Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Steve Dillon
The Punisher has been one of Marvel’s most popular characters for more than 20 years, with countless ongoing series; miniseries; one-shots; and not one, not two but three failed movie adaptations. Right now in the regular Marvel Universe, Frank Castle is getting pretty heavily involved in the Dark Reign storyline, but in the continuity-free MAX universe, acclaimed creators Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon have begun a story arc that, to me at least, could very well be the most memorable and interesting Punisher tale ever published.
As past solicits and the cover of this issue reveal, this opening arc to the Punisher MAX relaunch will pit Frank Castle against Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin. But this is not the Wilson Fisk we know from the regular 616 universe. In the MAX version, Fisk is a hired thug being prepped by the mob as a figurehead to draw Frank out so that the criminals can finally get their revenge on the man who has killed so many of them. While the mob hatches their scheme, the Punisher gets some info from a captured stoolie and invades their hideout. Fisk and his boss Rigoletto get away after Frank ices many of the mobsters who opposed their idea, and we get a brief glimpse of Wilson’s wife and son before he receives a call from Rigoletto that their plan is a go.
As expected, there is plenty of gruesome violence and strong language, but the plot is so interesting that it refuses to be overshadowed by all the blood and guts. This is one of the few Punisher issues that I’ve read in which the focus is more on the villains than on Frank Castle himself, which I found to be quite a refreshing change. Writer Jason Aaron and seminal Punisher artist Steve Dillon are shaping up a story that is sure to please longtime fans of the character and may also appeal to readers who were never interested in the Punisher before. This debut issue of the Punisher MAX relaunch gets 4.5 out of 5 Empty Eye Sockets.