First Published: September 2007
Contents: The Punisher #1 (July 1987) to #20 (June 1989); The Punisher Annual #1 (1988); and Daredevil #257 (August 1988)
Key Creator Credits: Mike Baron, Klaus Janson, Whilce Portacio, and others
Key First Appearances: David Lieberman/Microchip, The Rev, George Wong
Story Continues From: Essential Punisher Vol. 1
Story Continues In: Essential Punisher Vol. 3
Overview: Following the success of his
four… er, five-issue mini-series, the Punisher moves into his own monthly book, the first of many series to come. For right now, let’s look at the first 20+ issues which Marvel has been so kind to collect for us in Essential Punisher Vol. 2.
Now, we all remember the horrific origin of the Punisher, and if you don’t remember, you will be reminded at least once per issue. Vietnam veteran Frank Castle is on a picnic in Central Park with his family. Unfortunately, warring mobs have a show down in the park, and Frank’s wife and children are killed in the crossfire. The enraged Frank Castle starts a one-man war against all forms of crime – drug dealers, mafia families, third world dictators, and jaywalkers, just to name a few.
While many of these stories are stand-alone, we get an ongoing narrative from issue to issue. We meet Microchip, the tech genius who outfits the Punisher’s Battle Van with armor, guns, and other wonderful toys. We also find that anyone else that aides the Punisher in his war on crime usually ends up on the wrong side of a bullet. Seriously, these people should be wearing Star Trek red shirts!
We are given a crossover with Daredevil, which tells the same story from the Punisher’s point of view as well as from Daredevil’s point of view – pun intended. While both characters agree that the thug should be punished, Daredevil wants to see the criminal be tried in the justice system, while Frank is willing to serve as judge, jury and executioner to expedite things along. In this instance, Daredevil prevails.
The final long story arc has Punisher working on the drug scene in a local high school, which he later finds out is being controlled by the Kingpin. That leads to the first of many encounters between the Kingpin and Punisher.
What makes this Essential?: I went into reading this volume expecting to hate it. However, I was surprisingly impressed by this book. While many of these stories are one-and-done, there is a ongoing narrative that ties it all together from start to finish. Mike Baron puts together some solid stories. The art is very good, from a modern master in Klaus Janson and a young Whilce Portacio whose career was just starting to explode. As much as I still dislike the concept of the Punisher, this is a decent volume. It should be a must-own collection for any fans of Frank Castle.
Footnotes: The Marvel annuals of 1988 were linked together in story arc titled “The Evolutionary War.” This was the first time Marvel ran an event exclusively in the annuals. For this Essential, the Punisher stories are included from the annual, but the High Evolutionary story is not reprinted here.
If you like this volume, try: looking into some of the other work from writer Mike Baron. This Essential collects the first 20 issues of the ongoing monthly comic, all written by Baron. In fact, Baron would write the title for over five years (along with a stretch on Punisher War Journal), finishing up with more than 80 Punisher stories. In addition to this work, he helped launch the Wally West Flash title at DC, following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Baron is probably most famously known for his work at Capitol Comics, where he wrote Nexus and The Badger. The Nexus issues has recently been collected in omnibus editions from Dark Horse Comics, so that would be a good place to start.