Heroes Never Rust #63 by Sean Ironman
Lost in Vietnam: The Punisher’s Platoon
In the first issue of Born, readers were given two points of view: Stevie Goodwin and Frank Castle. Readers only get Goodwin’s viewpoint in the second issue. Frank Castle remains as the main character. By showing him through Goodwin’s eyes, the reader can be guided into the difficult story.The first act has Goodwin attempting to keep his friend, Angel, off drugs. Many soldiers at Valley Forge have given up. Castle and his platoon are the only ones who still patrol. When Goodwin drags Angel out of a drug bunker, Castle approaches and asks if Angel is clean. Goodwin says yes and Castle walks off. Many readers might view Castle as a hard commander, but I don’t. He doesn’t reprimand Angel. He doesn’t argue with the men still in the bunker sitting around high. What soldiers do doesn’t matter to him. If they can shoot, then they can shoot. If they can’t, then they are no good to Castle.
Goodwin and Angel go out on patrol with Castle. Goodwin tells readers that he doesn’t have to go out with Castle’s platoon. He says he’s only there for Angel, but that doesn’t make much sense. If he let Angel get high, Angel wouldn’t be out on patrol. Goodwin wouldn’t have to look after him. “Some of us are here for our brothers, some of us for our horror stories. Some of us even still believe in duty. Americans through the looking-glass, lost in Vietnam.”
Goodwin is lost. There’s no right or wrong in Vietnam. Neither side are angels. No one is a war hero in Born. When the platoon comes under attack, snipers shoot down American soldiers. Goodwin and the rest of the platoon hide. Castle is the only fighter. He stands tall in the wide open and fires a sixty into the trees, taking out the snipers. As the enemy is killed, Castle doesn’t smile. He takes no joy in this. He’s shot in the arm, and to take a line from Predator, he doesn’t have time to bleed. He’s emotionless. When the Vietnamese are dead, Castle stands over their corpses. Goodwin thinks, “The black pig-iron in his hands falls silent. Try as it might, the world cannot exhale.”
American soldiers find a Vietnamese soldier, a woman, bleeding out but still alive. Goodwin and the rest stand in a circle as one American pushes the dying woman onto her stomach and rapes her. Where is the good America that Goodwin spoke of in the first issue? The American solider who rapes the woman is unimportant. A minor character introduced just for this scene. He could be any one of those soldiers. Any person who has lost their sense of morality.
Castle shoots the Vietnamese woman in the head and tells the American, “No rape. We’re here to kill the enemy. That’s all.” Then, he walks off. When no one is looking—well, except Goodwin—Castle drowns the rapist. Castle, in his own mind, has not lost his sense of morality. He only sees the world in black and white and will never see the gray. At the end of the issue, Goodwin states that he is scared of Castle. “Because this place is hell and we need a man like him to lead us through it, and what that says about us in unthinkable.”
Goodwin stays quiet, instead of telling the other soldiers. He might not like Castle, but he needs Castle. In that last scene, Castle is only shown in shadows. When he says he wanted to punish the rapist, he has no eyes. Only darkness. The cover of the second issue shows an American solder’s skull in a cracked helmet. Worms and plants cover the head. If Goodwin wants to get out of Vietnam, he needs to stick close to Castle. That’s why he goes out on the patrols. That’s why he stays quiet. Americans in Vietnam need a leader who is willing to damn himself so that right can be right and wrong can be wrong and those that do wrong can be punished. Goodwin needs to believe that right and wrong still count for somebody.
Sean Ironman (Episode 102) earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s Chronicle, Redivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.