In honor of the Punisher debuting on Daredevil’s Netflix series tomorrow, we’re counting down your picks for the forty greatest Punisher stories.
You all voted, now here are the latest results of what you chose as the 40 Greatest Punisher Stories!
WARNING: Some of these comics spotlighted were originally rated “explicit content,” so there is some “explicit content” here. Occasional profanity mostly.
Here’s #15-6! Enjoy!
15. “In the Beginning” (The Punisher Vol.6 #1-6)
This was the first arc in Garth Ennis’ revamped Punisher MAX series. This was one of the very rare occasions where the then-current writer on the series, Garth Ennis, was the one to reboot/revamp the series to take it dramatically away from what the then-current writer was doing. The previous series had gotten too comedic, so Ennis stopped and rebooted with this violent, yet studied, look at the Punisher. He also began to tie the Punisher in with military and CIA operations. The opening story finds the Punisher captured by the CIA and finds out his old friend, Microchip, is part of the group that wants to recruit Frank as an assassin for the government. It gets pretty rough between the two old friends…
Lewis Larosa and Tom Palmer did the artwork.
The problem is that the mob wants Punisher dead (more so than even normal) for an attack he made early in the storyline, so it is the mob versus the CIA over Frank Castle’s life. This springboarded into plots that would reverberate throughout the series.
14. “War Zone” Punisher War Zone #1-6
I have no idea what to call this storyline. The gist is that Chuck Dixon, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson put together this opening storyline in the Punisher’s THIRD ongoing title at the time, to show the Punisher infiltrating the mob as a mob enforcer who wipes out the opposition and then does “friendly fire” to slowly tear down the mob he is currently working for, as well. Of course, there’s always a catch. Here, there are two – one, Punisher might be falling for the daughter of the main boss and two, there’s this nutjob mercenary named Shotgun (brought over from Romita’s time on Daredevil) who is getting involved, as well.
The whole thing ends up with Punisher and Outlaw killing an entire island.
13. “Return to Big Nothing” (Punisher: Return to Big Nothing)
The creative team of the original Punisher mini-series, Steven Grant, Mike Zeck and John Beatty reunite for this story of the Punisher taking on an old comrade of his from Vietnam, a jerky guy who referred to Frank as “Big Nothing.” Now this guy is involved in all sorts of illegal activities and Punisher is here to take him down. He takes down some of his men at a brothel (after first enjoying a night with a prostitute)…
12. “Valley Forge, Valley Forge” (Punisher Vol.6 #55-60)
In this brilliant conclusion to his run, Garth Ennis (along with artist Goran Parlov) tells the main story of a group of soldiers trying to take the Punisher down. They are sent by a group of Army and Air Force generals who want Frank Castle dead due to his actions earlier in the series, but they don’t know that their bosses are corrupt. This is intersected throughout by a fictional book about an incident during the Vietnam War where Frank Castle was the only survivor of a massacre. Ennis had earlier theorized that this was the moment that Castle became the Punisher…
Well-paced, with a group of extremely well-actualized new characters (Ennis is SO good at introducing new characters quickly and making you care about them), this was a fine farewell.
11. “Up is Down and Black is White” (Punisher Vol.6 #19-24)
In this arc, drawn by Leandro Fernandez and Scott Hanna, the twisted gangster Nick Cavella, decies to declare war on the Punisher, and using information from the operative Rawins (who we first met in the previous arc on the book), Cavella plays REALLY dirty, we’re talking disinterring Frank’s family just to violate their corpses on video. The whole thing naturally drives Castle insane, and we see a quick glimpse of what the dreams of an angry Punisher look like…
Ennis’ Punisher stories are famously disturbing, but this arc might possibly be the most disturbing arc in the entire series.
10. “Kitchen Irish” (Punisher Vol.6 #7-11)
Written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Leandro Fernandez, this storyline involves a group of Irish gangs going to war with each other in Hell’s Kitchen, while Punisher is enlisted by a member of MI-6 to hunt down one of the men involved in the gang war, a bomb expert named Finn Cooley, who has a horribly disfigured face due to a bomb accident.
As always, the highlight of the story is how well-developed all the various ancillary characters are. Everyone is a person of depth, even if they don’t play a major role in the story. Ennis has a way of actualizing ALL of his characters. He then takes these actualized characters and throws them into crazy and violent scenarios, but damned if they aren’t all well-thought-out, believable characters – just characters stuck in outlandish situations. Like here, Cooley and his friends discuss Irish-Americans. Just a normal discussion involving a dude with half a face, right before another dude in a giant skull shirt comes in to kill everyone.
9. “Mother Russia” (Punisher Vol.6 #13-18)
While the initial arc in the series really set everything up, the third arc perhaps had the most impact on all the various plots in the series, as here Punisher is sent by Nick Fury into Russia to rescue a little girl who has been pumped with a deadly virus that she is immune to. The mission was designed by a group of Army and Air Force generals. However, during the mission, they double cross Castle while he is behind enemy lines. The rest of the series, much of the action will be derived from the Generals constantly trying to take Punisher down because they fear him after this arc.
Dougie Braithwaite and Bill Reinhold do the art for this story…
It’s always fun to see Punisher involved in some spy stuff. You wouldn’t want it as a regular thing, but occasionally it stands out.
In this one-shot by Garth Ennis, Lewis Larosa and Scoot Koblish, the Punisher allows himself to be arrested and sent to prison. While there, he slowly begins to turn the prisoners against each other, until it boils over into a widespread prison riot. His goal is clear – he wants to access one of the high-ranking mob members who are holed up in the prison. But who? And why? The prisoners don’t even know themselves, which leads to a brilliantly disturbing riff on the Canterbury Tales, as each gangster comes up with their theory as to why the Punisher would be there for him…
Of course, when the Punisher gets there, the truth is revealed.
This is one bleak comic book.
7. “Barracuda” (Punisher Vol.6 #31-36)
The character that Garth Ennis will probably be best known for introducing in his Punisher series is the mercenary Barracuda, who is an over-the-top man mountain who has a bizarre personality and a penchant for profanity.
Barracuda was so popular that Ennis and his artist (and Barracuda co-creator) Goran Parlov did a Barracuda mini-series. It is kind of insane.
6. “The End” (Punisher: The End #1)
Garth Ennis and Richard Corben tell the story of the end of the world, as a nuclear war has killed most of the Earth’s population. However, while in prison, the Punisher learned of a bunker where, in effect, the people who control the world live. So the Punisher and a friend of his from prison set off to hunt them down, even as they are both slowly dying from radiation exposure…
All in all, it is a fitting farewell to the Punisher with great Corben artwork.
Okay, folks, tomorrow is the top five! What story will be #1? Find out tomorrow!