Quick review: Punisher-6 Hours to Kill
By Duane Swierczynski and Michel LaCome
Poisoned by the mob, Frank Castle is strong armed into doing a crooked politician’s dirty work… only Frank has no interest in getting involved and instead decides to use his last six hours alive to kill as many mobsters as possible.
I’ve mentioned before that while I picked up the Circle of Death Punisher mini-series back in the day and the first 20-odd issues of the following series, I was never all that into the Punisher. I guess the concept was always a bit of an awkward for the Marvel Universe in my opinion making his appearance alongside Wolverine and Ghost Rider look very strange to me. I know that he started off as a Spider-Man guest star, but that character and the Punisher of the 80′s and 90′s are very different creatures. The original Punisher was a Vietnam War vet who was amenable to using non-lethal methods to team up with Spider-Man if it furthered his cause. The more modern Punisher was waging a one-man war on crime with an arsenal of lethal weapons that got so violent that it became hard to believe that S.H.I.E.L.D. or Spider-Man or any super powered hero would do nothing to stop him.
Therefore I was happy to hear that a new line was created that removed Frank Castle from the Marvel Universe entirely and treated him like the pulp novel gun enthusiast he should be. Titled Punisher MAX, the new ongoing title featured a battle-scarred Frank Castle who appeared as ravaged and aged as a Vietnam War vet who has been fighting the mob for decades would. It was also a ‘Mature Audiences’ book meaning that it contained far more brutal acts of violence than the mainstream book could ever get away with.
Garth Ennis (Preacher) helmed the Punisher MAX series for ages, making many fans happy and causing many more to think that no one else could write the series. When Ennis left, Marvel had to prove those fans wrong. Crime novelist Duane Swierczynski delivered as knock-out story in Six Hours to Kill that while not quite as good as the Ennis material to some, hit the sweet spot for yours truly.
The story opens with Castle being attacked and poisoned in the city of brotherly love. He wakes up in the back of a van being told that in order to receive the antidote he has to agree to perform a simple task, otherwise he’ll be dead in under six hours. In a truly character-defining moment, Frank throttles the creep and admits that his life means nothing to him. If he only has six hours of life, he’ll use that time to hunt down as many local criminals as he can find. Back in his ‘battle van’ Frank consults his log book and starts his war while the crooks who tried to trick Frank into being their pawn struggle to get control of a situation spiraling wildly out of control.
Six Hours to Kill reads like the best of Punisher stories should, a hyper-violent 1980′s action flick. At its heart, the Punisher is actually a very simple character and it is therefore stunning how Marvel often cannot figure out what to do with him. Ennis’s ‘Welcome Back, Frank’ Punisher series introduced a comedic element that many creators or editors seem to think of as essential, but it isn’t. I tried out Jason Aaron’s new Punisher book and the humor just felt too close to the Ennis material… and I really enjoy Aaron’s work.
A Punisher book can be humorous, but in changing the basic idea of the book you run the risk of alienating the target audience, look at the recent Franken-Castle book by Rick Remender and you’ll see what I mean. I really enjoyed the Franken-Castle experiment, but I understand that it’s not for everyone (which is why Frank is back to normal now).
If you are looking for a basic Punisher book, this is a great buy. I also recommend the recent Punisher #75 and The Naked Kill, both of which are so incredibly violent that you may be shocked Marvel ever published them.
Available from Amazon.com
Click here to buy: Punisher: Frank Castle Max - Six Hours to Kill