Punisher War Zone #37
Issue(s): Punisher War Zone #37
As far as the origin of a guard dog goes, you wouldn't expect much, and in fact the Punisher's introduction from Max's first appearance in Final Days (Punisher #54) seems sufficient: "Found Max when I snapped a crack dealer in Connecticut. He was half-starved and in no mood to play." But not only does this story feel the need to expand on that, it actually ignores it completely. This story takes place in Brooklyn, not Connecticut. Punisher is also going after a crank dealer, not a crack dealer (i know that's a minor difference, but still), and the dog doesn't really seem half-starved, either. Based on all this and the fact that the dog looks nothing like the one that appears in Final Days (let alone the fact that the dog dies during that story), i considered the possibility that the Punisher has had two dogs named Max, and this is really just the origin of the second one, who appears in Punisher War Journal #59-60. But as we'll see, the Punisher looks nothing like himself in this issue either, so we can't go by the art, and a later lettercol will confirm that they decided to reverse Max's seeming death after fan complaints.
One "benefit" of reviewing a 1995 book while i'm working on the 1991 category is that we get a preview of the art styles that are coming. Mark Texeira had drawn a fair amount of Punisher stories by 1991 and i've generally liked the art. But here's what Texeira's Punisher looks like in 1995.
Mr. Punisher, why did you swallow a man whole and store him in your arm?
There is also the fact that the Punisher wears a headband and has long hair in a ponytail in this story.
That is definitely not the Punisher's look circa 1991, and it doesn't even seem to be what the Punisher looked like around the time this story was published. I guess if the Punisher grows a ponytail some time before Max's second appearance in Punisher War Journal #59-60 (Oct-Nov 93), i should take that as confirmation of my Two Dog Theory, but for now i'll follow the MCP.
Anyway, here it is: the origin of Max!
He crosses paths with the Punisher after that crank gang breaks into the shop and kills the owner.
The dog relentless pursues the gang.
The Punisher is also chasing the gang, and the dog recognizes that the Punisher isn't with the gang.
So the Punisher and the dog, well, Team-Up.
Obviously the Punisher wouldn't know the dog's original name, so he names him Max. How does he come up with that name? Because he "goes to the maximum".
Ok, let's never talk about where Max's name came from again.
If this really was meant to be the origin of the Max that first appears in 1991, it's a failure on multiple levels. It's also not much of a story in its own right. One nice thing about Punisher stories up until 1991 (so far) is that each issue generally has a unique angle to it, whether it's something Ripped From Today's Headlines or something else. The bad guys in this story are a bunch of low level street criminals; there is nothing interesting about them. Of course the story does do what it wanted to do in establishing Max as a total badass. Ironically, by publication date, this is Max's last appearance, so despite the seeming interest in Max, he was never used again.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Assuming that the Punisher has only had one dog named Max, this should take place some time before Punisher #54. I'm leaving enough time for Max to get settled into his new life and for Punisher to forget which state he found him in.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
The dog eventually gets his own series, Punisher Max, right? In fact, there seems to be a whole line of comics named for this poor pooch.
(Sorry, someone had to go there...)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | October 18, 2015 12:56 PM
The 90s art! It burns!
Posted by: Bob | October 18, 2015 2:55 PM
That art is a bigger dog than the one in the story. Gah.
Good news is that if you can make it through the 90s you get into the Nu Marvel era, which I enjoyed at the time for the new art styles, the experimentation, and the move to modern storytelling.
Then again that's when I noticed continuity not being taken seriously anymore at Marvel so, given the focus of this project, you might not like it so much after all...
Posted by: Red Comet | October 18, 2015 11:33 PM
With those elongated "teeth" in the skull symbol, how the hell does the Punisher lean forward?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 19, 2015 11:10 AM
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