The Punisher MAX Volume 1: In The Beginning Review

This is the first volume in the Garth Ennis written Punisher comic line. It’s part of Marvel’s MAX imprint which means more of the “good stuff” – swearing, violence and sex. But is that such a good thing?

Firstly, the grittier tone and content works very well for a Punisher comic. His world is a dark place as it is. This version of The Punisher, AKA Frank Castle, has done what many other comic book characters rarely do, he has aged in real time. That means this is a Punisher in his mid 50’s, he was in Vietnam and he’s been doing what he does best for almost 30 years.

The story sees Frank Castle taking on the mob. There are no super villains here, just murderers, thieves, and lowlifes. Things get complicated for Frank when his old friend Micro and the CIA get involved. But the story is overall pretty simple and acts as a vehicle to study the character of Frank Castle and his grief, but also as a way for him to murder hundreds of goons and thugs.

Punisher Max vol 1 4.jpg

Now I love gore and violence in comic books, it’s one medium where things like that can get dark and really work. The Walking Dead is a great example. With this comic, I don’t know. The action sequences are awesome but I got bored of the gore by the end. It came across as trying too hard to be edgy. The recent incarnation of The Punisher in ‘Daredevil’ on Netflix showed that you can be violent but there’s a line that keeps the gore’s shock value and doesn’t get dull.

The swearing works better for me. Ennis really captures the way gangsters and the mob might speak. It’s like an episode of the Sopranos for a lot of it. At first I worried it would be too edgy for the sake of being edgy but I really warmed to it. So much so that I bought Garth Ennis’ Preacher to give that a try.

Finally the art is good. Frank can sometimes seem a bit sinewy and muscle-bound, to a ridiculous degree. Especially considering this guy is pushing 60. Some of the faces are stupid too, but that’s just comic books for you. The action is drawn really well, with explosions and bullets looking really cool. The cover art is exceptional too.

Overall a great comic. At the time of it’s release it might have shook up the Marvel comics world a lot. It’s still awesome, if a little juvenile at times. It’s a brilliant intro to a complex character and at the end I wanted to read more.

Reviewed by Jack

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