Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Punisher MAX #9 - Insanely Awesome

The Punisher MAX series has never been known for it's subtlety. When it comes to grim, gritty, and uncensored you would be hard pressed to find anything so hardcore unless you're willing to visit a federal prison during sodomy Sundays. This comic has always been nasty with it's graphic blood, guts, and exposed breasts. But ever since it started incorporating other Marvel characters like Kingpin and Bullseye, the series has taken on new dimensions in awesome that would make Stephen Hawkings get up from his wheelchair and dance like Shakira on crystal meth.

It started off by introducing the Kingpin. The first arc brought Wilson Fisk into a story that showed how he rose to power with the kind of cut-throat ruthlessness that would require make Tony Soprano require even more therapy. The man let his own son die. That shows just how depraved this man is. But the second arc brought to the forefront someone who was even more off his meds than Wilson Fisk could ever be. The psychopath in question is Bullseye, who is crazy enough in the regular non-breast-showing 616 comics. But in the MAX series he takes his murderous insanity to whole new levels and it makes for some high-caliber awesome all around.

Punisher MAX 9 picks up with Bullseye's seemingly simple mission of killing the Punisher for the Kingpin. However, Kingpin is quickly finding out that Bullseye is no ordinary hired gun. The man is crazier than a brain damaged cheetah in the sense that it's not enough to just kill Frank Castle. He has to get into his head. To do so he spent much of the previous issue abducting families like Frank's and re-staging the grizzly scene that killed them and thus brought rise to the Punisher. By the time this issue picks up, he's killed four families. Even for a blood-thirsty assassin that's pretty extreme. Even Wilson Fisk is turned off buy it and after the monstrous shit he did in the first arc, that's saying something.

Fisk attempts to chew into Bullseye, but even with his power he can't do squat to intimate him. He might as well be trying to order a starving grizzly to not eat. Nothing is going to stop Bullseye. He continues his mission despite Fisk's wrath. He leads Fisks men right into one of the Punisher's den. Oh yeah, did I mention that? He already knows where the Punisher operates out of. He just hasn't made his move yet. It may seem like a shit head tactic, but there is purpose behind it. Unfortunately, part of that purpose involves leading Fisk's men to their maker by employing them as target practice for the Punisher's vast arsenal. While they help paint Castle's wall red, Bullseye slips away into a secluded area he modified.

From here, Bullseye's madness takes a plunge towards even deeper levels of depravity. While sitting behind some bullet proof glass, he watches Frank Castle kill the Kingpin's men. And he doesn't just watch them to observe. He watches them with the same fascination that a teenage boy has when he first discovers internet porn. His inner musings are disturbing even if they are somewhat poetic. He is genuinely in awe of what he sees. He describes it as watching a master artist work. It's the kind of musing that can only come from a mind that is far removed from some very heavy medications. He doesn't even flinch when Castle straps plastic explosives to the glass and detonates them. Bullseye escapes, of course, but he makes his point. He doesn't fear the Punisher. He practically obsesses over him in the same way Mark David Chapman obsessed over John Lennon.

While Bullseye's inner musings are a huge chunk of the awesome this comic has to offer, the title still reads Punisher so that means Frank Castle has to contribute as well. His plot isn't anywhere near as entertaining or deranged as Bullseye's though. In the previous issue he tortured and killed a dirty cop who was on Wilson Fisk's payroll. And by killed I mean he cut off his fingers, ear, and his dick (at least partially) before shooting him in the head. No really...that's what happened. Check out my previous review and see for yourself.

While the prick may have deserved it, the rest of the NYPD didn't much appreciate the Punisher killing one of their own. As a result, the cops are there to confront him when he tries to pursue Bullseye. They both look like they're ready to shit themselves. If they were normal thugs Castle would have put six bullets in their head, chest, and nuts by now. But they're not and the Punisher doesn't kill cops. So he does the next best thing. He shoots them in the leg. Yeah, that's not too subtle, but when dealing with the Kingpin and Bullseye the options are understandably limited.

While Castle makes more enemies with New York's finest, Vanessa Fisk is given the boot from Fisk Tower. After her creative little stunt in the previous issue where she got Wilson to fuck her and then she tried to fuck him over (by fuck I mean kill), she is kicked out. If she were anyone else she would not be in one piece, but Fisk is showing her some rare mercy and just giving her the boot. In no way should it be taken as an act of compassion because that train left for Fisk a long time ago. Even so, Vanessa is understandably pissed.

She still seems to share a few things in common with Fisk in that she's mean and vindictive. She seems more than inclined to take another shot at her former baby daddy, but then she meets up with Bullseye. It seems like a parking ticket on the same day when your home is blown up by a nuclear bomb, but what happens is yet another showcase of Bullseye's insanity. Rather than encourage Vanessa to kill Fisk or help her, he actually offers her some sane advice albeit in an insane way. He tells her to walk away and that killing leads to a very dark place, one that he's clearly run head first into with a rocket strapped to his back and shoved up his ass for good measure. It's hard to really tell if Bullseye is actually speaking from experience or if he's just rambling incoherently. It may be a bit of both. The most fucked up part is that Vanessa Fisk actually listens to the guy. She walks away while Bullseye continues to dance happily in this dark place he just warned about.

When he's done playing Dr. Phil, he visits an understandably pissed off Wilson Fisk. He still hasn't forgotten the shenanigans with the families and seems ready to give him the Godfather 3 treatment. Then Bullseye shows a bit of tact and gives Fisk a reason to keep him in once piece. He gives to him a map of all of Castle's hideouts. That's quite a gift to a guy whose trying to put him six feet under and in any number of unrecognizable pieces. Fisk, despite still having a very clear desire to wipe his hands of this psycho, decides to see this through and let Bullseye continue his job. However, now he can afford to be a bit proactive. He knows where Castle is operating out of and that means he can strike back.

Using his police connections, Fisk orders the NYPD to raid Castle's hideouts. It doesn't take a whole lot of bribes this time around. The cops are still more pissed at Castle than they are at the Kingpin, which is kind of fucked up because Fisk has probably killed more Cops on a weekend getaway than Castle has his entire life. But nobody is thinking that logically at this point. The NYPD and Kingpin get a glimpse at just how well-armed and well-stocked the Punisher is and if it doesn't make them nervous then their either on a shit ton of valium or just fucking stupid.

With his bases raided, Castle has to get his weapons another way. That means going out to arms dealers and getting what he needs. Unfortunately, the Kingpin controls arms dealers and the police are looking for him. Even guys who sell big ass guns get a little scared by that shit. The only way Frank is getting what he needs is if he kills the guy and takes his goods. Since arms dealers aren't known for being all that innocent, the Punisher has no problems with this. The Kingpin is more important than technicalities.

While Frank Castle is setting the stage for the endgame, Bullseye is doing the same. He's spent the last two issues trying to get into the mind of this man and he seems ready to make his move. It's not just a job for him. It's destiny. He makes it out to be a holy crusade while Frank Castle is almost solely occupied with the Kingpin. Something's gotta give. Someone has to blink. It sets he stage for a three-way battle that for once doesn't involve a shemale and two lesbians. If this sort of thing doesn't get you excited about the next issue, get a crow bar and beat yourself over the head with it because you don't deserve the luxury of higher thought.

There is very little about this comic that isn't grade-A awesome. It's the kind of grit you expect and crave from the MAX series. It's like taking elements of the Marvel Universe and throwing a little Charles Manson into the mix, making it more realistic while also making it utterly outrageous. Frank Castle always shines as being the ruthless vigilante that his is, but Bullseye steals the show here. He's not nearly as driven by his obsession with perfect aim as he is in 616. Here, he's a raving psycho in a way similar to the Joker in Batman. There is a complexity behind his madness and one that is so disturbing yet so intriguing. What Jason Aaron did for Fisk in the first arc, he does again for Bullseye and hits it out of the park.

There really are no major flaws in this book to speak of. There are some underdeveloped plots like the NYPD aspect and some of the deaths in this issue just aren't as gruesome and raw as they are in previous issues. But that's all just cherry picking from an otherwise fruitful bush of sheer awesome. As such I can give Punisher MAX no less than 5 out of 5. Jason Aaron is doing something very special with the MAX series. That's saying a lot after how high Garth Ennis set the bar. This series promises to reach that bar and set one of it's own for future writers of the MAX series. It's bloody, it's twisted, it's intriguing, and it's got boobs. Honestly, what more could you want in a comic? Nuff said!


  1. I dropped Punisher MAX after Ennis bailed and that was a separation that did neither one of them much good. I'm not digging The Boys and none of the other writers that followed Ennis could carry his jock. Aaron is much more of an action guy than Ennis and his plots are really kind of straight-forward. This story has kind of lagged a bit in the middle with Bullseye and The Punisher circling each other too much. I'm ready for this to get wrapped up and I hope it doesn't end with Bulls slipping away nursing a wound and vowing revenge. Aaron is bringing 616 Marvel characters into the MAX universe and I'm fine with that, but the Punisher isn't supposed to have arch-enemies he fights over and over again. This ain't Dr. Octopus or The Joker for God's sake.

    I'm with Aaron and Steve Dillion, but let's wrap it up with Bullseye in a body bag, okay?

  2. Yeah, I was a little skeptical about this series continuing after Ennis left, but Jason Aaron has done an admirable job. He's done some great stuff with the MAX titles and I like what he's doing with Bullseye. He's not making it too much like the 616 comics. These characters are less superhuman and more brutal. Bullseye here isn't demonstrating is usual superhuman aiming skills, pulling off shots that are impossible in the real world. Here, he's being more the obsessive madman that is very much a part of his persona. I like how he's developed so far and wouldn't be surprised if survived somehow by the end of this. But I agree, that would be pretty weak. This is MAX. It shouldn't be carried like the 616 comics. But if Aaron does it right, I won't complain. Thanks for your comment!