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.-summary Previous Volume
Punisher MAX Volume 1 (Volume 1 - In the Beginning, Volume 2 - Kitchen Irish)
Punisher MAX Volume 2 (Volume 3 - Mother Russia, Volume 4 - Up is Down and Black is White):
The Punisher is on the trail of a recently released mob boss with intentions on putting him under. After the attack he's contacted by Nick Fury, whom wants to send him on a mission to Russia. The mission is being backed by several US military top ranking officers, and they order one of their Delta Force operatives to tag along with Punisher. During the mission, they soon find themselves up against heavy resistance. -summary
Garth Ennis brings the pain with this second collection of Punisher MAX stories, and you can tell he had a ball putting these together. I really loved Marvel's MAX line of Punisher stories because it feels as if this is the way he should have always been written. The world Frank Castle lives in is indeed a dark one, and there's just no place for the spandex wearing superhero types. This is down and gritty, edgy, storytelling here that comes with a mature readers label that is well deserved. This TPB collects two more stories containing Punisher MAX 13 - 24.
The book begins with the six part story Mother Russia.
Punisher and Delta Force agent Vanheim, are sent to rescue a six year old girl, whose bloodstream is filled with a deadly virus for chemical warfare. She also has the antidote in her bloodstream, which makes retrieving her at the soonest possible time very important. This story is gripping once it catches stride, and it was even more amazing during its original run, because it really felt like Castle was not getting out of this one. The way he pulls off his escape has to be seen. This story is very entertaining taking place post 9/11, and I believe Ennis is saying something about the shadiness behind the scenes in regards to our government. And when I take under consideration my own personal views, I kind of feel he's echoing my own thoughts. The action is bloody carnage bliss, with loads of gun fire and Punisher erasing enemies without the slightest bit of mercy. The man is a demon in battle.
The second story which takes up the remainder of the book, Up is Down and Black is White
, is the sequel to the first book In the Beginning
. The mafia boss Nicky Cavella returns with a vengeance. Nicky believes that he knows how to get to the Punisher. He desecrates Frank's family grave site and video tapes it for everyone to see. This drives the Punisher berserk, as he greatly steps up his campaign of slaughter by killing nearly 60 criminals over 3 days, claiming it's only going to get worse if the city doesn't re-bury his family. This is the Punisher like he's never been before.
Ennis's storytelling is incredible here mainly because he doesn't forget that castle is still just a man. Physically and emotionally he can be hurt and even defeated. The inner dialog is what brings out the story further; the reader will be able to get inside of Castle's head, and even he realizes that he's walking into a trap. He's completely consumed by rage and ignores the hazards which makes him vulnerable. These are some of the things that makes the story so interesting, because it feels like Frank is not going to make it. Cavella is developed well; his origin was only hinted at in the very beginning. In this story it's all wrapped up.
Doug Braithwaite and Leandro Fernandez turn in some amazing artwork. The backgrounds and setting fit the dark content of the stories. The action panels are vicious, with Punisher ripping people to pieces with anti-aircraft firearms, along with barbaric hand to hand encounters with dialog free panels. The weapons are well drawn, and someone familiar with firearms will be able to make them all out. The violence is not for the weak belly, as you will see guts blown out of backs, and brains leaking on the ground. This is an action fans wet dream.
Punisher MAX is an excellent collection of stories, with the second one being hailed by some as the best Punisher story ever written. I'm not too sure if I can argue that one. The only flaw I can think of would be maybe one segment being completely unnecessary, other than that, this is a well polished book that also stands well on its own, plus it doesn't end on a cliffhanger. I still recommend backtracking to the first volume though, because like this one, that book is also amazing. Pros:
-Excellent from start to finish
-Will not appeal to the easily offended at all