Comics You Should Be Reading: PunisherMax
Author: Jason Aaron
Art: Steve Dillon
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
PunisherMax is set in a different universe than the regular, superhero filled 616 Marvel Universe. The Max line of Marvel comics shows a lot more cursing, blood, and general “adult” content than the regular Marvel Universe. That lets Jason Aaron give us his own take on Punisher, AKA Frank Castle, and his villains. Some people don’t like comic books that aren’t part of the “real” universe or that “don’t count.” Please don’t let that stop you from reading PunisherMax. The current story arc in PunisherMax has one of the most interesting characters I have ever experienced in comics or any medium.
While Punisher might be the title character, it’s Bullseye that is the star of the current story arc of PunisherMax. Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin, realizes that Frank Castle is going to eventually kill him no matter what defenses he has. Punisher is relentless and it will only be a matter of time. Fisk decides to go on the offensive and hires an assassin, Bullseye, who has never failed to kill his target. If Fisk knew what he was unleashing on New York, I highly doubt he would have hired Bullseye at all.
Bullseye starts his job right away. He decides that the only way to kill someone like Frank Castle is to become them. He finds more of Frank Castle’s safe houses. He gets a corrupt police detective to show him every place that the Punisher has killed someone. Bullseyes wants to eat, sleep and breathe Frank Castle. Eventually though that isn’t enough and readers see just how twisted this character really is.
Bullseye decides that to really become Frank Castle he has to understand what turned him into the Punisher. If you don’t know the Punisher’s back story, Frank Castle’s family was killed right in front of him. They were having a picnic and were suddenly caught in the crossfire of a mob gun fight. Castle was powerless to stop it. The legal system did nothing to punish the people responsible for the murders. Driven by rage and guilt, Frank Castle dedicated his life to killing the scum of New York City and became the Punisher.
Bullseye wants to feel how Frank did on that day. He finds a happy little family. Mom, Dad and two kids just like Frank had. He kills the dad and takes the rest of the family hostage, tying them up. He lives with them for a little while, acting as if he is the father of the family and nothing is wrong. Then one morning he decides to take them on a picnic… You can see where this is heading. Too bad that with that first family it didn’t work and he had to try a few more times.
It is one of the most twisted and sickening things I have ever read in a comic book. I was horrified and fascinated with Bullseye all at the same time. What heightens Bullseye from a simple psychopathic killer into a fascinating character is his personality and attitude during all of this. While he is trying to become Frank Castle he looks and acts like an excited kid about to meet his favorite football player. When he is with the families he is about to kill he acts like a loving father getting ready for a picnic. The first time he is face to face with Punisher (with bulletproof glass between them) he is nothing but smiles. He tells Punisher what an honor it is to be hunting him and even tries to guess what his favorite color is. His extremely twisted actions mixed with his almost childlike personality make me look forward to reading this character whenever the book comes out.
An equally fascinating moment comes when Bullseye talks to another character who has decided that they want to kill someone. Bullseye tells them that they should just forget it and goes into the horror that their life would become and the torture they would put themselves through after taking another human life. This person, who has killed countless innocents, gives a powerful speech about the consequences of murder. It also shows how quickly he can go from his carefree attitude into a serious and scary mood. When he wants to be frightening he does so expertly.
While Bullseye is the star, each character is interesting and fun to read. Punisher’s relentless personality and willingness to cross the line grows every issue. Wilson Fisk’s paranoia is growing and growing. He didn’t plan on his assassin murdering random families. The book is just fantastic.
The story arc isn’t over yet and I cannot wait to see what the ending will be. A showdown between Punisher and Bullseye has been building through each issue and when it finally happens it is going to be epic.
Best Scene: Tied between Bulleye throwing a toothpick at his terrified target, only to have it hit his neck and fall harmlessly to the floor (following which Bullseye pulls out a gun to really do the job) and Punisher putting a shotgun in a very dark place while interrogating a police officer working for Fisk.
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Pictures via Marvel