Saturday, August 23, 2008

Review: Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe

This reprinted one-shot, written by Garth Ennis (Preacher, Punisher MAX) and penciled by Dougie Braithwaite (Punisher MAX, Universe X), tells the story of an alternate reality where Frank Castle's family dies as collateral damage from a battle between super-heroes and super-villains, prompting Frank to begin a quest to slaughter every super-human on the planet (in the "real" world, Castle's family was killed during a Mafia shootout, leading to him declaring his one-man war on crime).

It is notable for being Garth Ennis's first time writing the Punisher; since this he has written over a hundred issues and churned out one of the best comics book runs of this or any other era. And even here we can see that Ennis understands the inner workings of the character. His Frank seethes with anger, but at the same time is cold and calculating. It takes the Punisher years to accomplish his task, and he goes about it not by overpowering other super-humans, but by outwitting them. The Punisher doesn't have any innate super-powers; he's just smarter than everybody else and a crack shot.

Among other things, what helps to push Ennis's work on the Punisher over the top is the black humor. These super-humans never knew what hit them. There's a great bit where Spider-Man and Venom are duking it out in the sewers, with Peter Parker letting loose with some classic snappy super-hero banter: "Nowhere left to run, Venom!" and "This ends here, Brock! Gimme your best!" It's one of those typical comic book battles that we've seen thousands of times before where there are no real consequences, but here, Frank breaks in on their fight and promptly kills them. Don't expect spiffy chit-chat from the Punisher.

Dougie Braithwaite's art is solid if unspectacular. It does the job, but is nowhere near as good as his later work on The Punisher MAX. One problem might have been that there are six different inkers credited on this book. But he communicates the story well, and does a good job rendering many of the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe.

As a side note, it is particularly interesting to read this in light of the recent Civil War mega-crossover, which was touched off by an incident where a super-human brawl kills some innocent bystanders. In that story, the government reacted by passing a new law, that required super-humans to register with the government and go through proper training, etc. The big issue was whether super-heroes should go along with the new law or fight it; it was kind of a debate between choosing liberty or security. Here, we see how the Punisher would deal with that situation: He would kill. Every. Last. One. Of. Them.

I recommend this book. It's not quite as great as Ennis's later work on the character, but it is entertaining and has some good ideas. Plus, deep down, I think everybody wants to see this:

(click to enlarge)

Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe
originally was published in 1995. Marvel apparently is dusting it off again before including it in the upcoming Punisher by Garth Ennis Omnibus. It is forty-six pages and costs $4.99.


  1. quite illumnating and educational for a person to read who has never followed the comic book path before. thank you.

  2. What a cool concept...Should have been extended to have the Punisher kill one or two Superheros per book- pushing them all into one comic doesn't do the idea justice I think.

  3. It's not every day that Victor Von Doom is ended with a sound effect usually reserved for stepping on vermin.