Monday, October 19, 2009

Punisher MAX #75

I've been looking for a good point to start reading The Punisher again for a little while now, and when I read that the Punisher MAX series was being rebooted and relaunched in November this seemed an ideal time.

Ahead of the relaunch Marvel have 'wound-down' the current run with a double-sized 75th issue that promises to look at the events that surrounded the death of Frank Castle's family across five short stories

Several years ago, under a cloudless day in New York’s Central Park, Frank Castle’s family was slaughtered in a mob crossfire. On that day, the man known as Frank Castle died and in his place was born the Punisher, a relentless engine of vengeance. Five stories take an unflinching look at what really happened that day, providing a penetrating look into the mass of hard muscle that once was Frank Castle’s heart. You won’t look at the Punisher the same way again.


First up is 'Dolls' written by Tom Piccirilli with art from Laurence Campbell. Told over 10 pages this was arguably my favourite combination of writing and art. It's a fairly simple tale that ends on a chilling 'never let your children out of sight' note.

Next up, 'Gateway' written by Greg Hurwitz with art from Das Pastoras. I struggled with this I'll be honest - for me the writing was badly let down by the artwork: I had trouble distinguishing between some of the characters, the art style wasn't to my own personal taste and at times a number of the characters appeared 'comedic' as a result. Not an enjoyable read although I'm prepared to accept that's as much down to my lack of familiarity with some of the characters as anything else.

The third story is called 'Ghoul', written by veteran Punisher writer Duane Swierczynski with art from Tomm Coker, who also provided the book's cover. Like 'Dolls' this is another strong combination of storytelling and artwork that sees Frank Castle interrogating NYPD officer Sergeant Hickey who he discovers is selling evidence from the Castle family slaying. I enjoyed Tomm Coker's art on the recent Daredevil Noir series and this is in a similar vein whilst Swierczynski's writing is sparse and menacing.

'Father's Day' is the penultimate offering of this issue, written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Goran Parlov. Containing no dialogue and written in the form of a 'love letter' from daughter to father interspersed with scenes of incredible violence involving Castle. A genuinely touching tale.

Last up, is 'Smallest Bits', written by Charlie Huston and drawn by Ken Lashley. I particularly enjoyed the artwork on this story, told, like 'Father's Day', without any dialogue although this time accompanied by Frank Castle's narration, although the story itself didn't really connect with me for some reason - perhaps it suffered as a result of being a little too similar in style to the previous story and might have benefited by being earlier in the book.

The book concludes with a bonus 8-page preview of the forthcoming, rebooted, Punisher MAX #1 by Jason Aaron, Steve Dillon and Matt Hollingsworth - good stuff that appears to see the focus of the book shift back to the criminal underworld centering on the Kingpin.

In summary, a book that needed a couple of reads for me to fully appreciate it but a worthwhile read nevertheless and one that's convinced me to start picking up the Punisher title again.


  • Interior pages are from 'Dolls' and 'Father's Day'.

  • Comixology have published a number of preview pages from Punisher MAX #75 - click here to view them.