One of the worst
Where to start with this one? I will be combining my thoughts of this particular book with the others that follow in the same story.
Well, I will start with the first thing that I noticed about this. The artwork. It's horrible. There really are no redeeming qualities about it whatsoever. The colors are bland, the style is far too bright and cartoon-like for the general feel of the Punisher (especially when compared to that of Mother Russia and Man of Stone), some backgrounds aren't even done and are simply white, the facial expressions are poorly done and are often laughable, proportions are horribly executed, and the characters are very rarely even drawn consistently. It is always such a disappointment with every issue in the Long Cold Dark series to see such amazing cover work courtesy of Timothy Bradstreet, only to open it up and see something that would be flunked out of a high school art class.
Now, to me, if a comic's artwork is as horrendous as this, the writing had better be worth the eyesore. But, this is also where Long Cold Dark fails to succeed. First, we'll start with the villain. Barracuda. Sure, he is probably one of Frank's closest matches in the MAX series, so I guess bringing him back for another go at the Punisher could be interesting. But when a guy gets his eye stabbed out, four fingers cut off, blown up, a shotgun taken point blank to the chest, and then eaten (or mauled at the very least) by a Great White Shark, then there had better be some explanation as to how he comes back from that.
Apparantly, coming up for a reason for this was about as difficult as it sounds and this is when the writer decides to cop out and essentially say, "He's Barracuda, he does whatever he wants!" A little hard to justify that when the writer later makes him out to be a crying little baby when Frank bites his cheek. Apparently getting his eye stabbed out and his fingers hacked off were easy enough to shrug off, but a bite to his cheek sends him running to a doctor. So, Barracuda is a bit of a wimp in this book, especially when the writer decides that he should direct his hate to the world because Barracuda had daddy issues growing up. Getting harder and harder to believe that he was tough enough to survive a Great White Shark attack, isn't it?
As for the story, there are inconsistencies galore. Apparently Frank has a daughter. No, not the dead one. He has another one that is alive and guess who the mother is? Considering he has only been with one other woman in the entire MAX series previous to this, take a wild guess who. That's right, O'Brien! But wait.. Here comes the first inconsistency. She is only a baby. She is being transported around in a carrier as we see her first introduced by Barracuda, and we later see him feeding her with a bottle (Yeah... Real badass here). So, knowing this, she has to be about a year old at the most. But the only possible time she could have been conceived was in the Up Is Down and Black Is White story, which was only a month or so at most ater the Mother Russia story. Why does that matter? Because in the Man of Stone story, Rawlins said that those events happened over two years ago. On top of that, Barracuda says he found letters written between Yorkie and O'Brien's sister saying that she hadn't heard from O'Brien in months. So, add a few months to those two years, and that would make the girl roughly one and a half to two years old. So, when she should be able to walk, she is instead still helpless in a carrier
With the revelation that Frank Castle is apparently a father again, he suddenly wakes up in a hospital bed. I guess explaining how he got untied from his chair was just as hard as explaining how Barracuda survived his little shark encounter. So, he escapes from the hospital by telling the doctor that Barracuda will be there and will kill everybody unless he is released. So, with the hospital never being hit, both Barracuda and Frank both take a road trip out to the West, Frank admitting neither of them knew where to find the other and that would be the hardest part of the entire ordeal. Fortunately, the writer uses his creative talent of abandoning all exposition in order to have them both meet up at the same exact spot at the same exact time.
So, they duke it out, Barracuda survives being shot, curb stomped in the face, being electricuted via car battery to the testicles.... just roll with it, shot some more, blown up by explosives in a car, his nose twisted off with a pair of pliars, and finally goes down after a few swings of a fireaxe and a shotgun to the face. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the writer managed to bring him back from that number as well.
The Punisher MAX series' stories tend to boil down to high body counts and a large amount of gore to accompany them. They might seem generic but they work. This one, however, boils down to a one on one fight that lasts for a few pages, is very tame when compared to other issues like Mother Russia, and it really just raises more needless questions and conflicts with what we have established as Frank Castle's character. He got started as the Punisher because of the death of his family, the death of his daughter being a particularly haunting image to him, and now they just suddenly decide to say that he now has a daughter who's age doesn't even match up with the given timeline and not to mention the fact that O'Brien never even once mentioned it or hinted at it in the Man of Stone issue. What's worse about this is that his reaction is fairly tame. He treated the girl he rescued in Mother Russia more like a daughter than he did his own living one in Long Cold Dark.
Altogether, it's a rushed story that brings back a villain who should have stayed dead, adds very little to the overall story (and what it does add is inconsistent with the story and conflicts with Frank's character), contains horrible artwork that is unenjoyable to even look at, and will end up with you trying to speed through the senseless dialogue, leaving you wising for the comic to be over with.
The only reason I could see owning this comic, is for the amazing cover work. Which is the only thing that makes these comics worth more than the paper they have been printed on.