Jason Aaron is kicking my ass. A review of Punisher Max 10.

I was arguing about Wolverine with some friends the other day.  He has the tendency to get pigeon-holed into revenge story after revenge story.  The Punisher’s a similar character.  There’s usually not as much vengeance, but damn can he get repetitive.  Even Garth Ennis’s 60 issue run on Punisher Max recycled the same formula on almost every story.  They’re some great comics, but a lot like the blues, you’ve got to appreciate the subtleties.

Jason Aaron’s current relaunch of The Punisher with artist Steve Dillon hasn’t completely turned the Punisher on his head, but it looks like it could.  After Garth Ennis’s great humanization in the last volume, Aaron neatly sidestepped the mistakes other writers made trying to pick up in Ennis’s shadow.  This Punisher is a force of nature.  Aaron understands Frank Castle enough to avoid those pages and pages of inner monologue.  His Punisher is a man of few words.  He’s not as sympathetic as he was in the Ennis run, but he doesn’t need to be.  This Punisher is an anti-hero through and through.  If you’ve read Aaron’s rez-cop drama Scalped, you know he knows his way around a good anti-hero.  If you haven’t, well, just take my word for it.

The new Punisher Max doesn’t connect with the rest of the Marvel Universe, but does integrate Marvel characters for The Punisher to tussle (and murder) with.  Wilson Fisk is his usual self, but Aaron’s Bullseye is one of the few I’ve enjoyed reading.

The world’s greatest assassin was never a character I liked, except the issue of Daredevil where he got stabbed in the head, and the issue of Thunderbolts where he got crippled.  He’s supposed to be the most evil, amoral man ever.  I get that, but it doesn’t make him interesting.  It makes him bland.  His personality never got much deeper than “I like to kill people, especially if it’s Daredevil’s girlfriend.”  He was always just so content with everything, especially after Warren Ellis’s Thunderbolts run.  Ellis boiled Bullseye down to his most basic components.  The guy who lived to kill was now doing that and only that.  Sure, it’s creepy when Mike Deodato’s on art, but every writer to use the character after Ellis has just been miming the same monotonous shit over and over.

Enter Jason Aaron.  With an out-of-continuity universe to work in, Aaron’s made Bullseye an interesting person, and made him scarier in the process.  This Bullseye might be a murdering psychopath, but he’s human too, as we watch him get more and more frustrated as he tries to get inside Frank Castle’s head.  The whole “I need to become you so I can kill you” thing might seem cheesy, but Aaron pulls it off with such style, you can’t not admire it.  It’s actually kind of funny when it’s not terrifying.

Steve Dillon is also doing some great work here.  The facial expressions are fucking perfect.  Kevin Maguire isn’t even at this level.  Check out this page-

It might not look like much out of context, but that’s the greatest smile I’ve ever seen.

It’s odd that I’m raving about a comic 5/6 the way through the story, but you need to be aware of how fucking good this is.  Ennis still has 50 issues of great stories over Aaron, but damn if this current incarnation isn’t on its way to being the best Punisher comic ever.

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