Must-Read Punisher Comics With – And Without – Daredevil
By now, most readers will have binge-watched Daredevil Season 2, or are at least making their way through the series at a rapid pace. Most will also agree that Marvel / Netflix didn’t hold back with their version of the anti-hero and we’re all hoping a stand-alone Punisher series will be headed our way sometime soon.
For anyone who may be familiar with Daredevil but less with the vengeful vigilante, we’ve complied a list of essential Punisher stories. From his best Daredevil encounters to overall great stories, here are the Punisher stories that every fan needs in their arsenal.
Daredevil #181-184 (1982)
It’s no secret that Frank Miller’s run on the Daredevil comic books heavily influenced the Daredevil TV show. With a passing Easter Egg-style reference to Elektra in season one, and heavy speculation that she and/or Bullseye could be coming to the second season, this story required reading for anyone interested in the story of Frank Castle, along with Bullseye and Elektra. The story centers on the same street-level threats the series has made its name on, and shows the different methods that Daredevil and Punisher use to get drugs off the street.
Daredevil #257 / Punisher #10 (1988)
In these two issues, written by Ann Nocenti and Mike Baron, respectively, we get two sides of the same conflict. With the way season 1 deftly handled Wilson Fisk, giving him his own heavily-featured episodes, a deep backstory, and a character arc all his own. Knowing why The Punisher is so desperate to slaughter dealers and poison peddlers permanently, we struggle on which vigilante to sympathize with more.
The Punisher: MAX (2004)
Daredevil surprised many with its violence, its bloody reality, and curse words…except those who’d ever read a MAX comic book from Marvel’s adults-only imprint. Garth Ennis’s run on the series featured a dark and disturbed Frank Castle made light on the superheroes, but doubled down on intense criminal elements. The tone will feel familiar to those who’ve watched the first season , but with an extra splash of darkness and intensity. Still, as starting points go for the Punisher and his methods, this one is pretty solid. The MAX imprint would see more Punisher later, written by Jason Aaron, and as a “spiritual continuation” of Ennis’s book. The first arc of that? It’s called “Kingpin.” Arc number 2? “Bullseye.” Yeah, it’s safe to say that this series inspired much of Season Two.
Marvel Knights #1-15 (2000)
When Marvel Comics was struggling through the century’s turn, they rolled the dice with a title called Marvel Knights, which brought street-level heroes like Daredevil and Punisher together as one team. It was born from the imprint developed by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, and featured stories that weren’t heavy on long-standing continuity. It gave way for a slightly darker and more realistic look at the Marvel Universe. And if the name Joe Quesada sounds familiar, that’s because he’s now the Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment. As CCO, Quesada is tasked heavily with bringing Marvel Comics characters and stories to other media. While the series’ heroes fought a little more, let’s say “out there” characters and situations than we’re likely to see on TV, it does give you an idea of Quesada’s vision on Punisher and Daredevil’s relationship.
The Amazing Spider-Man #129 (1974)
C’mon, we couldn’t leave this one off the list of essentials. It’s Frank Castle’s first appearance, and in it, he’s a fairly cut-and-dry villain for Spider-Man, hunting him down after the titular hero was suspected of murdering Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn. Created by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, and John Romita, Sr., the issue establishes all the basics: he’s an ex-Marine, he has a temper, and he thinks the only way to deal with the criminal element is permanently.
The Punisher (2011)
The most recent title on this list is also a bit off-the-beaten-path as far as Punisher stories go, insomuch as it primarily co-stats Frank Castle and a new character named Rachel Cole-Alves. The reason we include this epic by Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto is that it gets deeper into the mind and motivation of Frank Castle than any other series before or since. Through the eyes of Rachel, we see a man who isn’t just dedicated and frightening in his absolution, but is also quite equally relatable. This is the Punisher we want to see on screen. As the deftly written and played Wilson Fisk showed us in season one, antagonists are just so much more interesting when you care about them (and Frank has run-in with Daredevil in this run, too).
What are your favorite Punisher stories? Let us know in the comments!