The Punisher has always been a controversial character who murders bad guys rather than giving their due in court. The Punisher doesn’t mess around though and really only goes after slimeballs that deserve death and the guards and men that protect them. The Punisher was possibly the best in the 90s when he had his van, a sidekick named Micro, and plenty of mob bosses to kill. “Jigsaw Puzzle” is the latest collection in the Epic Collection series featuring Punisher #35-48. There are a few different portrayals of Punisher in this series as he fights mob bosses, and for the lengthier story here he takes on Jigsaw.
The stories here are by Gregory Wright, Mike Baron, Chris Henderson, Chuck Dixon (with D.G. Chichester & George Caragonne) with art by Tod Smith, Bill Reinhold, Mark Texeira, Jack Slamn, Mike Harris, Neil Hansen, Hugh Haynes, and John Hebert (with Tom Morgan). The book opens with a 50-page story featuring the characters on the cover in a takedown of a mob boss. The U.S. Agent is featured in this story and is asked by shady government officials to bring in Punisher, but when he’s offered revenge he joins Punisher’s side. Meanwhile, Paladin is asked to kill Punisher which further complicates the story. It’s a fun team-up story with vigilante types of various shades.
Following this is the story that is the main feature of the book as Punisher must take on Jigsaw. The mission takes him all the way to Venezuela–where Punisher draws a skull on his chest and goes full Rambo mode–with various gadgetry and gritty fight scenes to ogle. You gotta love Punisher’s van, which actually sprouts wings at one point, and he also takes a Punisher motorcycle for a spin too. The gadgetry can feel a bit much at times, but the shoot outs are all grounded in realism enough so you can enjoy the gritty nature of Punisher’s style of justice.
What this book excels at is showing Punisher, not as some maniac with guns, but a level headed hero who believes in what he does. He even has his sidekick Micro, who ends up doing a lot of the research and gadgetry for Punisher, which shows he can play nice with some folks. You see Punisher do nearly everything this type of hero can do too, like ride a horse into battle, sneak around in the jungle, and go undercover to get intel on mobsters. For however much you might dislike the character for glorifying guns there is a poetry to the character and complexity this trade paperback gets across well.
I had a blast with this collection thanks to it mixing things up with how Punisher takes down criminals and how versatile the character can be. This book has not a single superhero in it besides himself further cementing the fact that Punisher can be excellent when given the chance on his own terms.
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