Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Wolverine are hell-bent on stopping Frank Castle from doing what he does (i.e. killing people all the time as the crime fighting vigilante, the Punisher). Frank eluded them twice, and now the final battle begins. But Frank has a secret weapon on his side: The Incredible Hulk!
Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Wolverine are in the heat of battle with the Hulk while Soap, elsewhere, begins his search for Frank Castle. After Daredevil is flung from battle and pinned under debris, Castle uses the opportunity to open a dialogue with him. He tells DD about some thugs witnessing the Hulk revert back to Bruce Banner, then knocking Banner unconscious and taking him to be sold at auction (the same auction Frank broke up in the first issue of this arc). The blow had left Banner with slight amnesia (how fortunate), and Frank used that opportunity to keep him at bay until the right moment.
Daredevil is less than impressed at Frank's shortsightedness. "Unleashing the Hulk in the middle of Brooklyn?" he cries. "Once that unholy monster gets going, can you imagine the blood you'll have on your hands?" He is wrong, of course, to underestimate the mind of the Punisher, and Frank shows him the plan he devised to stop the Hulk once the time came: You see, the stew Frank had been feeding the amnesia-stricken Banner had been laced with C-4 and Imodium, and once Frank hits the detonator (which he does as he tells the story), the Hulk buckles and falls back to the form of Bruce Banner.
So now everyone is left painfully incapacitated with the exception of Frank, who tells Daredevil the only way the Punisher will ever be stopped is if he is killed, and that, if Daredevil doesn't have the guts to go that far, that he should refrain from wasting Frank's time.
Just as Frank is walking away, Soap shows up to put Frank under arrest. Frank, quite unenthusiastically, takes the gun from Soap's hands and tells him that things aren't going to get better, and that if Soap would be better of simply leaving.
An epilogue commences. Spacker Dave is rendered quadriplegic for life, Soap becomes a porn star ("Everyone bends over for Soap!"), and Frank continues his bloody war on crime.
This issue marks the end of Garth Ennis' long run on Punisher before the title is rebooted and moved to Marvel's Max line for mature readers (where, if you ask me, it belongs). While I was pretty disappointed with this arc overall, the story was an okay idea, and I think Ennis did a decent job wrapping things up. Despite a new nitpicky plot holes, I think this issue had enough in it to be consistently interesting and entertaining, and is definitely a satisfactory end of an era. Heck, even the ART was improved here (though not much - I still think John McCrea is terribly incompetent, but it looks like he at least put more of an effort into this issue than he did the four previous).
My complaints of the story overall mainly lie in Ennis' poor characterizations. Spidey and Wolverine were both played as completely incompetent, and Wolverine's dialogue dropped from his usual tough guy slur to the realm of speech impediment. Don't get me wrong, I understand the Punisher is pretty much unstoppable, and I like him that way, but it would have been more refreshing to see his strong points exemplified rather than seeing the other players as bumbling prats.
I was also sad to see Soap leave the series. It seems that, in the past ten years of comics, there have been so very few new characters introduced that have any potential for staying power. When was the last time you saw someone take on a big title and create a character (protagonist or villain) that actually stuck around beyond said writer's run? Soap seemed like the type of character who had a lot of potential in the Punisher's world, and I'm definitely less than enthused to see him go.
3.5 webs. Still not as great as Ennis' early work with the title, but a good ending to a good title.