Every once in a while, there is a comic book story that haunts and disturbs you. The Punisher MAX Vol. 5 trade paperback is one of the few that you will encounter within the super-hero genre.
Garth Ennis is known for his over-the-top violence and theatrical dialogue while The Punisher is a one-dimensional character that serves to act out our vigilante desires. I was expecting to revel in my guilty pleasure when everything I thought I knew about a Garth Ennis Punisher script was replaced by the tale of an all too real predicament of human wickedness.
The Slavers story arc makes the reader aware of an escalating commerce that is growing within the borders of the Ukraine, Albania and other Eastern European countries that have a newfound clientele within the United States. The practices of which the governments of such countries appear to approve are forced prostitution, rape, and infanticide. An endless supply of young children are utilized as commodities to satisfy the sexual whims and depraved desires of the monsters that walk among us. Ennis brilliantly blends the complex topic of human trafficking and the fantasy world of the Marvel Universe to offer the reader a moment of wishful thinking. This is quite the welcome change of pace from the usual Punisher tale where his enemies are evil comedic versions of the character that breathes his last in a most creative way.
Throughout the years, a list of great artists have pencilled one of the various Punisher titles that were published by Marvel Comics but few have been able to portray the severe world of Frank Castle like Leandro Fernandez. With inker Scott Koblish, Fernandez's realistic style conveys the cruel settings of a fate no child deserves to suffer.Read more ›
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OK, first of all I'm noticing there aren't any reviews for most of the Punisher volume. So I thought I should do my part on spreading the word about this great character. First of all I got to say since Steve Dillon left the deathtoll has gone down. Now I liked Steve Dillon's work but it lacked the emotions that a person like Frank would go through. Now to get this review you have to know a little bit about the story. One night on a routine vigilante mission one of Frank's targets gets caught up in a shootout with a young women named Viorica. She is from an eastern block country in Russia. She was brought to the U.S. as a slave and now through a little bit of good luck she stumbles across Frank. As the story continues the punisher penetrates deep into the slavers ring she was forced to take part in. If a fan of graghic novel this is a conclusion not to miss. With a villian that you really have to hate this is a must read.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Another Great Ennis BookOct. 27 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
You can leave delusions of a warm fuzzy vigilante at the doorstep when you enter the bleak narrative of Garth Ennis' Punisher Max series. Though there was a time when this black sheep was regulated to be a second tier character and general whipping boy to the supposedly superior and popular stable of iconic Marvel heroes, Garth Ennis has successfully transformed the character and persona of Frank Castle into something far more compelling and relevant than any past iterations and in doing so has managed to make a profoundly chilling statement about the nature of vigilantism and the psychology that drives it. Despite the dark and sometimes depraved nature of his exposition however, Ennis carefully navigates this subject matter with a keen sense of character development and a healthy dose of noir thematic. The end result is a comic that is strictly for adult consumption on both a visual and textual level and yet is elevated by a brutal, unflinching portrayal of an anti-hero that propels his work far beyond the perceived limitations of the medium.
The Slavers is a recent six-issue series that illustrates just how well Ennis tackles disturbing subject matter and uses the profundity of such material as a backdrop for the equally brutal response of his protagonist. During a routine sweep and execution of several mobsters (the casual manner in which Castle dispatches most of his quarry is both chilling and somehow poetic) a desperate woman enters the fray and tries to take down these same men. After The Punisher dispatches the mobsters and saves her life, he learns that the woman is an escapee from a large slaving operation that forces women into prostitution. After hearing the lady's horrific tale of woe (which includes the death of her infant child) Castle decides to end the ring in typical Punisher fashion: kill everyone responsible.
While the plot is not overtly original, the manner that Ennis unfolds the exposition is nonetheless unique. Ennis includes several interesting subplots, all of them character driven, that eventually collide into a resolution that is both satisfying and completely honest. All of these subplots, including a feud between the brutal father and son running the organization and two police officers being used to spin negative PR against Castle, manage to convey different perspectives on Castle's violent solutions even as The Punisher himself wades through a veritable ocean of blood and viscera to accomplish his goal.
The true accomplishment in this work however is the almost giddy, vicarious thrill one gleams when experiencing truly despicable people meeting a grisly but ultimately just fate at the hands of a sociopath. Garth Ennis' Punisher is as inventive as he is brutal and the manner in which he interrogates and murders the members of the slaver organization makes the work of the criminals look mild in comparison. Ennis paints Castle as the definitive counterbalance to the criminals he hunts: an unrelenting anti-crime boogeyman willing to employ any means necessary when taking down his prey. In a present day society where the victimization of innocent people has seemingly reached a point of saturation, there is something undeniably attractive and compelling about seeing bad people come to equally bad endings. Ennis seems to understand this psychological component and taps this darker nature of the reader, drawing them into Frank Castle's dark world where the carnage and suffering of criminals becomes, for lack of a better term, entertaining.
The Slavers stands as yet another testament to the continued brilliance of Ennis and his darker, more realistic exploration of the Punisher mythos. Whether you are a long time fan of the series or a newcomer looking to find a point of entry, this collection is worth a serious look.
I would also be remiss not to mention the art of Leo Fernandez. He handles the subtle undertones of character interaction and the overt, extreme violence of the subject matter equally well. His artwork is some of the finest to grace the series thus far.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Living The Death That They've Left You...Feb. 27 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
`The Punisher' was created for Marvel comics by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru in 1974, largely as an extremely canny way of cashing in on the 'vigilante justice' zeitgeist of films such as Dirty Harry (Two-Disc Special Edition) and Death Wish which were tearing up US box offices at the time.
Frank Castle, The Punisher, is a former marine and Vietnam veteran who, after surviving a disastrous mob-hit in Central Park which slaughters his family, begins waging a one man war against New York's criminal underworld. He is organised, ruthless and completely unrepentant in the way that he goes about eradicating his targets.
THE SLAVERS, Volume five of Garth Ennis' run on the adult MAX imprint of Marvel's favourite skull-shirted protagonist, is one of the most supremely haunting and disturbing pieces of literature that I've ever read. Never mind that it's a comic.
Taking as it's inspiration the grim reality of sex trafficking from Eastern Europe and Asia, Ennis drags the reader kicking and screaming through a mire of broken lives, brutality and human waste which is precipitated by Frank Castle's accidental encounter with Viorica, a young Moldavian woman sold into sex slavery in New York by a brutal, utterly abhorrent gang of Albanian sex traffickers.
What follows is a clinical and meticulously researched dissection of the means used by unscrupulous human beings to brutalise others who are regarded as no more than units of currency; It will nauseate you, it will disgust you and, if you're anything like me, it will cause you to wonder whether if, in the face of the climatic disasters that allegedly await us down the pike, our species is one that really deserves to be saved when it can give rise to specimens of inhuman excrement such as this.
The violence and brutality which Castle then visits upon the guilty parties can best be described as sadistic, brutal and frankly 'old testament' in it's inclination and execution - and as profoundly sick and twisted as his 'punishment' is, given the obscenities perpetrated by those responsible for Viorica's debasement, I imagine that Garth Ennis and many of the book's readers, including myself, are behind Frank Castle 200% of the way.
This is dark stuff. It features infanticide, murder, torture, rape and a level of violence that can best be described as 'orgiastic'. That said, it is one of the most important comic books of recent years because it unflinchingly addresses a very serious problem in a populist medium.
I will however warn you that should you be feeling depressed, it is best to stay well away from this one.
A perfect synergy of haunting soliloquy and brilliant artwork by Leo Fernandez caused the final page of this haunting tale to have an effect of me akin to the climax of Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream (Director's Cut).
It's a punch in the gut in comic-book form.
And one that will haunt you for many years after...
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Powerful and AngryMay 7 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
This is the best story arc in the Ennis run on the Punisher thus far. The story starts simply enough, but progresses to a powerful and cathartic crescendo. It deals with disturbing topics (forced prostitution, rape, and infanticide) and does an excellent job of showing the horror while not overwhelming the reader with excessively graphic accounts (both in the text and the art.) This is what the Punisher title should be: Not silly cross-overs with ridiculous and redundant "super-heroes," nor overwhelming villains that are simply caricatures of the Punisher himself, i.e., the Russian or Barracuda, but a dark anti-hero doing what we many of us wish we could to despicable men (and women.) The end of "The Slavers" is breathtaking in its violent justice; it is a dark masterpiece of the medium.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Powerful conclusion to an amazing seriesAug. 16 2009
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Ennis' latest run on Punisher is one of the highlights of the last decade in comics writing - perhaps its only comparison is Bendis' ground-breaking run on Daredevil. From the first issue, Ennis redefined, modernized and revitalized one of Marvel's most difficult characters. The Punisher became human, frighteningly sane and indescribably scary. Ennis moved him from a four-color 'bullets never kill' world to a nasty, lethal, intrigue-punctuated, chaotic analogue of the real world - and the Punisher changed from a B-list to something very special.
Despite the ultra-violence, Ennis made this latest Punisher a serious figure (although his goofier, earlier run on Punisher is also worth investigating). Like his work with Preacher, the Punisher was a means of identifying and exploring serious themes - bringing order out of chaos, the limits of sanity, morality vs necessity, and even a bit of old-fashioned Americana.
In this last collection (actually two collections combined), these themes come to their conclusions. The Punisher's nastiest foe - the Barracuda - returns, and Frank is faced with a villain as clever and as resourceful as he is. Barracuda is the unstoppable force for Frank Castle's immovable object, and the clash between them is truly epic (and not a single super-power is involved...). In a surprising revelation, the Punisher is forced to think about what really matters to him, especially with Barracuda looming...
In the final volume, Valley Forge, Ennis takes an interesting tangent. The government is finally, seriously, out to bring in Frank Castle. By preying on his weakness - his patriotism - they hope to capture or kill him... with soldiers. The Punisher is again caught between what he believes and the horrible facts of his existence. What will and won't he do to stay on the loose? Although not as action-packed as many of the previous storylines, Valley Forge is perhaps the best-written. Ennis has a flair for 'war stories' - for capturing the emotion of soldiers and veterans alike. 'Valley Forge' is a daring, powerful way of ending his run on the series, and I pity the unfortunate writer that has to follow in his footsteps...
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Another excellent entry in Ennis' Punisher runJune 11 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
The fifth collected volume in Garth Ennis' re-defining run on the Punisher is yet another brutal and unrelenting crime yarn that lets the blood flow. The Slavers starts out as just another night for Frank Castle as he has some criminals in his cross-hairs, but things take a drastically different turn when a woman fires on them first. As the story unfolds, Frank learns of an international kidnapping and prostitution ring run by some very evil men, and before long, he's on a mission to take them all down; the only problem is that the NYPD is looking to do the same to Frank as well. While the Slavers is a step down from the last volume, Up is Down and Black is White (which is by far the best Punisher story ever written), this is still pure Ennis all the way, even though his once trademark black humor is barely here. Returning artist Leandro Fernandez provides some more solid pencil work, and he renders the blood and gore nicely. All in all, the Slavers is yet another excellent chapter in Ennis' Punisher saga, but be warned, this volume more than earns it's MAX title.