Punisher Epic Collection: Circle of Blood is out this week from Marvel Comics, collecting some of the antihero’s earliest adventures.
The paperback collects Punisher (1986) #1-5, Punisher (1987) #1-10, Daredevil #257, and Marvel Graphic Novel: Punisher – Assassin’s Guild. Writers include Steven Grant, Jo Duffy, Mike Baron, and Ann Nocenti, with artists Mike Zeck, Mike Vosburg, Klaus Janson, Dave Ross, Whilce Portacio, John Romita Jr., and Jorge Zaffino.
If you’re looking to learn about the early days of Punisher comics, this is the book you need to pick up. Circle of Blood collects the very first Frank Castle solo series, ones that set the course that the character would stay on for years to come. You’ll meet Micro for the first time, and see Frank develop his feud with Jigsaw. If those names sound familiar, it’s because they both featured heavily in the Punisher Netflix series, which shows you the influence these stories hold.
Now, admittedly, these stories are dated, but if you’re reading Marvel’s Epic Collections, you know what you’re getting into. You’re reading them because you like older comics. And truthfully, Circle of Blood collects stories from the late 80s, so it’s far less dated and more accessible than most Epics.
In fact, the dated factor is actually to this collection’s benefit. It feels like an old school, over-the-top 80s action movie (because that’s basically what it is). The action is big, explosive, and dynamic. It’s cathartic, like Punisher stories or action movies are supposed to be. These series sparked the “Punisher Mania” of the late 80s/early 90s; they spun off three separate Frank Castle series at the same time. Clearly they struck a cord with the audience.
The biggest drawback to this collection, however, is the art. It is an Epic Collection, so again you’re going to be getting a variety of artists and art styles. All of the styles retain a sense of dynamism, and they all convey a gritty tone, which is all great. That much makes for a really fun reading experience. But the face work from some of the artists doesn’t land. Yes, it’s a result of that gritty, sketchy style previously mentioned, but some of the characters come off looking silly, not menacing. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, and if you can overlook this one thing, you should have a good time.
If you like big 80s action, vigilante stories, or if you just like seeing the evolution of comics through the decades, definitely pick up Punisher Epic Collection: Circle of Blood when it hits stores this week.