While I am not a massive Punisher fan, I do find the character quite appealing, on some very basic level, when he’s done right. I really liked Garth Ennis’s Punisher Max run, but wasn’t so keen on his Marvel Knights Punisher run, which had its moments but mostly seemed a bit immature. I think I prefer the Punisher when he is shooting the shit out of the Mafia, people traffickers, etc., rather than when he’s played for laughs and up against cartoonish villains. This book, written by Jason ‘Scalped’ Aaron, had swearing in it and lots of violence but it reminded me more of the Marvel Knights Punisher than it did the Marvel Max Punisher – and not just because it was drawn by Steve Dillon.
The five issues reprinted in this volume (Punisher Max 1-5) document the rise of the Marvel Max version of the Kingpin, and the Punisher himself ends up seeming like a supporting character in a Kingpin comic, rather than the other way around. I like the Kingpin as a villain but, as a Daredevil fan, I have probably read more than enough Kingpin stories already and didn’t really need to read a retelling of his origin in a punisher comic – the next volume introduces the Marvel Max version of Bullseye! – particularly as this version of the Kingpin is pretty similar to the regular Marvel Universe Kingpin. The weakest point in the book was probably the Punisher’s protracted battle with a pretty lame hitman called the Mennonite, who is as tough as nails but basically just an olde-worlde bloke with a hammer, and it seemed odd to me that the Kingpin would send a hitman who doesn’t even carry a gun after the Punisher. Overall, though, this was a decent read and it kept me entertained while I was reading it, even if it wasn’t particularly memorable stuff (I finished reading this about a week ago and am really struggling to find things to say about it now, but I doubt I would have been able to say much more if I’d reviewed it right away). I’ll probably pick up a copy the next volume, mainly because I have a certain amount of faith in Jason Aaron’s writing ability and would like to see if his shot at the Punisher improves, but I will definitely be trying to get it ‘on the ration’.
This volume has a recommended retail price of £14.99 / $19.99, which isn’t exactly a bargain price for a book that only collects five comics, but I got my copy from the Book Depository, during their recent 10% off sale, for £8.43. (Note 1: Obviously, it was 10% off their already low prices, not 10% off the RRP – at the moment they’ve got it for £9.89.) (Note 2: I promise I will try not review any more books written by Jason Aaron until at least November, which is when both the next volume of Scalped comes out and the next volume of Punisher Max comes out in softcover, as I have reviewed rather a lot of his books recently.)