Various - The Essential Punisher Volume 1 (4 stars)

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(Marvel)

CRIME

With The Punisher: War Zone being released on the big screen in early 2009 now is the perfect time to look back on one of comics darkest heroes. Frank Castle has no superpowers, just sheer grit, a high pain threshold, a formidable arsenal and Marine training. He’s a one-man army on the trail of organised crime after his family were gunned down by the mob, a Vietnam vet with no remorse but a strict code of conduct, only killing the guilty. Since then he has wreaked bloody vengeance as judge, jury and executioner. Basically, he’s one hard bastard.

Created by Gerry Conway, Marvel’s excellent Essential series reprints his first ever appearances in Amazing Spider-Man in 1974 through spots in Daredevil and Captain America to the launch of his own mini-series in 1986. Even in the early days he was a dark character compared to the comics world’s mainstream heroes, drawing on the popularity of films like Dirty Harry and Death Wish.

With stories from the likes of Len Wein, Frank Miller, Steven Grant and Marv Wolfman this is the perfect primer to the ultimate antihero.

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