Punisher Max: Kingpin (Issues #1-5)

posted Mar 18, 2010, 4:26 PM by Jeff Brandt

Artist Steve Dillon is back for the Punisher Max title reboot, with Jason Aaron as writer and Matt Hollingsworth as colorist for the “Explicit Content” series. The March issue (#5 in the new volume), concludes the five-part origin story of the Kingpin – which I will quickly recap here.

The top Italian mob bosses of New York are in a frenzy over the rise of black gangs, the “Ivans,” and Frank Castle, the infamous gunslinging Punisher.  Eye-patch-wearing Don Rigoletto hires an elephantine bodyguard, a newcomer to the crime underworld by the name of Wilson Fisk, who claims to be a close friend of the mythical “Kingpin,” a boss of all bosses, who will put their fears to rest — provided that the arrogant dons set aside their differences and take orders from the Kingpin.

Rigoletto introduces Fisk in a meeting of the dons, a gathering reminiscent of a scene from The Godfather. One don’s capo has a good laugh at Fisk’s promise to bring in the “Kingpin” – spouting off that there is no such man. Fisk, of course, shuts him up . . . for good. So the council offers Fisk a challenge: off the Punisher, and then they’ll take Fisk into their trust and see about this Kingpin character.

But Fisk’s attempt to punish the Punisher doesn’t work out quite as well as he’d hoped, and, as it turns out, Fisk has some plans of his own for the gangster tribunal. Meanwhile,

Rigoletto calls in another of his best hitmen, an Amish man (or Mennonite?) who swore off a life of violence to raise a family in the country. When duty calls, though, he hitches up the horses and heads to the city to take out Frank Castle the old-fashioned way: bare fists and wooden mallets. The fight that follows — and pretty much every fight i

n the “Kingpin” story arc — is totally brutal, and totally amazing.

I’m not going to come out and say that this comic is a literary masterpiece, but there’s more to it than just Jason Aaron coming up with new, gruesome ways to show one guy killing another. Though there is that. It’s about greed and the sacrifice of principles, either due to obligation or ambition. Or is there a difference? And it’s about questioning the line between good and evil — whether it actually exists.

The Punisher has always been a great character for exploring those themes, and now is as good a time as any to jump in and start reading. That’s one thing I love about most Punisher stories: they’re somewhat self-contained, and you don’t have to grasp a whole intricate web of relationships and years of history to understand and enjoy what’s going on, unlike the plethora of Marvel’s X-titles.


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