Punisher Max: The Complete Collection Volume Five

Punisher Max: The Complete Collection Volume Five
Punisher Max the Complete Collection Volume Five review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 978-1-3029-0274-2
  • Volume No.: 5
  • Release date: 2017
  • UPC: 9781302902742
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Action Thriller, Crime

With this fifth Complete Collection of Punisher Max the series moves beyond the Garth Ennis stories, and he proves a very hard act to follow. The bulk of this collection is three multi-chapter outings written by Gregg Hurwitz, Duane Swierczynski and Victor Gischler respectively, each also supplying a shorter, self-contained piece, while self-contained stories from other writers also appear.

Collections titled Girls in White Dresses, Six Hours to Kill and Welcome to the Bayou supply the longer stories. Follow the links for more detailed reviews, but they each take a different tone. Gischler goes for comedy excess in removing Frank Castle from his comfort zone and depositing him in the bayou, while Hurwitz and Laurence Campbell’s horrific story about women being abducted in Mexico, then returned murdered stirs anger, but is patchy. Swierczynski and Michel Lacombe’s outing is a step above, having the Punisher captured, injected with poison that will kill him in six hours and told he’ll get the antidote if he kills someone. Lacombe turns to cartoon exaggeration at the wrong moments, but it’s otherwise a thriller.

The volume begins with Benson’s look at the final hours of a career criminal, a fractured tale greatly improved by Campbell’s dark and atmospheric art, each panel drawn as if illuminated by a lighting bolt or camera flash (sample art). It’s dependent on fear, and the Punisher’s reputation inducing paranoia, but the question becomes how much is paranoia? The Punisher is only rarely seen, and only slightly more in the following Swierczynski and Lacombe’s tale of three criminals adrift at sea, also prioritising paranoia. Will they stick together in a desperate situation? Gischler and Jefté Palo return the darkness and feature more Punisher as he attempts to work his way toward a well protected career criminal.

Frank Castle’s transformation into the Punisher, or aspects deriving from it, feature in five seven-to-ten page stories ending the collection. Peter Milligan is the only writer not better known as a crime novelist and with Goran Parlov revisits the death of Frank Castle’s family, adding a literal poignant note. It’s a clever idea, but an ordinary story, and much the same applies to Charlie Huston and Ken Lashley’s introspective ‘The Smallest Bit of This’, and neither artist picks up on subtlety. The sense of loss is far better handled by Hurwitz and Das Pastoras who look at Frank’s recovery after his family’s death and first kill as the Punisher. It has room to breathe despite the brevity, and with several nice touches, the lipstick-stained half-full glass being one. Swierczynski and Tomm Coker’s ‘Ghoul’ is another interesting take on what made the Punisher, well conceived and played out, but the best of these shorts is the first. Tom Piccirilli and Campbell spotlight the Punisher about to pull the trigger interrupted by a young girl who’s become separated from her father. Suspenseful and unpredictable, it’s a highlight of the entire book.

Overall this is collection of okay stories with little standing out, but also little that’s going to turn off regular Punisher readers, and Campbell sets a mood extremely well. He also contributes heavily to Volume Six.