Punisher Max

A Comprehensive Review (Spoilers)

“The Punisher” (2004), Published by MAX Comics and Marvel Comics, created by Garth Ennis


“The Punisher” (2004), Published by MAX Comics and Marvel Comics, created by Garth Ennis

Lucas Herrera, Staff Writer

The 2004 run of the Punisher with Garth Ennis at the helm is probably the most iconic and memorable run of the Punisher ever.

The run details the origin of Castle all the way to his demise at the hand of a criminal empire headed by the Kingpin. 

Being new to comics, this Punisher run set the bar very high for me in terms of storytelling and action scenes, having a pointed focus on Frank Castle (The Punisher) while also developing interesting villains and side characters, such as Barracuda.

Barracuda is a villain in the 2004 run, he is a gun for hire who crosses paths with Castle multiple times, he even gets his own solo story where he helps topple the regime of San Morricone while guarding the hemophiliac son of a mob boss. Frank ends up killing Barracuda with a fire ax in a tense fight involving a baby hostage, a booby trapped car seat, and a lot of bullets. That intense lethality didn’t come out of nowhere however, Punisher Max also details Castle’s dive into the madness that is his crusade against crime. 

Castle’s origin story is my personal favorite, it takes the reader to the end of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a soldier in a squad that is led by Castle. The soldiers under Castle are tired of the war and ready to go home as other firebases pack up and head back to America, but Frank needs war, he craves it, setting up ambushes and hunting down Vietcong is where he is most comfortable. It gives us an insight into Castle’s mind and shows us that he already was the Punisher long before he put the skull on. 

One of the best parts of the Punisher Max run is that it gives the reader a proper conclusion to Castle’s character. It gives the run a proper sense of completion and satisfaction once it’s over.

Castle’s end is as action packed as his beginning, as he takes on Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin as well as the assassins Bullseye and Elektra, hired by Fisk to kill Castle. Along with Nick Fury, these characters are the only other Marvel characters to appear on screen with Castle. The takes on these characters are uniquely dark, which fits the MAX aesthetic. The death of Castle is a rare moment where it is somber and silent, which makes its impact on the reader much larger.

The 2004 Punisher Max run is the best depiction of the character and one of the best runs of any hero in comic history. I definitely recommend it to readers looking for a more grounded and edgy take on the superhero genre as a whole.