Marvel Comics; $6.95

From 1982 through 1989, the Marvel Graphic Novel series produced a wide variety of original graphic novels featuring stories ranging from high profile events concerning standard Marvel characters such The Death of Captain Marvel to licensed characters like Elric – The Dreaming City to creator-owned properties with Walter Simonson’s Star Slammers being an example.

Printed in a high quality 8-1/2” by 11” – frequently called a “European graphic album format” – the first 20 publications featured continuous numbering even though the subject matter varied. Unofficially, Marvel Graphic Novel: The Punisher, Assassins' Guild is Marvel Graphic Novel #41, but it’s not in the indicia.

Many of the early installments were worthy of the hype they received, while some later installments could have just as easily been annuals or even regular comics. That said, this one is one that definitely took full advantage of the deluxe treatment and the extra page size.

Writer Jo Duffy (Power Man & Iron Fist) teamed with Jorge Zaffino (Winter World) and colorist Julie Michel (Fashion In Action) to unleash a gritty tale of The Punisher. In that era, following The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Watchmen (1986-87), a lot of lesser writers thought “dark and gritty” was a genre rather than a tone.

Duffy didn’t fall into that trap and delivered a story with both power and subtlety to match Zaffino’s art, which was well suited for the Punisher’s darker reality. It’s a fun, entertaining read, but by no means is it breezy.

The material has stood up well over the years and continues to show what The Punisher can be in the hands of a good creative team.

– J.C. Vaughn