The Best Punisher Comic Stories Ever Written
If you’ve got a little extra cash in your pocket and are looking for some of the finest punisher graphic novels made so far, then you must be a comic book fan. Only a comic book fan would be willing to hunt out and buy such books after seeing any of the three films based upon the character (although the second one wasn’t that bad). Only someone who has read the comics understands the depth and richness of the Punisher.
As someone who grew up buying and reading their stuff from a comic book store (before they started calling them graphic novels), I would like to tell you about my favorite punisher storylines that have been collected in graphic novel form. I hope this article brings back some good memories for you and maybe one day us fans will get a movie (or TV show) that does the Punisher character proper justice.
12 Best Punisher Graphic Novels (In No Particular Order)
1-The Punisher Vol. 1: Welcome Back, Frank
Frank Castle goes back to his true nature as a hardened vigilante who goes up against an old enemy, Ma Gnucci. The 2004 film with Thomas Jane based a majority of the storyline on this novel.
2-The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe
The family of a SWAT team member is accidentally killed when caught in the midst of a super-hero skirmish. The loving husband responds to the scene only to have Cyclops try to apologize for her death. Hubbie basically loses it and blows Cyclops's head off - and that’s just the opening scene! Story by Garth Ennis; art by Dough Braithwaite. If you’re looking for a first print of this one you may have to visit a comic book store, look on Amazon for the best deals and highest quality.
3-Punisher: Circle of Blood
This is one of the Punisher graphic novels that I recommend most often to new fans of the Punisher series.. It is a five-issue mini series written by Steven Grant with artwork by Mike Zeck and Mike Vosburg originally published back in 1986. It’s also the first series where Mr. Castle was a standalone character. This was the series that won me over and sold well enough to inspire Marvel to begin a regular series that lasted for nine full years.
4-The Punisher and Wolverine: African Saga
This trade paperback reprints the Punisher War Journal #6-7 (the first meeting between Wolverine and the Punisher). By today’s standards it is pretty tame, but back in 1989 it was the hottest thing going. Part of that popularity was due to the amazing artwork by Jim Lee. This one has made many top Punisher lists around the world. Take a look.
5-Essential Punisher Vol 1
This huge 568 page black and white compendium is composed of his first 25 appearances of which I have included below. If you don’t mind the absence of color this is the best way to go to keep from spending a lot of money on individual Punisher graphic novels or trade paperbacks. There are also others in this series if you like this one.
The Punisher's First 25 Appearances
- Amazing Spider-Man 129, 134, 135, 161, 162, 174, 175, 201, 202 and Annual #15
- Captain America 241
- Daredevil 182-184
- Giant Size Spider-Man 4
- Marvel Preview Presents 2
- Marvel Super Action 1
- Punisher Mini-Series 1-5
- Spectacular Spider-Man 81-83
6-Punisher MAX: Born
A critical look at Frank Castle’s time during the Vietnam War brought to us by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Although you won’t find much about Punisher himself, the combination of incredible art and powerful story easily makes this graphic novel a requirement on any comic book fan’s shelf.
7-Archie Meets the Punisher
Alright, I know that this isn’t a graphic novel, but the comic is definitely worth tracking down at your local comic book store. This 1994 one-shot company crossover has a really cool concept - the Punisher is tracking down a notorious drug dealer that looks exactly like Archie. John Buscema drew the Punisher characters while Stan Goldberg drew the Archie characters.
8-Punisher War Zone Volume 1
Before Ennis and Dillon came along this six-issue collected storyline by Chuck Dixon and John Romita, Jr. was in my top 2. In this tale our favorite anti-hero decides to take down the mob – from the inside. He’s eventually discovered and is forced to go back to more tried and true methods, of course. This one is really worth checking out if you missed it back in 1992.
9-Punisher MAX: From First to Last
A collection of three superb Punisher graphic novels that follow Frank’s career from child to old man. Incredible art and incredible storytelling (by Garth Ennis). Below are the individual one-shot stories.
The Tyger: Frank Castle remembers back to when he was a young man.
The Cell: Frank turns himself in and is taken to Riker’s Island – just as he planned it.
The End: An elderly Punisher finds himself to be one of the last men on Earth.
10-Punisher Max: Welcome To The Bayou
A very good tale from Duane Swierczynski and Michel LaCome about the Punisher out of his usual element. Frank runs into some interesting characters that he has to deal with while travelling the back roads of Louisiana. The best part of this story is that it takes place during the day with lots of bright colors.
11-Punisher Max Vol. 4: Up is Down and Black is White
A bad guy decides to throw down the gauntlet with the Punisher by digging up his buried family and defiling their corpses. Imagine the payback issued by Punisher when he finds out. Brought to us by the inner workings of Garth Ennis. If by chance you can’t find it online, you should be able to find it at most comic book shops as it is a very popular storyline.
12-Punisher MAX Vol. 5: The Slavers
A controversial story ripped from modern day America written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Leandro Fernandez. On a routine patrol, the Punisher rescues a young girl that had been kidnapped and turned into a sex slave. After hearing her story, he decides to avenge the wrong done to his new friend. Be warned that you may find yourself cheering every grisly death that the Punisher meets out; this is one of the very few Punisher graphic novels that made me feel real anger towards the bad guys.