Review: The Punisher MAX, Vol. 1: In the Beginning

The Punisher MAX, Vol. 1: In the BeginningThe Punisher MAX, Vol. 1: In the Beginning by Garth Ennis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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I HATE writing reviews for books that I love. I feel like I can’t do them a bit of justice. That said, In the Beginning set the standard for any and all Punisher stories that followed. This is Ennis at his absolute best. Garth recreated the Punisher in his own dark and violent corner of the Marvel Universe. This shit is grim. As are all of Ennis’s Punisher Max stories. No rubber bullets, light-hearted superhero stuff, or happy endings. So if hardcore noir is not your bag, best look elsewhere.

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The first thing I noticed about this volume was how absolutely stoked Garth was to have free reign to write the Punisher story he always wanted to without any rules. It must have been like losing his virginity to a supermodel. You can just tell how God-damn excited he is. Here was a character that catered to his love of violence, insanity, foul language, and war stories all at the same time. It was kismet.

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Frank’s an old man now. Still the Vietnam vet he was originally and his age is starting to show. He’s a lot like Eastwood in Unforgiven in this one. Frank has aged in real time. This added to the character for me. Probably because I’m an old man. Garth also includes a nod to the prior comic history by including Micro in the story. Clearly Ennis was inspired by the books that came before. And Frank’s mission hasn’t changed. If you’re guilty, you’re dead. No fuckin’ around.

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I loved the characters that were introduced in this one (both the ones that survived and the ones that didn’t). The CIA, mobsters, pimps, and psychos all showed up for the party at one point or another. Kathryn O’Brien was probably my favorite. She is the epitome of a man trapped in a woman’s body. The shit that comes out of her mouth is ridiculous. Another character named Pittsy says “fuck” about 400 times throughout the book. I know this may not be everyone’s cuppa. The language borders on ludicrous at times. I gotta say though, from my experience in my line of work, this really isn’t too far from reality in some social circles folks. Crude remarks galore. And Pittsy’s no joke. He’s like a meth addicted pit bull on steroids. One angry son of a bitch.

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Lewis LaRosa’s vision of Frank and his world set the perfect tone. His artwork is as harsh, rough, and bleak as a story like this deserves. He nailed it with Frank’s eyes. Lewis certainly didn’t back off from the gore either. Ideal for a story of this nature.

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This book is proof that Garth Ennis was destined to write the Punisher and while a few have come close( Jason Aaron for example), none will ever take his place as the man that truly defined the character. This was a great start to the series and it gets even better. I would recommend this one to anyone interested the Punisher, violently savage and uncompromising noir, Bronson’s Deathwish, or any of Ennis’s other work. If you fit into any of those categories, look it up.

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About Lono

I spend most of my time thinking about comics, tattoos, guns, beer, comics, my kids, comics, my wife, bourbon, samurai, comics, boobs, and English Bulldogs. And very rarely, if ever, think about work. I’m the less literate, rarely appropriate, knuckle-dragger of the bunch. I’ll make any excuse to hang out with my Shallow Reading pals, nerding out about comics, and avoiding responsibility at all costs. Only my name has been changed to protect the justifiably embarrassed. For completely un-waxed full frontal nudity, hit me up over at Goodreads.

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