Compiled by Guest Contributor Alan Kistler
USMC Captain Frank Castle was a dangerous man. A Vietnam veteran who was nicknamed "Punisher" in the field, he had Special Forces training, SEAL training, UDT training, sniper training, and experience as an armorer and a gunsmith -- making it hard to believe he’d considered the priesthood when he was younger.
One day, Castle and his family were gunned down for witnessing a Mafia hit. The sole survivor, he donned skull-decorated body armor and began a personal war on all criminals.
To date, there have been two "Punisher" films, each with mixed results. This week brings us the latest iteration, "Punisher: War Zone," starring Ray Stevenson as the title character and Dominic West as the scarred mobster "Jigsaw." With that in mind, MTV is pleased to bring you a list of five must-read Punisher stories from the character's comic book history. With the exception of "Year One" and "The Tyger," all of these stories have been collected in trade editions that provide the full story in one volume.
"PUNISHER: YEAR ONE" # 1 – 4: Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and illustrated by Dale Eaglesham, this was the first story to go into detail concerning the Punisher’s origin. When the police refuse to help Frank even though he can identify who killed his family, he falls into a deep, drunken depression that is only alleviated by a desire for vengeance.
Although heavy on exposition, this miniseries helped readers understand how Castle went from being suicidal to becoming a remorseless avenger. It also features the origin of Jigsaw.
"CIRCLE OF BLOOD": From writer Steven Grant and artist Mike Zeck, Castle is in jail now, but that’s okay. It just means he’s surrounded by criminals who can’t run away. Unfortunately, Jigsaw’s there, too -- and has his own plans.
This story was the first Punisher miniseries and finally let Castle shine on his own (previously, he was a recurring guest-star in Spider-Man and Daredevil comics). It showed for the first time how manipulative and vicious he could be. A famous scene involves Castle beating his cellmate to show who’s boss, explaining harshly, “You’re my dog. When I say bark, you bark …”
"IN THE BEGINNING": Collecting the first story arc of the "Punisher" MAX series (for mature readers), this was written by Garth Ennis and penciled by Lewis Larosa. The Punisher’s been around for years now and has a body count in the triple digits. He is, without a doubt, one of the most lethal men alive. Which is why the CIA has an offer.
Under the MAX imprint, the character reached new heights of violence. It’s a frightening story that proves how big a mistake it is to think you can negotiate with the Punisher.
"BARRACUDA": From writer Garth Ennis and artist Goran Parlov. What happens when Frank Castle not only has to deal with white-collar crime, but also face a man who is as tough as he is, has even fewer morals, and displays a creepily sunny disposition? You have an all-out war between the Punisher and a smiling psycho called "Barracuda." If you want to see Frank in a fight he’s not entirely sure how to win, check this out.
“THE TYGER”: In the vein of “Year One” and his own miniseries “Punisher: Born,” Garth Ennis decided to go further into the Punisher’s past with this one-shot inspired by the Blake poem. After seeing this somber and strangely poetic story of a 10-year-old Frank Castle whose world is invaded by mob violence and victimized children, you realize that he was on the edge of darkness long before the loss of his family. Art by John Severin.
Honorable mentions go to Chuck Dixon’s original “Punisher: War Zone” story arc, Frank Miller’s “Daredevil & The Punisher: Child’s Play,” and “The Punisher Meets Archie,” which is as hilarious and weird as it sounds.
What do you think of the list? Did we miss anything? What are your favorite Punisher stories? Sound off in the comment section!