The Punisher has wiped out most of the mafia families bosses, and the new bosses are now afraid to make any type of real moves. They assemble in a meeting under Don Rigoletto, and he comes up with a plan to create the Kingpin of Crime, who prior to this was only a myth. He attempts to use his bodyguard Wilson Fisk as bait to draw the Punisher into a trap. But has Rigoletto bit off more than he can chew?
Frank Castle aka the Punisher managed to escape from Ryker's and make it back to the streets. However, Castle is at a huge disadvantage due to Bullseye learning the locations of each and every last safe house belonging to him. He delivers the locations to the Kingpin, and this causes the police to seize all of Frank's money and weapons. Frank is now homeless and doesn't even own a weapon now. Yet still, he has every intention on making one last push to finish off the Kingpin.-summary
Jason Aaron is no Garth Ennis when it comes down to handling the Punisher in Marvel's MAX line. I actually look at this as a good thing though, and for very good reasons. Aaron wraps up the PunisherMAX series with the fourth volume Homeless, and I have to say that the ending to this series is actually quite stronger here than in the original series. Unlike other series that happen to lose their focus at some point during the middle, or completely botches the ending; this is just not the case here with this incredible story. Frank Castle is indeed a man surrounded by tragedy and he goes out the way he should. This volume contains issues 17-22.
The plot sticks to its guns and follows Frank Castle as he begins what he believes to be his final run against the Kingpin. He's not at all worried about dying, in fact, he doesn't see it as a possibility. He's pretty much convinced that he's going to get the Kingpin and that's all there is to it. Castle finds himself in a city that fears the Kingpin more than it does him, and he's not happy about that at all. He begins from the ground up killing minor hoods and slowly rebuilding his arsenal. The Kingpin begins to lose respect all around him, because his headquarters has now become his prison. He hires another assassin under the organization called The Hand, a female ninja named Elektra who may not be as ruthless as Bullseye, but this doesn't make her any less dangerous. A third party enters the fray in the form of Kingpin's wife Vanessa, who seeks revenge against him for personal reasons. All of these plot threads come to a conclusion leaving nothing opened.
Even though Aaron injects a few flashbacks here and there at times to further character development, the story still moves at a great pace and remains straight forward. The storyline maintains focus and never really feels crowded. I remember my level of interest when I first heard that Ennis decided to set this story in real time, by having the Punisher age normally and sustain real life injuries. I thought this was a brilliant move and although he utilized this story element well, Aaron managed to pick up and run with it. In most stories like these, you know the good guy is going to somehow blast his way through the opposition, and you know it's going to happen here also. The thing is the criminals know that castle is a 65 year old man at his breaking point, and they show less fear towards him now. I thought the story was very well written when using this, because Castle's age effected his mobility and it showed in battles against Bullseye, Elektra, and Kingpin. And speaking of other characters, Elektra is well used as a plot device and that's about it. I really didn't see much depth with this character, and I honestly think the story would have rolled just fine without her despite the creative deaths scenes involving her. For the most part, I kind of feel she was cheaply tacked on just because.
Steve Dillon's artwork is truly amazing when displaying the carnage. The action panels are indeed very brutal with detailed deaths; such as blades to the head and brains blown out. I also like his attention to detail when using black lines for facial features. You can see the clear differences between the present day and younger Frank. His present self appears old, gritty, hard, and battle weary, where his younger self appears almost innocent. The art is easy on the eyes overall. Now in regards to the dialog, I feel it's still just as bland with way too many profanities hurled around without any rhyme or reason. It feels as if everyone is dropping the f-bomb only to say this is a mature comic. Some of these writers need to learn that forced cursing and sex aren't the only reasons to label something mature. If they're overused then they can very easily achieve the exact opposite. For me, this brings down the book a little more than what it should.
I can't say that this story is perfect though, because I do feel some of the violence and even a little of the sex were added only for shock value. These are minor gripes though, as I have no choice but to consider this entire run to be the definitive Punisher series. PunisherMAX to date is still the best take ever on the character, and I don't believe anything comes close. Ennis and Aaron out did themselves, and whoever decides to come along and try to reinvent the character next will have their work cut out for them. I really suggest beginning this story from the very beginning with Garth Ennis's story starting with Punisher: Born and then working your way up. This is easily among my favorite comic book series, and if you enjoy loads of brutal action followed by outstanding character development. Then you won't be disappointed with this series.
-Very strong final act, loads of acton, ending
-Some things feel added just because
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