Frank Castle aka the Punisher is at war with the criminal element. He blames criminals in general for his family being gunned down. Now armed with his military training, vast arsenal, and determination, he takes the battle to those who he deems worthy of being punished. No prisoners will be taken.
Punisher Max Volume 10 - Valley Forge, Valley Forge:
The Punisher survived his final confrontation with Barracuda, by putting an axe in his chest and then blowing half his head off. Although Barracuda did have a reason for going after him, Punisher figures out that he was indeed tipped off. The Punisher must confront an enemy who knows his weakness, as well as possess extraordinary resources. -summary
When Marvel handed Garth Ennis the keys to the Punisher and gave him full creative freedom to work within the Marvel Max line. It may have been the best move the company ever made. Punisher MAX is no doubt among the best, or quite possibly the best series to come around in years. Ennis caps off his magnificent run with the six part series Valley Forge, Valley Forge, which can be considered a sequel to both Punisher MAX: Born and Punisher MAX: Mother Russia. The story heavily references Frank Castle's time in Vietnam, in which this is the place where the Punisher was born. An entity that is nothing more than the result of a terrible war that should have never happened. This final volume of Garth Ennis' run collects issues 55 - 60.
The plot begins when Barracuda's benefactors are revealed, and they happen to be the same generals who sent the Punisher into Russia to either retrieve or kill a six year old girl in the story Mother Russia. When The Punisher refused to take her life, as well as allow the generals to lay a finger on her, he became their enemy for life. The Punisher has some serious dirt on them in the form of a video tape confession he viciously beat out of Rawlings; the information on the tape is very important to the generals, so important they pull strings to send a Delta Unit after Punisher, since they know he will not fire on soldiers or police officers.
I will go ahead and say that I think this is the best story in the series. Ennis proves that he can tell an outstanding story without over the top violence, as he relies on character development and gripping storytelling to carry the narrative. He examines several themes as usual, with greed, power, and patriotism at the forefront. The reader will learn that although the Punisher's methods are highly questionable, in the eyes of many, he's nothing but a brutal murderer, he is still a symbol of justice and he can never be corrupted by the machine. He proudly proclaims that he doesn't care about dying, but his current targets will be punished in some way. There's a secondary story that takes place with a character named Michael Goodwin. He wrote a book on the Punisher's unit who were held up at a base named Firebase Valley Forge, his brother was also a part of that unit. This was covered in Punisher: Born in great detail and it pretty much covers several more details on what may have birthed the Punisher. Could it have been the horrors Frank witnessed? Or even something more sinister that can make the Devil himself seem tiny in comparison? In any case, it made a suitable book end on his origin until Jason Aaron would later write PunisherMAX: Frank.
Some people may think that the secondary story and even some of the flashbacks are unnecessary and even harmful to the pacing. I will quickly disagree though and argue that these people are spoiled by the over the top action found in the previous volumes. Ennis makes some very damn good points about the Vietnam war and its outcome, and quickly points to the behind the scene politics as the biggest offender. This part also develops the overall story in many ways. It's brilliant how Ennis pulls these elements together into a cohesive unit. This story doesn't read as straight-forward as any of the previous volumes, which is why I can understand some people being put off.
There are action segments present though, so don't get it twisted and think the book is nothing more than a preach-fest. The Punisher mixes it up very well with the Delta Force Unit in some believable action. It's nowhere near gory as previous shoot outs and beatings, but it would be crazy to say that they're not creative or even entertaining.
When it comes down to Goran Parlov's artwork for this series, I may be his harshest critic. And once again, I will point out that his artwork has moments where it does not fit in the universe of Marvel Max, at least not in Punisher or Nick Fury. I find some of his facial designs to be too exaggerated which reminds me of Japanese manga and anime, only on a smaller scale. While other moments it feels right. For the most part, I'm still stuck in between on whether it hurts the narrative. Probably it's because Ennis wrote the story so well it's hard for me to be effected by it. Anyway, I would've preferred the finale to be capped off by either Lee Fernandez or Lan Medina. I will give him credit and say the gore is well done, and the action panels are good. I will also mention Ennis dialog is well written and intelligent, and it's definitely at its best in this volume.
Garth Ennis redefined the Punisher with these 60 issues, and he's the reason why the Punisher is sitting in my top five of favorite superheroes of all time. He's a dark character that was always miles away from the long underwear types, and the Punisher MAX line only solidifies this. Unfortunately, this run was so damn good that it set the bar so high, that almost everything to come afterwards felt inferior in comparison. Writers such as Duane Swierczynski, Gregg Hurwitz, and several others felt like they were completely out of their element. Only Jason Aaron was able to fill Ennis shoes and even he some times walked with a limp. I highly recommend Punisher MAX to anyone who enjoys reading comics, but keep in mind, these books are not for the weak of stomach; the content is indeed grim and the violence is extreme. The stories deal with very dark themes such as human trafficking, forced prostitution, killing of infants, only to name some. If you come into these books knowing these things and later complain about them, well, I really don't know what to say.
Pros: -Very solid finale to Ennis run
Cons: -Parlov's artwork may be off putting to some
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Serious gamer and hardcore comic reader.
Currently in my Nintendo Wii U:
Currently … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.