View Full Version : Garth Ennis's Punisher MAX Run
12-30-2008, 12:31 AM
Now I know he also did the earlier Knights run (my friend lent me the wolverine issues which were hilarious), but I still need to read them (along with Preacher, yeah I'm odd). However, I just loved his Punisher MAX run, got those comics are great, insanely violent and over the top, but full of great writing and good art.
Any other fans?
01-07-2009, 04:24 PM
Honestly, no, not me.
I loved Preacher so much, but found the punisher stuff way too juvenile. Preacher could be that way at times, but really, The Russian with big tits?
01-07-2009, 04:35 PM
Ennis' version is the best version of the Punisher.
And Jeremy, Ian is not talking about the jokey MARVEL KNIGHTS version, but about the pitch black MARVEL MAX run. I didn't like the KNIGHTS version either.
01-07-2009, 04:59 PM
Ok, it's been several years since I've been reading, so I was mistaken in this. Thanks.
Paul A J Lewis
01-08-2009, 01:10 AM
I'm a huge Punisher fan and I really love Ennis' MAX series, although there were one or two volumes that I remember being a little disappointing. Sometimes I felt the series tried a little too hard to be shocking and therefore felt a little adolescent, but on the whole as a long-term Punisher fan (since the mid-1980s) I wasn't disappointed with them and found the MAX imprints far more statisfying than Ennis' earlier work on The Punisher.
My favourite Punisher comic book is probably still Steven Grant's CIRCLE OF BLOOD though. Grant really grasped the void at the heart of the character. There's a nice piece by Grant about The Punisher here: http://www.thepunishercomics.com/artists/steven_grant/steven_grant.htm
This is one reason I've always liked The Punisher. The Punisher doesn't have a destiny. I don't think The Punisher would even believe in destiny. The Punisher is an existentialist.
Kierkegaard, called the father of existentialism, played up the absurdity of human existence, stating the only way to combat this was the total commitment of the individual to a life of his choosing, and though Kierkegaard, still a child of his time, ultimately fell back on the abject acceptance of Christianity (which he also seemed to feel was incomprehensible) as the only valid course of action, the "life of total commitment" certainly fits The Punisher. Heidegger, who took Kierkegaard's philosophy further, comes even closer to describing The Punisher: since we can never hope to understand why we're here, if there's even anything to understand, the individual should choose a goal and pursue it wholeheartedly, despite the certainty of death and the meaninglessness of action. That's sure the Punisher as I conceived him: a man who knows he's going to die and who knows in the big picture his actions will count for nothing, but who pursues his course because this is what he has chosen to do.
It's at that moment [with his family's death] that Frank Castle ceases to exist. That guy he was before, that guy isn't him anymore. He lies in a hospital bed, coping with the death of his family by shutting himself off from them. Shutting himself off from emotion. On a subconscious level, he's seething with emotion. On any level even remotely resembling conscious, he's cold. Ice cold. Mike Zeck and I tried to play with this, particularly in the graphic novel RETURN TO BIG NOTHING, where The Punisher's reactions are visually very striking – grit teeth, flaring eyes, clenched jaw – and the captions representing his reactions are very cool and methodical.
Heroes in comics tend to be intrinsically heroic, something that, as I've mentioned before, never quite clicked with me. Heroism appears at the intersection of opportunity and personality, and it's not stable. Someone who does something heroic under one set of circumstances might behave otherwise under other circumstances [....] Their heroic essence precedes their heroic existence.
But that's not The Punisher. When Frank Castle stops being Frank Castle, he doesn't become The Punisher right away. The Punisher is something he invents, something he chooses to be. His goals aren't heroic. They aren't even vengeful, any more than a surgeon declares revenge on a tumor. The Punisher sees a world that has never existed – that 50s world of happy families going on picnics in the park and not even bothering to lock their doors, that happy time – and decides he's going to try to make it so. He's not stupid. He's not insane. He's readopting a role Vietnam made him familiar with: point man [....] There are three types a point men: lucky ones, the ones who develop a sort of personal radar for danger, and dead ones. The real job of the point man is to get shot. The Punisher knows this. He knows there's no platoon, no army following him. He knows the likeliest scenario is that he'll get shot. He'll die. He knows this. He knows he'll likely achieve nothing of note regardless of how many people he kills because (as noted in the first Punisher miniseries, CIRCLE OF BLOOD) whatever void opens up due to his actions others will rush to fill. But he does it anyway because this is what he has chosen to do, and he knows it needs doing, regardless of the outcome. Whether anyone else sees it that way or not. So he'll keep doing it as long as he can and if he dies that was always part of the deal anyone. Everyone dies.
Now that's an existentialist. It's too bad comics are so hung up on destiny, which suggests an implicate order to the universe. But chaos is much more interesting, with much greater room for character, and the panoply of human response. In comics, Heroes expect to win. It's what drives them: if they stay the course and hold their chins high, and fight the good fight, they'll be rewarded with victory because it's their due. And, sure, maybe there's a little doubt, maybe some sacrifice, but doesn't it always work out that way? The Punisher knows sooner or later he's going to lose, that "good" fights mean nothing, that the only thing he truly has to look forward to is death. And he does it anyway.
The new run of PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL are so-so, although I really enjoyed the recent volume featuring Jigsaw (Volume 4 in the series, just published in hardback last month).
01-13-2009, 06:33 PM
Not often I would expect to hear Kierkegaard referenced in a discussion about comics. Not that I'm complaining, by the way... :)
01-13-2009, 06:33 PM
What a fucking awesome series.
The Ennis run on Punisher is certainly one of the strongest runs by a writer on any title I've read. I never cared much for Castle, but Ennis succeeded brilliantly in re-defining him as the force of nature he'd have to be in order to remain alive as long as he has in his line of work. Ironically enough, my favorite sequences throughout the book feature Castle quietly cleaning his guns, usually while one or more other characters are chattering nervously, nearly wetting themselves by being in his presence. The less he says, the more it matters when he speaks, and - with his long list of war stories output - Ennis is extremely adept at writing both hardened and/or broken combat veterans.
It's a great run, and even his recent Castle storyline on the tamer KNIGHTS label (the reappearance of Ma Gnucci) is much better than I remember the initial "Welcome Home Frank" shit that initially turned me off so.
I also just recently read the FURY book he did years back with Darrick Robertson (THE BOYS), and it's awesome to see the genesis of the particular Nick Fury that turns up throughout the MAX Punisher run. Highly recommended for Punisher fans.
01-31-2009, 01:39 PM
I recently got the Ennis Knights Omnibus and dug through all of it in a night. While goofy and fun and utterly hilarious in a Vonnegutian way, the MAX series strikes me as trying to take itself a little too seriously but without losing any of the inherent humor and violence. The absurdity of the Punisher's life is often trumped by the people he meets throughout the MAX series. Nothing says more about the Punisher's life then him going to heaven, being pushed down, then revealed to make a deal with some devil type at the expense of his family, then continue a crusade to destroy other people's lives...and yet he's the most normal person in the losers he encounters. From Barracuda to the Russian to Ma Gnucci to that imposter of his at the end of MAX Volume 4. No matter how fucked Frank's life is, he is always outstaged by someone else who hasn't even been through half the shit he has.
You may call the Punisher an existentialist, but I think Camus's absurdism has a slightly stronger hold on the man.
03-29-2009, 08:32 AM
I love Garth Ennis' work. I've been meaning to pick up Preacher some time soon. Thor: Vikings and The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank were some great reads.
03-29-2009, 04:10 PM
The MAX run is, by far, the best take on The Punisher. I'm a HUGE Punisher fan, and I was very pleased after reading PREACHER that Ennis was doing PUNISHER. He understands the character of The Punisher, and has done a wonderful job of elevating the series.
I have all but one of the TPB of Ennis' run on PUNISHER...I need to get the latest one that was released, that is supposedly the end of Ennis' run. I'm interested to read it, as all the other TPB's and story arcs have been fantastic. If they keep the series going, I hope they don't let it fall by the wayside. The Punisher is a great character, and they need someone with Ennis' sensibilities to continue on with the stories.
The MARVEL KNIGHTS Punishers were not what I expected, and fell way below the MAX run...with the exception of the Wolverine vs. Punisher story, which was wildly over the top, the rest didn't interest me.
I think PUNISHER: BORN, the TPB/run set in Vietnam is still my favorite MAX TPB...it's a great read, and tries to explain Frank in an interesting way. I highly recommend it.
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