Punishermax follows both Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin and Frank Castle, the Punisher. We learn the origin story of Kingpin and his rise to power, while we also see the Punisher chase after him. The Punisher has methodically and brutally brought down most of the mafia and feeling backed into a corner the bosses put together their final plan to take him down. The myth of a Kingpin controlling everything has always existed and the dons decide to make it a reality. They try to set up the illusion of the Kingpin coming to town, hoping to temporarily take the heat off themselves. They have hired a killer that they believe can finally kill the Punisher for them, but unknown to them the man they are setting up as the Kingpin is in turn setting them up.
This book is a perfect starting point for anyone looking to get into the Punisher. Jason Aaron, the man behind Scalped, is no stranger to crime books and he pulls no punches here. We see Wilson Fisk before he becomes the man known as the Kingpin, a man who has suffered and his method of persevering through life’s problems have left him a twisted individual. The same can be said for the Punisher and Aaron shows how both the Kingpin and Punisher are different sides of the same coin. They are both driven men, who believe they are selfless and who will do anything to accomplish their dreams. The big difference is that the Punisher is a man who has nothing to live for but his goals, while Fisk has a wife and son. The Punisher is aiming to eternally avenge his family, while Fisk is aiming to make sure his family never has to suffer as he did.
Aaron captures everyone’s voice perfectly, and while we should be cheering for the Punisher, one can’t help but feel that we take his side by default. The Kingpin is just as sympathetic a character and the picture painted of him is of a man only trying to do right by his family. Unfortunately his way of accomplishing that is by stepping on everyone else. Luckily for us “everyone else” in this book, means killers, mobsters, and gangsters. We can’t feel bad for any “victims” as no one seems to deserve mercy in this book and whether it’s the Punisher or Kingpin killing people, their deaths all seem justified. The battle of wits as Kingpin makes everyone, the Punisher included, dance to his tune is great to read.
There is a reason Steve Dillon has been such a fan favorite on Punisher for so many years, and that is because he knows how to draw bloodshed. His characters, while sometimes looking very similar, have a very odd realism to them. The choice of what we see and what happens off panel really lets our imagination run wild. Unlike most comics that move the worst off-panel, Dillon makes sure to give us a front row seat to some of the insanity that goes on. There is a particularly long fight, between the Punisher and an assassin called Mennonite, that just made me cringe yet kept me glued to the page. We can hear the bones break and feel the pain as we see characters go at it. Like a fighter, Dillon knows when to pull back and when to get in close. Hopefully he keeps going, as this book would not be the same without him.
Revenge and vigilantism as its best, this Punisher should satisfy most fans of the character. Aaron and Ennis create a strong enough story to keep us interested, yet don’t tone the action down at all. We’re treated to many a head shot, several punches, multiple stabbings and buckets of blood. For new and old fans alike, this book is a real treat for any lovers of the genre.