Do you ever get the feeling you’re reading something that was intended for another purpose? That’s certainly what “Punisher MAX: Get Castle” will evoke more than anything else. Only in this case, it’s hard to not ignore the nagging feeling that “Get Castle” was intended for a regular issue of the old “Punisher MAX” comic, and now that it’s replaced with Jason Aaron’s “Punishermax” series, we’re seeing Marvel burn off old inventory.
It doesn’t help matters that this is a story that tries to do too many things at once while succeeding at none of them. It’s got the foreign landscape of Wales, but this could have just as easily been set in Montana, or Kansas, or Florida. It shows an amazing lack of anything that uses its different backdrop, which is a disappointment right out of the gate. It also tries to act as a follow-up to the death of a character at the hands of Barracuda during Garth Ennis’s run, but once again it doesn’t particularly need to be. Referencing Ennis’ stories about Barracuda feels like a bad tactic here; even though they were probably Ennis’s weakest under the “Punisher MAX” title, it’s a reminder of how much better Ennis’s scripts were. And last but not least, there’s the Punisher’s worry that he’s getting soft, but even that follow-through seems remarkably lacking. It feels like it’s nothing more than a set-up for the final sentence of the comic, but it’s just unceremoniously dropped at the feet of the reader like an unwanted toy.
The one bright side is Laurence Campbell’s art, which looks grim and ragged without being overly so. His work reminds me of some early Tommy Lee Edwards pencils, with their deliberately rough edges and an overall realistic look. Campbell’s been turning into the general go-to guy for dark artwork, and while the script he’s been given here isn’t anything special, Campbell certainly does his best to make it look its best.
“Punisher MAX: Get Castle” is lacking just about everything that’s needed for a good Punisher story. There’s no wit, no cleverness, no real understanding about the character. All we end up with is violence, but that’s something that needs to be a result of the other missing elements, not a substitution. Especially now that Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon are doing a sharp job with “Punishermax,” there really was no need for this