The latest addition to the Essential line
shipped out this week.

General Information

Title: Essential Punisher Vol. 1

Credited to: Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Frank Miller,
Steven Grant, Ross
Andru, Mike Zeck and friends.

Original Publication Date: Feb. 11, 2004 publication
of material first
published from 1974 to 1986.

ISBN: 0-7851-1364-9

Cover Price: $14.99 US, $24.00 Can

Buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Premise

This is a collection of all of the Punisher’s early
appearances,
starting with his first appearance in 1974’s
Amazing Spider-Man
#129
and continuing through his five issue
miniseries from 1986.
The individual stories told are pretty varied, as
most of these are
one, two or three issue appearances in Amazing
Spider-Man
,
Marvel Super Action, Marvel
Preview
, Captain
America
, Daredevil, and Spectacular
Spider-Man
.

High Point

His solo miniseries. The character works best when
he’s facing off
against regular criminals, and not supervillains. He
did that in
Marvel Preview and Marvel Super
Action
as well, but
it works better here.

Low Point

The random snippets from Amazing Spider-Man.
I realize
that’s the best way to do this collection, but
Spider-Man’s private
life has always been a saga, so we keep getting
pieces of an
incomplete whole. Some of these should be filled in
by the
Essential Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 6 they
promised us in time
for the movie sequel, but not all of them. (We’ll
need to get to
volume 10 or so before that happens.)

The Scores

I have to give them originality credit for
using a character
with no superpowers. He’s also not the pillar of
morality that most
are, probably due to his original introduction in a
villain’s
role. The Spider-Man guest shots were all the same
basic plot,
though. I give it 4 out of 6.

The artwork has a lot of variety, due to the
nature of the
collection, but very little (with the possible
exception of the
Captain America stuff) was really bad. I give it 4
out of 6, harmed
in part by the frequent radical style changes. (If
it wasn’t usually
changing from “good” to “different kind of good” it
would have scored
lower.)

The stories are a lot like the art; there
are a lot of
radical shifts. It doesn’t really feel like a
cohesive whole, because
it isn’t. Most have one of two plots, as well:
either the Punisher is
under the impression that Spider-Man is a criminal
and tries to take
him down, or he’s after a criminal but another hero
intervenes because
he doesn’t like the Punisher’s methods. I give it 3
out of 6.



The characterization is inconsistent. Most
writers write the
Punisher as someone who’ll kill criminals without a
second thought,
but would never allow an innocent to be harmed in any
way. Others
write him as though any casualties are acceptable. I
give it 4 out of
6.

The emotional response is awkward at first,
as we go through
a variety of situations that are obviously pieces of
a larger whole.
The solo stories are considerably better, though,
particularly the
last one. It’s also nice to see something this rough
coming from this
period. (I’m surprised the Comics Code Authority
approved of some of
these.) I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow was, like other categories,
disturbed by the fact
that this is a collection of guest shots. Individual
issues are
usually well done, but the whole package is a bit
lacking. The only really jarring part was a court
room scene written before the Punisher’s real name
was determined. I just don’t see a judge bringing
charges up against “Punisher.” They should have
named him as soon as he showed up in court. I give it
4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s still an entertaining
collection, particularly
for Punisher fans, but you can’t expect the same
saga-style
development that we’ve seen from the other
Essential books.
I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Essential Punisher Vol. 1 receives
27 out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

This is the last Essential at the $14.99US price
point. When
Essential Daredevil Vol. 2 and Essential
Tomb of Dracula
Vol. 2
ship in April, they’ll be $16.99US
apiece. Joe Quesada
announced this change a while ago. The hope is that
the higher price
point will increase overall profits and make the line
more able to
compete with other trades, so it’ll be worthwhile to
continue
producing them. They’ll probably still be the best
value on the comic
market, especially for those of us who haven’t read
the older issues,
so I’ll pay for it.