The Top 11 Best Punisher Comics of All Time

The Punisher cuts loose.

Gerry Conway created the Punisher as an antagonist to Spider-Man. The Punisher's initial appearance was in The Amazing Spider-Man 129. At the time heroes didn't kill, and the Punisher showed that comics were at a crossroads between the violent movies of the seventies and radical thinking of the 80's. As a hero who disobeyed the 'do not kill' rule of other heroes, Frank Castle developed a following that peaked in the 1990's before the comic market crashed. What follows are the eleven best Punisher storylines from his comic series.

 

11. Amazing Spider-Man #129

It's hard to have a top eleven list without having the debut of the character. In ASM 129 a villain called the Jackal hires the fledgling Punisher to kill Spider-Man. What follows is the creation of one of the greatest anti-heroes of our time. His initial tangle with Spider-Man sent a ripple through the comic community. In the end, Frank turns on the Jackal allowing Spider-Man to escape.

10. Daredevil #183

Frank Miller's time on Daredevil revitalized the character and turned him into a cult icon.  When Miller added the Punisher to his run, fans knew something special was happening. In the comic, a young girl takes a dangerous drug before leaping to her death. The resulting fallout follows Daredevil, The Punisher, and the girl's brother in search of the dealer responsible. When Daredevil crosses paths with the Punisher, their fight is swift and violent. In the end, The Punisher refuses to shoot Daredevil, hitting him with a tranq dart instead.

9. Valley Forge, Valley Forge

When it comes to writing The Punisher, nobody connects with the character like Garth Ennis. In conclusion to his five years run with the character, Ennis forces Castle to square off against a group of corrupt Army commanders. Goran Parlov provides the artwork, and his use of flat colors gives the books a retro feel. The series is famous because Ennis rounded out the character. Changing him from the spandex-clad hero of the 80's into a quiet and violent creature of the new millennium.

 

8. Welcome Back, Frank.

While the 80's and 90's were the breeding ground for some of the most significant stories of our time, they took their toll on some fan favorite characters, most notably the Punisher. Welcome Back, Frank is the debut from Punisher guru Garth Ennis, who threw out the cliched tropes of the 90's and put Frank Castle front and center in the war on terror. This series rocks because, for the first time in nearly a decade, the Punisher was back to his roots. The previous years had seen him given angelic powers, turned into an African American man, and even portrayed Frank's suicide.

 

7. The Punisher: Year One

Sometimes a character needs to show a chink in his armor to get acceptance from the fans. In Year One, we see that Frank Castle is a broken man. His war on crime is a way for him to cope with the loss of his family. This story is interesting because, in one of the few times we see Castle undergo character building, we form a bond outside of his violent actions. Frank is a man lost and devastated by the loss of his family. The series is an excellent example of how an out of the ordinary storyline can increase the relatability of a character.

 

6. The Punisher War Journal #6

What happens when you put two of the most loved antiheroes of the Marvel universe on a collision course in Africa? Mayhem. In Punisher War Journal #6, Frank is tasked with helping a friend of Micro who lives in the Congo. The man is in search of a mythical beast and begins to have problems with the local poachers. Wolverine is being Wolverine in Mardipoor when he discovers his bar is the drop off for a poaching ring. The two fierce defenders square off when Logan confuses Frank with one of the poachers. The battle rages on for hours as Logan keeps coming despite Frank doing what he does best.

5. Circle of Blood

In 1986 Mike Zeck and Steven Grant created a mini-series that defined the character for the decade. In Circle of Blood, Frank Castle doles out justice one hollowpoint at a time, while experiencing periods of great sadness and PTSD related symptoms. With this first mini-series, the dominant tropes of the character are set into motion. His violent reaction to his family's death, his love of violence, and his tactical skills are all put into play in this excellent series.

4. The Punisher: Born

The Born series takes place during Frank Castle's time in the jungles of Vietnam. While there he discovers an inner voice, that can push him to extreme measures to put things right. When the firebase he patrols is overwhelmed, Castle is found days later bleeding from several wounds among a field of dead VC. What makes the run is significant because the lingering voice that Frank continues to converse with is the persona of the Punisher, telling Frank it can create a war that lasts forever, but it will cost him.

3. The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe

In an alternate reality, Frank Castle returns home from his service to join the NYPD. The differences become wilder when his family is killed by superheroes, instead of mobsters. When Frank realizes his family has been killed he shoots an apologizing Cyclops before killing Shadowcat and Hawkeye. Wolverine attacks Frank, who only survives with other heroes help. When he awakens from his injuries, he learns that he has been taken in by a mysterious group of wealthy benefactors, who intend to pay him to take out the heroes and villains.  The highlight is his nuclear attack on the moon, which house the Earth's mutant population.

2. The Punisher – The Cell

What happens when Frank Castle wins his war? In this series Castle has been locked away in the depths of Ryker's prison, where he is locked away with the men who killed his family. This isn't revealed until later after Frank has started a riot in the facility. It's such a great one-shot comic that it is rare to find in comic shops to this day. When it is all said and done, Frank closes up a few main storylines and goes galloping off into the nuclear winter sunset.

1. The Punisher – The Slavers

The Slavers was the title of a story arc in Garth Ennis' 2004 volume of the character. After an encounter with a young girl, Frank decides to shut down a pipeline of sex slaves. What he uncovers is something more disturbing. The Cristu family has taken the women from their native country and ship them to NYC. Frank makes the family pay with extreme prejudice. The arc is so spectacular because Ennis and Robertson produced such epic work. More than any other writer Garth Ennis knew how to make the Punisher work.

 

 

Over the last 44 years, Frank Castle has undergone many changes as The Punisher. He's been a Frankenstein, worn the War Machine armor, and even been considered to take Captain America's place. After a catastrophic decade, Garth Ennis moved in as the writer and changed the tone for the new millennium. Since then, Castle has his own Netflix show, a continuing comic series, and is a constant threat to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One thing is for sure; Frank Castle is a survivor. His brand of no quarter street justice is adored by fans across the globe.

 

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Seeking his own path to happiness Dan joined the Army in 2010. After his service he earned his BFA in Creative Writing and spends his time playing and reviewing games and comics.
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