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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Hardcover, Vol. IV (Review)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

I don’t know. It seems like, at times, I run hot and cold to Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX run. It’s frequently cited as one of the great runs of modern comics, and there are moments when – if I squint – I can see hints of that masterpiece everybody is taking at. At other times, it seems I’m wandering in the desert, staring at a perfectly functional comic book, trying to figure out what everybody is making such a big fuss about. This penultimate collection of Ennis’ run contains two great examples of this. On one hand, the collection opens with the incredibly pedestrian Man of Stone, while it closes with the smarter-than-it-appears Widowmaker. Neither story is a masterpiece, but the latter has a lot more insight than I’ve come to expect from the series, while the former takes an interesting premise and does nothing with it.

The Punisherette?

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Marvel Knights: Punisher by Garth Ennis Omnibus

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

Solo act again. No Micro. No gimmicks: no fancy ammo, no battle-vans, no high-tech surveillance. Just the basics. Been gone a while. Distracted. The scum in this city need a wake-up call. And here it comes.

– Frank Castle gives us a mission statement

Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how big a mess the Punisher was in before Garth Ennis got his hands on the character. The fascination with “darker and edgier” in the nineties had given the character a huge boost, but it was quickly wasted. From a character who had supported multiple books during the “boom” years, he was reduced to one core title with a radical new direction. Imagining the Punisher as some sort of avenging angel figure hadn’t worked out, so it seemed like that character was truly struggling to keep his head above water. Then Garth Ennis arrived, writing a twelve-part maxi-series that would be the first step in a long and fruitful relationship with the character. He didn’t try to radically revamp the character, opting for a back-to-basics approach with a healthy dash of black humour, realising that there was something inherently absurdist about a gun-carrying psychopathic killing machine with a skull on his chest, sharing a universe with angels and demons and superheroes.

Welcome back, Frank...

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