Comics / Comic Reviews / Marvel Comics

Punisher MAX #14

By Dan Horn
June 9, 2011 - 14:34

Man, I have to admit, I was very critical of Jason Aaron's relaunch of Punisher MAX from the get-go. It never truly resonated with me, never felt like a good match for the Punisher franchise or even seemed like it did Aaron's writing abilities any justice. Then, MAX kicked into high gear in issue seven, as if Aaron and Dillon were trying to make me eat my own words regarding their lukewarm first six months on the title. It worked.

In the wake of the frenetic and enlightening "Bullseye" arc, Frank Castle has been arrested and imprisoned, locked up in solitary confinement once he's off the mend. Sure, the Punisher has been in this situation plenty of times preceding Aaron's "Frank" serial, but there's a few things different this time around. For one, after whatever Bullseye whispered to him several issues ago (I'm half-tempted to inspect that dialogue bubble with a magnifying glass), Castle barely has the will left to live, constantly vying with the dual nature of some revelation about the actuality of his family's deaths. He's also older, weaker, more vulnerable. Instead of the inmates being trapped in a prison with the Punisher, as most of these stories have portrayed it, the Punisher is now trapped in a prison with the inmates. He's losing his mind, talking to himself out loud, and incessantly reflecting on the events leading up to the slaughter of his wife and children, piecing together the puzzle of what really happened. Did he let his family die because the Vietnam War had turned him into a somnabulent husk that needed to be freed of the constraints of normalcy? Had he been the Punisher even before he had returned home from his tour of duty? All the while, the inmates, all of which have a particular bone to pick with Frank, are hatching a plan to kill the Punisher once and for all, and it looks like it's going to work.

Aaron's Punisher encapsulates that lingering madness, that all-consuming hyper-vigilance and bloodlust, of a man returned from combat. MAX's probing into Frank Castle's insanity takes its place with some of the best Punisher introspection to date: Ennis' extensive back-catalog of stories and Remender's recent work on the ultra-violent antihero.

The only thing that I still dislike about this series is Dillon's fondness for universal character models. Every character with a double chin looks like Wilson Fisk, and almost every other character resembles Frank Castle in some way, with only hairstyles and/or clothing to set them apart. It's slightly bothersome, but able to be overlooked in lieu of this brilliant saga.

For fans of mature comic books, of Aaron's Scalped, and of the Punisher this is a must-read series. Some really incredible storytelling is burgeoning here.

Rating: 8.5 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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