In 2004, the Punisher’s comic book, then published under the “Marvel Knights” banner, was cancelled and relaunched under the “Marvel MAX” imprint. It still had the same writer, Garth Ennis, but this time, Ennis had much more freedom to write what he wanted to write. “MAX” meant that his comic was intended for adult readers, which meant loads more violence, but it also meant a lot more political commentary and use of real world issues.
There also two other things of note with the Punisher MAX stories: the first was that Ennis didn’t want to include any other superheroes or villains, not even Daredevil, the Punisher’s most often used foil. Nick Fury was used a few times, but that was all. And second, the “floating timeline” that Marvel used for all of its comics was discarded. Frank Castle was a Vietnam veteran, which meant he looked...
...quite a bit older than his previous appearances.
The Slavers was a storyline that went from issue #25 to #30 and it was about Frank trying to stop a group of sex slavers in New York. But what makes this story one of the Punisher’s best and bleakest is how and why Frank gets involved: he accidentally runs across one of the runaway sex slaves, Viorica, and she tells him her story.
What sets this story aside from a lot of other Punisher stories is that the Punisher isn’t doing this just because they are criminals. He isn’t even doing this out of revenge for his murdered family. He is doing this for someone else, for Viorica, so that she might get some small closure or piece of mind, like Frank never did.
Of course, he is also doing this because the slavers are, well, slavers. And because they killed Viorica’s baby.
This Frank is still a killing machine, but the people he is after aren’t just bad people; they are the worst people. This is what makes The Slavers so satisfying at times — you want to see these villains get what they deserve. But then you become disgusted by the actual lengths Frank takes — at one point, he slams a woman into a bulletproof window so hard, it breaks from the building. These are terrible people and he’s doing terrible things to them. It doesn’t make him a good guy, it just makes him, well, Frank Castle.