The last time an issue of “Punishermax” came out was July 28. It’s been a long wait as Steve Dillon handled the art for “Ultimate Comics Avengers 3” with Marvel allowing the book to slip from the schedule to ensure that Dillon could be the only one drawing it. It’s a move that was most definitely welcomed. The book continues its “Bullseye” story where the eponymous character is as much defined by Jason Aaron’s skewed take on him as he is by Steve Dillon’s ability to give this raving psychopath a strangely innocent face. It’s disarming and something that not many artists could pull off. It’s been a hard wait for a new issue of this comic, but completely worth it.
“Punishermax” #10 follows a dual path as Bullseye tries to finally figure out Frank Castle in an effort to kill him, while Frank deals with the fallout of killing a dirty cop and garnering the ire of the NYPD. Aaron’s decision to have Frank cross the line and kill a police officer is a bold one that hasn’t begun to pay off fully. There’s a heightened sense of danger for Frank after the cops busted his safehouses thanks to a tip from the Kingpin, but Aaron shows a strong understanding of the character when he doesn’t seem worried or apologetic. The lack of police support is just another obstacle to work around and manipulate to his goals. His manipulation of the police masterful as he narrates “If gunning down a corrupt piece of s**t cop makes you a terrorist, then fine… I’ll be your terrorist.”
The Frank scenes are good, but the Bulleseye scenes are great, as the culmination of his efforts to understand Frank comes. Frustrated with his inability to truly understand Frank, Bullseye is almost frantic in his focus to figure out what he’s missing. To make his problems worse, the Kingpin arrives with a lack of patience, wanting to end Bullseye’s bloody efforts, resulting in a calm Bullseye going over what he knows about Frank Castle while moving through the Kingpin’s men on autopilot. The contrast between Aaron’s calm words and Dillon’s art makes the scene entertaining, a piece of twisted comedy.
Dillon’s art sells Bullseye’s singular focus as his eyes constantly have a calm, glazed-over look. He doesn’t seem aware of the men trying to kill him, his body acting on its own while his head is focused entirely on Frank Castle and the wall of photographs of Frank. Even when Wilson Fisk takes a personal hand in things and manages to actually hurt Bullseye, it doesn’t deter the killer. He just keeps rambling about Frank, hammering on points about Frank as a father that only angers Fisk more, reminding him of his willingness to let his own son die to rise to his current position. The implication that Frank let his family die so he could have the freedom to be the Punisher, consciously or not, is a shocking one that I hope Aaron develops further.
It’s rare that a book that falls off the schedule like “Punishermax” did is actually worth the long wait, but this issue is. Whether it’s Bullseye delivering a monologue dissecting Frank Castle while killing thugs or Frank playing on the fear of terrorists to distract the police, this issue is not just entertaining, it’s thought-provoking and shocking. I can’t wait until next issue’s conclusion of “Bullseye” and am thankful the wait won’t be quite so long.