Punisher Max Special: Little Black Book

Doing a little retro review today, with a comic-book published in June 2008. I just happened to come across this issue in my room and re-read it today.  The Punisher has been in the news recently as his image and logo have been co-opted by various alt-right groups and supporters, including some law enforcement officers who must clearly not understand what the character actually represents. This has led some fans to think that Marvel should stop publishing The Punisher comic-books. Well, personally, I think that’s a bit drastic. However, I do think it may be best to remove The Punisher from the mainstream Marvel line of comics and keep him published separately in his own universe. Bring back the Marvel MAX line, which is for adults only, and just publish Punisher comics under that line. When he’s in the regular Marvel Universe his continued freedom in a world filled with superheroes just makes them all look ineffective or essentially approving of his activities. This is what makes some look up to him as a “hero.” But keeping in the more-grounded Max universe, with no superheroes, where you don’t have to censor his actions and can show all the blood and guts and the toll it takes him, he’s a more troubling figure. An anti-hero, at best. And I think some of the best Punisher stories have been under the Max imprint, which I’ve written about before.

Written by Victor Gischler, with art by Jefte Paolo & colors by Lee Loughridge,  Little Black Book is a perfect example of how The Punisher can be written well in this format. The Punisher himself isn’t even really the star of this story, that’s a woman named Vette, she’s a high-class escort. The Punisher managed to steal her Blackberry (remember, this was 2008) which contains her private client list, which includes many high-profile men. She could be ruined if that got out, so The Punisher blackmails her into helping him get into an exclusive party that’s being thrown by a big-time Cuban drug dealer who is one of her clients, in exchange for returning her Blackberry. The Punisher poses as her bodyguard who accompanies her to the party, which is being held at the dealer’s mansion, and then while she meets with the drug dealer in his bedroom for sex, The Punisher works his way through the security until he’s able to get his chance to kill the dealer.

I guess it’s not exactly a spoiler alert to say that the Punisher succeeds in his mission to kill the dealer, but the enjoyment as a reader comes from seeing how he does it, and then how and Vette get out of the mansion to freedom afterward. Again, Vette is the real star, during the story she’s the narrator giving a running commentary of her thoughts about her life, how she got into this position, and on The Punisher, who’s presented in this tale almost as a force of nature, an unrelenting killing machine who never loses his cool. Gischler’s written a tense, dramatic, and action-packed story that will have you on the edge of your seat right up to the ending. And Paolo’s artwork illustrates the action in all its gritty realness, with subdued coloring from Loughridge which captures the tone perfectly.

If you’re a Punisher fan, or looking to show someone else why they should be a Punisher fan, this issue would be a great place to start. Chacebook rating: FIVE STARS


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