Graphic Novel Spotlight – Punisher MAX Complete Collection Volume 1


The second season of the critically acclaimed Daredevil Netflix series is rapidly approaching and naturally, fans are excited. However it is not only the return of the Man Without Fear that has them psyched. This season will mark the Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of Frank Castle AKA The Punisher. For those not familiar with Frank, there are many great Punisher stories out there. However, none quite left a mark like Garth Ennis’ nine-year run on the character, which is seen by many as the definitive Punisher run. Ennis’ run covered several ongoing series and mini-series set in the Marvel Universe. But it was his work on the debuting Punisher MAX series that – while not set in the main Marvel Universe – was the best character study of Frank Castle and examination of what made him tick.

When a mob hit killed his beloved wife and children, Frank Castle became the Punisher – an unstoppable one-man army waging war on every piece of criminal scum plaguing New York’s streets. But do the Punisher’s origins trace back even further? In 1971 Vietnam, Captain Castle’s platoon faces a Viet Cong attack… and to survive, he must make a grim choice. Then, Punisher’s old partner Microchip, long thought to be a casualty of Castle’s war, resurfaces with a startling offer!

In the Marvel Universe, the Punisher is a stark contrast to the active heroic contingent, frequently coming to blows with the like of Spider-Man, Daredevil, Captain America and others over his take no prisoners approach to fighting crime. In the MAX Universe however, these heroes do not exist and Frank faces no such opposition in his one man war on crime. That doesn’t mean he is unopposed though as the criminals in the unrestricted world of the MAX universe are of a particularly disturbing ilk. Without the constraints of having this version of the Punisher trying to coexist with the heroes of the Marvel Universe, Ennis presents a complex yet single-minded version of the character who after years of brutal experiences has become completely devoted to his self-appointed mission. Special mention has to be made to the Born story arc which documents Frank’s time in the Vietnam War and how it helps shape him into the vigilante he will eventually become. Darick Robertson, Lewis Larosa and Leandro Fernandez all help establish the gritty tone by providing some suitable noir style artwork that has become one of the Punisher series’ hallmarks.

Anyone looking for a refresher course on the Punisher before Daredevil, looking for an introduction to the character or just looking for a great gritty crime comic will find all they need in this first collection.

Punisher Max Complete Collection Volume 1 is published 9 February by Marvel

Post by Leo Sutherland

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