PunisherMAX #1-5: Kingpin
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Steve Dillon
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Covers: Dave Johnson
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”,Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.