A face not made by God

The Punisher has always been my favourite comic book character. Not hero – character. In the all too real world of the Punisher, there are no heroes.

He’s been around since the 70s, but it wasn’t until Frank Castle met Garth Ennis that the Punisher was truly born, and it wasn’t until Marvel’s MAX series that the Punisher became a legend.

You should know this by now: Frank Castle lost his wife, daughter and son in the crossfire of a mafia gun battle in Central Park, NYC. He swore revenge, donned an awesome T-shirt, and has been killing bad guys ever since (that’s 30 years of relentless badassery). 

Under the masterful hand of Ennis, the MAX continuity adds to the Punisher’s origins, taking us back to his tours of duty in Vietnam. Frank Castle is a young man who has fallen in love with war. A darkness reaches out to him and promises that he can wage an eternal war… for a price. This adds a touch of mystery to the Punisher myth, and makes him seem more a force of nature than a man. “A face not made by God” indeed.

The MAX comics also remove a majority of Marvel universe conventions: no superheroes, no advanced technologies, no coming back from the dead, etc. Frank uses ‘real-world’ methods to fight ‘real-world’ enemies like the mafia, human traffickers, the Irish mob, the widowed wives of his victims, and even corrupt American army generals (the devious workings of the US military-industrial complex are a common theme throughout the MAX series). Only the nigh-unkillable villain Barracuda pushes the bounds of believability, but by the time he shows up, it’s far too late to dismiss these comics as “kid’s stuff”.

Although I’m not usually one to comment of artwork, I can safely say that the MAX visuals have never failed to blow my mind. I don’t often agree with the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but…

But more than anything, it’s the calibre of Ennis’s writing that got me hooked. Simple. Elegant. Brutal. The Punisher’s monologues are almost Shakespearean in quality; the dialogue flows; the storylines never lack for shock or catharsis; and, amidst all the slaughter, there is always an element, however faint, of real human emotion. Occasionally, you might even find yourself laughing.

Unfortunately, Garth Ennis’s run on the Punisher MAX series only lasted 60 issues, but with just a drop of emotion, a pint or two of dark humour, a few gallons of gritty realism, and fuck-knows how many kilolitres of blood, Ennis put those 60 issues in a war zone of their own.

Now if only someone would make a decent Punisher movie…




~ by John E. Roberts on 12/06/2011.

2 Responses to “A face not made by God”

  1. i like film nee

  2. ;]

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