Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Various

As part of the traditional Marvel Universe, The Punisher was always severely toned down as the company attempted to market him to kids as a hip action hero with a ton of cool gadgets. But when Marvel finally brought the character into its mature MAX line with writer Garth Ennis, the spandex costume and goofy sidekicks were replaced with a devastating arsenal of weaponry and a cynical, sociopath-like attitude towards others.

In this series, a much older Frank Castle lives in a realistic world where superheroes don’t exist and the villains are drug dealers and sex traffickers. During Ennis’ 60-issue run, Punisher shot and stabbed his way through countless law-breakers. The personal ramifications of his one-man war on crime, meanwhile, left him emotionally crippled and incapable of having anything that resembled a normal life.

Ennis added supreme depth to a character who was normally nothing more than a walking, talking cliché. Though you can still label this book as part of the superhero genre, it’s more akin to a blood-soaked crime title.