Eric S Brown
The Punisher: Born trade paperback is part prequel, part origin story for the infamous, gun-toting vigilante. Weighing in at only 112 pages, it collects the four issue mini-series of the same title. Born opens with the Vietnam war winding down, and Captain Frank Castle stationed at the out of the way, seemingly unimportant, Valley Forge firebase. Castle is not the base’s C.O. but is certainly its most respected, and even feared, officer. He has a rep. for bringing everyone who goes on patrol with him back alive. As the story unfolds, Castle has discovered evidence that Viet Cong are preparing for a massive offensive, but his C.O. refuses to listen as he sees no reason the enemy would attack their firebase with the war coming to an end. When a higher ranking officer comes to the base for an inspection, Castle presents him with the evidence. This officer comes down hard on Castle, and becomes as much of a threat to the firebase as the enemy lurking in the jungle. Castle takes matters into his own hands and leads the officer to a firing range where the man “accidentally” takes a round in the head.. But even with one threat removed, the real enemy is out there and time is running out. When the attack finally comes, the base is unprepared despite Castle’s efforts and the battle turns into a massacre as Valley Forge firebase is overrun. Castle is the only survivor, standing alone in a sea of corpses, when help finally arrives.
Written by Garth Ennis, Born presents a truly dark and adult version of the Punisher, bringing great depth to the character. It portrays him as the hardened killer he is meant to be, while making his actions seem justifiable. The story is a near perfect prequel to the later events that will make Frank Castle become the Punisher. If you’re a fan of Frank Castle or even just well told war stories in general, Born is a story line that I can highly recommend.