PUNISHER Max (issues 1 – 60)
by Garth Ennis and a rotating team of artists, my favorite of which was Lewis Larosa, the first artist on the series, remains the pinnacle of adult superhero comic books. Dedicated to Frank Castle taking on the underworld, mother Russia, the US government, slave traders and pedophiles, Punisher MAX is the epitome of adult comic book series. Harsh language, sex and extreme violence — all presented, not in the 90’s-era Image vein of teenage titillation but in the Scorcese tell-a-great story way, this sixty or so issue series (I’m counting the Ennis run only because I believe books should be read by author* read by author) is one of the premiere dark fictions of our time.
I recommend it whole heartily.
[Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX run is also a perfect example of a read-by-author event as, taken by itself, it can fit smoothly into the mainstream Marvel canon (albeit being a bit darker, more grown-up**). However after Ennis left, the series “introduced” characters such as Elektra and Kingpin, making the universe an alt-verse and making it just a little less awesome.]
[EDIT: Apparently some folks over at Comic Book Resources agree with me.]
* But more on that later.
** It’s like your parents fucking: it happens over in a different room and doesn’t actually affect anything in your life (but it still happens and is still cool for the fans of it).