Friday, June 26, 2009

No jokes about the essentialness of Essential Punisher here.

Even this early on, it's pretty well established that Frank can't take DD hand-to-hand.

Yeah, it needs a stronger title. Like Mandatory Punisher. No, that's terrible.

I picked up Essential Punisher, volume two the other day, trading in some old junk at the Comic Book Shop. It's twenty-plus issues or so, starting with Mike Baron and Klaus Janson's Punisher #1, Frank's first ongoing series issue. I've read all of those, of course, and some in black-and-white before as well, in the old Punisher Magazine reprints.

(Rather than try to cram that phone book into my scanner, the scans are from Punisher Magazine #8, reprinting Punisher #10, "The Creep" Written by Mike Baron, pencils by Whilce Portacio, inks by Scott Williams. Both the Essential and said Magazine are kind enough to include the Rashomon-style crossover with Daredevil #257, "The Bully" Written by Ann Nocenti, pencils by John Romita Jr. and inks by Al Williamson.)

I think I lost or sold off a lot of them back in the mid-late nineties when Punisher was just worn out and terrible; possibly before the angel nonsense, but definitely before Garth Ennis brought him back.

At the time, before he became swamped in the work that came with three books and myriad guest-spots, Frank was a little more human and a little less the unstoppable engine of destruction you might be used to seeing. (A little less...) He makes mistakes, he needs help, he loses like three battle-vans in this volume alone. By the second issue, Frank's ready to quit his war on crime: Baron may have played that card too soon, since it seems like the next issue backpedals that into a "break." It doesn't take: Frank can't not respond to crime, and doesn't seem to have anything else to do.
Ennis' Frank is so old, beaten, and brutal-looking, he'd never be able to pull this off.
Although, there is one scene, after hitting the Jehovah's Witnesses for leads while rocking the Clark Kent disguise (something the modern Punisher probably couldn't pull off...) he's left waiting on a tip, so Frank reads a novel. Not that Frank couldn't be a big reader, but how often do you see him do something besides shoot people and look sullen? It's one little panel, I love it, and really wouldn't mind reading that book sometime. (It's Poe Must Die by Mark Olden, and I may have to try Amazon later for it. EDIT: Yeah, good luck...) If it's good enough for Frank (and Baron, presumably) then it should be good enough for the likes of me.

Also: I know I had this one, but I had forgotten the first Punisher Annual, part of the Evolutionary Wars crossover. With the High Evolutionary, although he doesn't appear directly in this one; that's still two great tastes that taste weird together. H.E.'s armored soldiers are fighting a druglord in Central America, the Punisher gets involved via the Druglord's Innocent Daughter (a cliche so common it should have a trademark after it) and the Punisher and the druglord are forced to team-up. No points for guessing where that goes...

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