PunisherMax: “Kingpin” [Review]

PunisherMAX: Kingpin
PunisherMAX: Kingpin

PunisherMAX #1-5: Kingpin

Writer: Jason Aaron

Art: Steve Dillon

Colors: Matt Hollingsworth

Covers: Dave Johnson

Rating: ★★★½☆

I’ll just be honest with you: I preferred the old Punisher MAX series.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still digging the current incarnation, PunisherMAX. I mean, it’s The Punisher. And not the Frankensteined trainwreck Punisher that currently exists. No, it’s good old Frank Castle with a white skull on his shirt and a cache of guns, dishing out justice the only way that he really knows how to: with extreme prejudice.

But it’s the new skew of the series that I’m not terribly fond of. The previous incarnation featured a realistically aged Frank Castle who was nearing his 50s, but was still the tough as nails, take no shit vet we’ve come to know and love. The series maintained a gritty realism, balanced with the acknowledgment of Frank’s long standing role in the Marvel Universe, featuring appearances by Nick Fury and nods to his previous series. The new series feels more like “Ultimte Punisher”,  ditching the previous titles realistic aging and acknowledgment of Marvel lore for a gore filled romp that’s serving to be characteristically no different from the current Marvel on-going, aside from the explicit amounts of gore and profanity (and probably copious amounts of nudity in the future).

But, then there’s Kingpin.  It’s meant to serve as a flashback origin story, in what I presume is an out-of-continuity series. Here, Wilson Fisk assumes the role of Kingpin initially as a ruse, but quickly turns it into a legitimate identity in a bid to steal control of New York underworld from Don Rigoletto. Of course, he crosses paths with The Punisher (it is his book, after all).

Steve Dillon, who did art chores on the Garth Ennis penned Welcome Back, Frank (a story arguably responsible for restoring The Punisher to his former glory after several years of less than stellar stories) returns, and brings his trademark style and flair to the book. It’s a gorgeous book, with lots of energy and buckets of gore. Jason Aaron writes the story, and he still does a really good job of it. Despite my qualms with the story, I still find I enjoyed it, although the last issue was really, REALLY dark.  He nails the characters in the MAX universe, creating a vicious and far more adult world than anything Marvel’s had in a while.

Ultimately, PunisherMAX is a book with a lot of potential that’s going to spend a lot of time stuck in the shadow of that which came before it.  The idea of a rebooted, adults only Punisher title is a great one, and one that makes a lot more sense than trying to shove him into a corner of the Marvel Universe where his deadly touch isn’t such a problem in all ages titles, but cutting the character off from decades of history with the core universe is something that, in the long run, could hurt this title a lot.

About Christopher Baggett

Christopher Baggett has owned and operated The HomeWorld independently since 2009 after spinning it off from his previous concept, ‘The Anime Homeworld’. In addition to journalistic endeavors, he is an aspiring novelist. Arizona born military brat Christopher currently resides in the Georgia area.

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  1. Gonna COMPLETELY disagree with your perceptions of this series so far. First off, the writer has stated that he is not going to ignore Frank’s age. In fact, I’m seeing more of an aknowledgement here than I did in Ennis’s series, as much as I love it. Throughout 1-5 we see Frank referenced in his age, Dillon’s artwork here in contrast to Welcome Back Frank shows that Castle has indeed aged since then. Nearly a decade, in fact.
    His injuries also will carry to the next arc, something that Ennis was nearly infamous for was how much the Punisher would be punished and be ok the next arc. So it seems to be you have it ass-backwards almost.
    Also you had an underlying theme about family throughout this entire arc that I thought came to an absolutely stunning conclusion. Frank forgetting his son’s birthday, Kingpin doing what he did. The Mennonite’s inevitble fate and leaving his family behind. All these things sent quite the powerful range of emotions through me, personally.
    Jason Aaron is turning up to be a fantastic replacement for Ennis. Taking on a job that has standards that are nearly impossible to meet for some fans. The ones who think that Ennis is the be-all-end-all of Frank and anyone who does anything as good is just imitating, or Ennis-lite. Jason Aaron has added his own unique feel to the series while keeping it in-tone with what we have come to love.

    PS: Frank(en) Castle shouldn’t be judged so quickly and harshly. When a character goes through a change like this, in a universe like the one this Frank exists in, mixed reactions, a story-arc that is based on adjustment, etc. are going to happen. Frank went through hell, took a shot, was mentally shredded, then physically. He bit off more than he could chew. My gripe with a character change is this: It’s not all about the physical changes, it is about the actual changes to the characters character, their essence. In issue 13 we see Frank having the same awesome inner-monologues as before, the cool one-liners. The cold and intense manner of killing. His war has changed, he physically has changed, but he is still the same soldier. He can now role with the rest of the MU and be less, fringe-y. Your opinion will likely never change no matter what happens as it sounds like you’ve made up your mind.
    Furthermore, this whole “it’s not Ennis” stuff just seems to stop. It’s obviously not Ennis, and your points for giving it a bad review were outright lies or clear misunderstandings that even the writer himself pointed out.

    It’s not that you disagree with my opinion, it’s the fact that you made points that just aren’t there. The age thing especially bugged me, as it is damn near the complete opposite.

  2. @hoboboxerjoe You seem confused on various points.

    First off, I don’t think Ennis is the be-all-end-all anything; I simply pointed out that he’s had an impact on the character. And really, he has. If not for Ennis’ handling of the character on “Welcome Back, Frank” and “The Punisher MAX”, the character would likely still be in Marvel limbo, only occasionally appearing in other titles without an on-going of his own.

    Secondly, bad review? I didn’t give this a bad review in the slightest! I really enjoyed “Kingpin”, as you can tell by the review.

    And finally, I’m thrilled that you’re enjoying “FrankenCastle”, but if you think for a second that it’s a lasting change, you’re mistaken. In the true, cyclical nature of comics, he’ll be back to normal by stories end.

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