut off.
  • Reluctant Psycho: The Holy is a genuinely insane man who kills people in a rage, only to regain control of himself afterwards. He's tormented by this until he sees a newspaper article about The Punisher, which encourages him to embrace his insanity.
  • Revisiting the Roots: No surveillance, no weird ammo, no strange techs, no partners... this is a return to the basics: Punisher, guns and petty criminals. In fact, this story undid the previous status of Punisher as a supernatural celestial enforcer (which got him cancelled), and turned him into a "normal" character once more.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: When Frank shows up at Ma Gnucci's house with The Russian's head, he stares down her remaining thugs. They all throw their guns on the ground and leave Ma to her fate.
  • Shout-Out: A mook walking in on Ma Gnucci from behind and getting startled by the sight of machines lowering the wig onto her scarred head is a clear homage to ''The Empire Strikes Back''.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: The Punisher gives fatal ones to Ma Gnucci and the Vigilante Squad when they try to lecture him on his moral failings.
  • Sinister Minister: Father Redondo, who is ready to axe murder you in his confessional the second you say something he doesn't like.
  • Something We Forgot: Busy of Ma Gnucci, Punisher did not had time to locate and deal with the "Vigilante Squad"; but did so at the end.
  • Straw Loser: Soap and Molly Von Richthofen do not have the slighest hope of doing anything to Punisher or Ma Gnucci. The best plan they could come up with was just to let things happen and let the whole crisis solve itself.
  • Take Our Word for It: We never get to see Spacker Dave's face after his piercings are torn out. What little we see of his ear looks like fried plastic.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Elite and Mr. Payback turn into this before they finally hook up with The Holy. Ma Gnucci also goes through a few sets of these courtesy of Frank.
  • Title Drop: At the end of the first issues. "Welcome back, Frank. Says New York City".
  • Toilet Humour: Officer Soap is promoted to Chief Inspector at the end of the series, proudly looks out of his office to the Golden Sunset of New York... only to have a passing pigeon defecate on his head. Nevertheless, he warmly quotes "I love this town", for compared to all the hardships he endured trying to catch The Punisher, he is not going to let something as trivial as bird poop rain on his parade.
  • Unfortunate Names: With a name like Budd Plugg it's no wonder he killed himself.
  • The Unreveal: The true identities of Elite and Mr. Payback are never revealed.