Written By Jake Garner
Every Marvel Comic’s fan knows the Punisher as that one character that, over all others, really teeters on that very special ‘super-hero’ periphery. One thing the Punisher does above all others is kill. Frank Castle, aka ‘The Punisher’, kills like it’s going out of fashion quicker than a pair of crocs shoes. Nonetheless, pushing the whole mass murder thing to one side, the majority of Punisher fans will inevitably find themselves rooting for the ex-soldier as he takes on the criminal underworld of New York City.
On first impressions, Franky boy might come across as a complete case of the nuts, but for those that have stuck with him throughout the years, right from his early 70s first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #129, we know and understand the motives behind his ‘punishing ways’. No, this isn’t a punishing spank across the palms with a length of cane, this is a full arse-load full of lead, and that’s just for starters. On what seemed like an average day in the park with his family, this war veteran soon vowed to forever wage a war against the criminal underworld when his family were accidentally slaughtered in a bodged-up mob hit. In a nut shell, crime only pays in New York City until you find yourself looking down the end of one of the Punisher’s many barrels.
Now, personally speaking here (not as die-hard Punisher fan or anything), there has never been a disappointing Punisher series, including the various ‘Journals’ and ‘War-Zones’. I mean sure, there have been a few less favourable issues here and there, but as far as standalone character series go, the Punisher’s tend to be mighty awesome. Perhaps more than any other series, and only by a smidgen, the Punisher’s twelve part series that started in 2000 remains one of his most brilliant to date. As part of Marvel’s ‘Marvel Knights Imprint’ range, this series of Punisher is known by fans as The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank. It was written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Steve Dillon. What? Written by Ennis and illustrated by Dillon? Nah, you must be pulling my leg, surely? Not so, believe it, the very same duo that brought us Vertigo Comic’s Preacher.
What Ennis and Dillon have done in this limited series of Punisher is to pack everything Preacher had to offer in one hell of a suitcase and send it up from Annville to New York City, by means of first class delivery of course. The writing style provided by Ennis is of a similar tone to that of Jesse Custer, in fact I would go as far to say that Frank and Jesse were separated at birth. Please don’t take this as a criticism though, I mean it in the best way possible, it rocks!
Alongside this awesome use of gritty dialogue within the comic is of course the artwork of Dillon. The two stories, both Punisher and Preacher could coexist within the very same book itself! The similarities between the two are uncanny, but no need to call in the X-Men here, relish in its delights. Yes, I admit it, it sounds like I am maybe a little excited over this Punisher series. Ultimately, if you are a fan of Preacher (I mean who isn’t, really, you would have to be blind not to be, or just have really bad taste) then I wholly recommend looking into it. On the other hand, if you have read this stretch of Punisher but not Preacher, then equally, give that a bash too. Comic book satisfaction guaranteed, alongside plenty of blood.
One more thing I thought was worth a mention here is a lengthy rooftop scene between Murdock and Castle. Those of you who are familiar with the Netflix series DareDevil will know that Castle keeps the lawyer on his toes for the duration of Season Two. I can’t help but feel the writers extracted a decent amount of inspiration from Ennis and Dillon’s series. Again, as you will see, there is one scene in particular between Murdock and Castle that supports this theory unswervingly.