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Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and other things we’ve read this week. Today our special guest is Jason Green.
Jason Green is the editor of comics coverage for the St. Louis-based pop culture website PLAYBACK:stl, and a writer and editor for the comics collective Ink and Drink Comics, whose fourth release (a Western anthology titled Off the Wagon) will debut at this year’s C2E2.
To see what Jason and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
PunisherMAX was pretty brilliant, don’t you think? I know I was kept on my toes and battered about the head and shoulders by weighty themes and brutal violence until this final issue, #22 on the stands this week. PunisherMAX ends philosophically, with Nick Fury as sort of a Fortinbras to Frank Castle’s vicious tragedy, bidding the soldiers to shoot one final time in honor of the swath of punishment left behind and pondering just what this all means to the annuls of history.
The last page is a letter from Jason Aaron about his intents behind this series. As well as giving an alternate history to the Kingpin and a great Rise and Fall of Wilson Fisk crime drama, there was the question of how much could Frank Castle take until he was dead. Inspired by Garth Ennis’ issues where the Punisher aged in “real time,” Aaron looked back on the 30-some years the Punisher had fought and killed in his one man war against crime when there was always going to be someone younger and more dangerous waiting in the wing to take their next shot. What does that do to someone and where is the breaking point?
The “Explicit Content” tag in the Marvel MAX label does not do concepts like this any favors. Yes, there will be blood and violence and nudity and swearing, but Marvel MAX books are more than than that. From Alias to Cage to Deadpool and both incarnations of the Punisher this title has seen, there is more to all of them than that label. What Marvel MAX needs is mature readers because that’s who they’re written for. The Marvel MAX imprint is for an alternative look at the Marvel Universe, a more mature look both in direction and expectations. It lacks the safety net of a regular title or ongoing series and there are a lot of negative connotations to the more casual public that makes a Marvel MAX title a little dangerous.
It’s normal to look back and expound on people, places and things once they’re gone, so let’s take a look back at PunisherMAX now that the book is over and the curtains have come down and talk about what makes this a rather exquisite example of what the Marvel MAX imprint can be.
WARNING: After the jump, we discuss PunisherMAX so possible spoilers ahoy. Please grab you copies and read along!
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PunisherMAX will end with February’s Issue 22, Newsarama reports, ahead of what Marvel characterizes as “a big change” coming to its mature-readers imprint.
Although the conclusion follows January’s “final brutal confrontation between the Punisher and Kingpin,” it’s unclear whether this is the planned ending for the series. Writer Jason Aaron told Comic Book Resources in August, just as the current arc was beginning, that, “This is the culmination of the Punisher/Kingpin story, but it’s not my last story on the book. There are definitely plans in place after this next arc, but I can’t talk about them without spoiling what’s coming up.”
PunisherMAX, by Aaron and artist Steve Dillon, debuted in November 2009, following the end of the 75-issue run of the original mature-readers Punisher series (retitled The Punisher: Frank Castle during its final year). PunisherMAX and Deadpool MAX are the imprint’s only current monthly series.
News of the title’s end arrives just a day after CBR reported that X-23 will be canceled with January’s Issue 20. It’s the latest in a string of abrupt cancellations at Marvel that includes Alpha Flight, Victor Von Doom, Destroyers, Iron Man 2.0 and All-Winners Squad.
Update (5:47 p.m. PT): Aaron commented on Twitter, writing, “PUNISHER MAX is ending, the way I always intended it. It was not canceled.”