Punishermax #9

Story by
Art by
Steve Dillon
Colors by
Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by
Cory Petit
Cover by
Marvel Comics

The further we get into "Bullseye," the second arc of "Punishermax," the more it becomes apparent that it's a love story. This has been the story of Bullseye falling in love with Frank Castle in his own twisted way. Look at the way that Steve Dillon draws Bullseye's face in the last panel of page five and tell me that isn't love. Sure, he's going to do his best to kill Castle, but that doesn't mean that Bullseye hasn't found his killing machine soul mate, and it makes for a highly entertaining and inventive story.

Jason Aaron's construction of this Bullseye character is unexpected and goes further than you would think. As he's spent the last couple of issues trying to understand how Frank Castle thinks in order to kill him, he's shown himself to be utterly psychotic. He's killed four families in an attempt to recreate the Central Park gunfight where Castle lost his family. He sacrifices a bunch of the Kingpin's men just to see Castle at work. He's so casual about it that it's scary. What makes his insanity stand out is that he doesn't hesitate, ever. This is all natural to him; this is his logic.

His discussion with Vanessa Fisk after she's kicked out of the Kingpin's home is illuminating, as he tells her why she should forget revenge. He seems almost remorseful about what he's become, about how horrible it is to kill people, but that's contrasted with the utter glee and love on his face as he watches Castle kill and as he prepares to hunt and kill Castle at the end of the issue.

Dillon's art is a big part of what sells the character. His stupid grins and emotive face as he just floats through the story, aware that the Kingpin hates his methods but unable to act any differently. There's a simplicity to Bullseye that's made apparent in Dillon's rendition of him. He has no pretense or ability to hide what he is, wearing every thought and emotion on his face. In his discussion with Vanessa, he delivers a long monologue about killing, ending on the question "Do you understand what I'm talking about?" looking completely earnest, longing for someone to understand. But when she says she doesn't (looking completely freaked out), he grins and walks away happy.

If Bullseye's plot was the only focus of this issue, it would be great, but there's also Frank contending with Bullseye and the police after he killed a dirty cop. Aaron is pushing the character in a direction he's never gone before as he seems to be descending into an even harsher, more disturbing place where his judgments of innocent/guilty are more extreme. By killing a cop, even if he was completely corrupt, he's crossed a big line and it's beginning to have its effects.

"Punishermax" #9 continues the strong roll the series has been on for the past few months where it went from being good to great to, then, being essential reading. An impressive, inventive, original comic month after month with both Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon doing stunning work. Buy this comic.

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