Essential Punisher Vol. 3

Essential Punisher Vol. 3

First Published: February 2009

Contents: The Punisher #21 (July 1989) to #40 (Early October 1990); The Punisher Annual #2 (1989) and #3 (1990)

Key Creator Credits: Mike Baron, Erik Larsen, Bill Reinhold, Mark Texeira, Russ Heath, Mark Farmer, and others

Key First Appearances: Saracen, Shadowmasters (Shigeru Ezaki, Yuriko Ezaki, Sojin Ezaki, Philip Richards, Katherine Yakamoto)

Story Continues From: Essential Punisher Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Punisher Vol. 4

Overview: When mobsters slew his family, Frank Castle vowed to spend the rest of his life avenging them. Trained as a soldier, and equipped with a state-of-the-art arsenal, he now wages a one-man war on crime! This is Essential Punisher Vol. 3 – get comfortable, as this is going to be a wild ride!

Writer Mike Baron continues the same basic formula that we saw in the previous volume. The stories run in small arcs, generally one or two issues at a time. We do see some characters re-occur from time to time. A villain introduced in the last collection, the Rev, resurfaces in Central America later in this volume. In that same story arc, we also get the return of Jigsaw, who still holds a grudge against Frank for the damage done to his face. As we saw last time, the Punisher is still partnered with his tech-whiz Microchip, but we see over the run that they may no longer be working towards the same goals.

During this era, the Punisher continued to grow in popularity, and we start to see that impacting his comic as he crosses over more and more into the Marvel Universe. Most obvious, as we see it on the cover, the Punisher gets caught up in the Acts of Vengeance storyline. That was the story where the villains unite under Loki, and swap the traditional heroes that they go up against. So to change things up, we see the Punisher traveling to Latvia to face off against Dr. Doom. Yeah, it is just as crazy as it sounds.

What makes this Essential?: Honestly, I am completely indifferent regarding my opinion on this book. I don’t think that I can recommend this unless you are a true fan of the Punisher. Conversely, I didn’t hate this collection, or struggle with trying to finish the book due to the stories. (My only struggle was finding time to read the book, as life got a little busy while trying to finish it.)

We do start to see the Punisher’s growing popularity in comics, as Mike Baron was directed/forced to incorporate ongoing Marvel events into the Punisher book, like Acts of Vengeance. He also gets into a multi-issue skirmish with the Reavers, who have been a traditional foe of the X-Men.

For the final story arc in this collection, The Punisher was one of many titles that switched to twice-a-month shipping during the summer months, giving readers two books per month. So the six-issue story arc was published over a three-month window.

Footnotes: The Punisher Annual #2 was one of the 15 Marvel annuals from 1989 linked together in a story arc titled “Atlantis Attacks.” For this Essential, the Punisher stories are included from the annual, but the Atlantis Attacks story is not reprinted here.

The Punisher Annual #3 was Part One of the “Lifeform” story arc. The other parts were in Daredevil Annual #6, Incredible Hulk Annual #16, and Silver Surfer Annual #4.

If you like this volume, try: the Punisher books from Garth Ennis. Over the last 15 years, Ennis has become the definitive Punisher writer, scripting various runs under the Marvel Knights and Marvel MAX line of books. Often working with artist Steve Dillon, Ennis has kept the Punisher as a current and relevant character in a post 9/11 world. While there are numerous trades and hardbacks collecting these runs, I would suggest tracking down the Punisher by Garth Ennis Omnibus that Marvel released in 2008. This collects Ennis’ work between 2000 and 2004 with the Punisher.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 3

Essential Wolverine Vol. 3

First Published: June 1998

Contents: Wolverine #48 (November 1991) to #69 (May 1993)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Marc Silvestri, Mark Texeira, and others

Key First Appearances: Team X, Mastodon, John Wraith, Psi-Borg

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

Overview: Pop open a cold brewski, light a cigar, and sit back to enjoy the latest collection of Wolverine stories from the early 1990s. But drink and smoke in moderation, because I’m willing to bet you do not have a mutant healing factor to offset the vices.

Kicking off this volume, Wolverine enlists the X-Men’s help as he struggles to put the pieces together of his mysterious past. Following the events of Weapon X, Wolverine encounters former members of Team X, as he realized that he was not the only person who was experimented on.

Next up is a time-traveling adventure that brings Logan and Mystique together to stop Mojo. Parts of this story will remain a mystery until it is revisited by Larry Hama later on in his run, which will be collected in Essential Wolverine Vol. 4.

Wolverine finds himself going to Japan to bail out Jubilee. This leads to an encounter with his beloved Mariko, whose life comes to a tragic end during a battle with the Hand. The loss of Mariko sends Wolverine spiraling downward in a depression trying to deal with her death.

Strangely, this volume ends with issue #69, which started a three-issue story involving Rogue and Sauron in the Savage Land. If you were only reading Wolverine by Essential volumes, you were forced to wait eight years to read the conclusion of that story (see Footnotes).

What makes this Essential?: This is an interesting collection, as the comics cover all the variations of the typical Wolverine tale – stories involving the X-Men; time-travel stories; Wolverine in Japan; fights with Sabertooth; and the occasional filler issue featuring the rising star character, such as Shatterstar. So this is a good example of a lot of the different stories that can be told with Logan. My concern with this volume, as with the previous Essential, is that most of these stories are not memorable. I struggle to write a review for this, as I am not recalling these stories. This is a case where the character justifies the volume, but not necessarily the stories contained within the Essential. 

Footnotes: Once again, the cover spells Silvestri’s first name with a K (Mark), but it should be spelled with a C (Marc).

Because of the number of double-page spreads, the covers to some stories appear at the end of the story to minimize the number of blank pages in the book. Unfortunately, this meant some issues ended and the next started up without the reader noticing until the next set of issue credits comes up. For example, with the final four issues in this volume, it runs: Cover to #66, Issue #66; Issue #67; Cover to #67; Issue #68; Cover to #68; Cover to #69; and Issue #69.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 3 was released in June of 1998, but Essential Wolverine Vol. 4 was not released until May of 2006. During the long gap, Marvel reprinted Volumes 1-3 multiple times, as the cover format was updated in the early 2000s.

If you like this volume, try: the Weapon X story, if you have not read it already. And shame on you if you haven’t read this! The story originally ran in Marvel Comics Presents as a 13-part story. It has been collected multiple times in multiple formats, so it should not be hard to find. Written and exquisitely drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith, we finally learn how Logan received the adamantium in his skeleton. As many questions as this story answered, it also introduced even more questions into the back story of Wolverine. The initial story arc in this Essential serves as a sequel to the Weapon X story, as Wolverine meets up with other participants from the Weapon X complex.