My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Punisher: Born is Garth Ennis’s prequel to his legendary run on The Punisher Max. Ennis combines his love for Frank Castle, his thirst for demented violence, and his passion for military history into one terrific origin story.
Born takes us back to the final days of the Viet Nam war. After surviving several previous tours in country, Captain Frank Castle finally lands in the last Cambodian firebase in existence, Valley Forge. It’s here that Frank finds himself leading an ugly mix of a few good marines and a few drug addicted war junkies. Castle is starting to realize that soon he will be a marine without a war. I love the interactions between Frank, his men, and his commanding officers. Garth sheds a little more light on Frank’s prior military service through the eyes of his men as well. Ennis writes the BEST Castle. Reticent, hard as nails, and one of the most lethal men on the planet. I’ve always preferred the strong, silent protagonist to the blowhard hero. Frank lets his actions speak and never are they louder than when he is hammering away at the Viet Cong with the M-60.
Some of my favorite moments included a visit from a General, Castle’s reaction to rape of a North Vietnamese woman by a marine, and the climactic fire fight at the end. While the murder of Frank’s family was the tipping point that pushed Castle over the edge, The Punisher was truly born at Firebase Valley Forge.
Darick Robertson is a frequent collaborator with Ennis and does a great job here. His talent brings shape to Ennis’s vision in this story. Darick isn’t holding back here and, as with all the Max titles, the violence is very “in your face”. I prefer it that way in stories like this. Real war isn’t PG-13. Most of Ennis’s work is not for the faint-hearted though, and this one is no exception.
Punisher: Born is a perfect starting point for anyone unfamiliar with Frank Castle or Ennis’s Max run. Many would probably disagree, but for me, Garth’s work on The Punisher Max is the best stuff he’s ever done. Those that enjoy off the wall violence and grim tales about one man’s crusade to exterminate evil will certainly enjoy this story.