Captain America #241
Issue(s): Captain America #241
Aside from his appearance in black and white magazines (Marvel Preview #2 and Marvel Super Action #1), the Punisher's appearances so far have been with Spider-Man, and the Punisher has been toned-down compared to his later appearances, using mercy bullets or agreeing with Spidey to be non-lethal. That's less the case here. This is the first time i've seen him interact with another hero, and Barr finds the right hook, which is that both the Punisher and Captain America are soldiers.
The story starts with Cap fighting off some goons. But the guy they were leaning on turns out to be a mob courier, and he gets away.
Cap then continues to pursue his new career as a commercial artist...
...and when he returns to his apartment building, he finds that Anna Kappelbaum has had a shock and thinks she saw a Nazi outside her window. That might sound crazy, but in the Marvel universe there are enough Nazis still running around that it's entirely possible, and Cap wonders if it's one of his old enemies. But later, when he hears a shot and goes out to investigate, he finds the Punisher threatening the courier from earlier.
After a brief fight, the Punisher shoots the courier and gets away. Cap learns the location of a big mob meeting from the courier before he passes out.
Cap speculates that the "Nazi" that Mrs. Kappelbaum saw was really the Punisher, and he thinks to himself that "she may not be far from wrong".
I'm calling Goodwin's Law on that one, Cap! Say what you will about the Punisher's lethal vigilantism, he's not bent on exterminating a race of people.
Cap arrives at the site of the mob meeting and finds the Punisher preparing to blow it up. Cap stops him, but their fight attracts the attention of the mobsters, and soon Cap and the Punisher have to join forces to take them out.
It turns out one of the mobster bodyguards was really a Federal agent, and she thanks Cap for his involvement.
That's surprising to me. I'm no legal expert, but i've seen enough movies and read enough comics to know that when a hero busts up a bunch of bad guys that law enforcement agents are actively investigated, they're supposed to get chewed out, not thanked. If the federal agent already had enough to arrest these guys, why didn't she call in some back-up to do it?
But i'm more interested in the Cap/Punisher interactions.
I love the Punisher calling Captain America "sir" and telling him that he admires what he stands for. Cap's argument that the Punisher isn't the only one that has lost loved ones is pretty strong, too. I think it would have been better from Cap to go from there to arguing that the "war" the Punisher is fighting now isn't a just one, and his rules of engagement are flawed. But instead Barr goes in a direction that i think is really crazy, and one that will haunt interpretations of Cap going forward.
Cap has "never willingly taken a life"? That's hard to believe (and demonstrably untrue even if we disregard Golden Age comics) and makes Cap look incredibly naive and not at all like a super-soldier. Was he really running around in World War II carefully knocking out Nazis while Allied soldiers all around him shot them down? Did he lecture all those soldiers about not taking lives, too? I suppose the Invaders series actually helps with the "Cap never killed" argument by saying that he spent the majority of his time fighting Nazi super-villains and therefore never was put in situations where he had to kill regular soldiers. But i still don't buy it. I'm assuming that word "willingly" is doing a lot of work here.
Even if we do buy it, though, it's the wrong argument to be making here. Because even "i've never killed" Cap has to acknowledge that most soldiers do kill, and so if you accept that the Punisher is in a "war" then killing is acceptable. The real argument to make is that the Punisher's "war" isn't one.
Despite seemingly surrendering to the agent, the Punisher manages to escape in the end. He's left wondering about his "weakness" in not killing Captain America. Cap sees more similarities with the Punisher than i would have expected, especially after calling him a Nazi just earlier.
Frank Springer is not the artist i would have picked for this story, especially after a Frank Miller cover, but his art works pretty well.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this between Avengers #188-189 and before Marvel Premiere #49 and Avengers annual #9.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAnna Kappelbaum, Captain America, Josh Cooper, Mike Farrel, Punisher
The Punisher is hell bent on exterminating a race of criminals!
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | July 3, 2013 2:22 PM
We disagree on the Punisher but I really do like bits and pieces of early Punisher, especially here with him respectin Steve.
Posted by: David Banes | December 31, 2013 7:41 PM
It will always be difficult to justify presenting killers as heroes. It is an inherent trouble with both characters, and one reason why Punisher just isn't a good solo character, while Captain America is simply problematic to write as a matter of course.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 1, 2014 1:10 PM
I think the other problem is Punisher would just work better in an R-rated revenge movie rather than working in a world where people only die at the hand of criminals if it an important plot point and a whole lot of noble people get super powers along with every villain has their own laboratory.
Also I kind of cringe whenever they try to present Cap as never having killed anyone. Cap can be a nice guy but he can still kill people during war.
I do have to agree that the writer should have had Steve argue that Frank isn't fighting an actual war.
Posted by: David Banes | January 1, 2014 1:50 PM
Vigilante heroes only work in a setting where the forces of law and order are either so corrupt or feeble that they can't actually protect ordinary citizens. The idea that criminals are able to hide behind the law is what justifies the vigilante. Without that, it is hard to accept.
The use of the Punisher in the seventies and eighties made sense when crime was much more of an issue, and one could argue that law enforcement was hampered by a variety of ill conceived restraints. It is less so since the nineties and beyond when crime rate has fallen and most of the problems hampering law enforcement have gone away.
If you look at the Punisher's antecedents like Mack Bolan, we see Bolan not so much as working against the system, as being brought within and given sanction for similar reasons.
However, there is still all sorts of ways to depict the Punisher's war on crime in ways that don't make him an obvious villain. One is that the Punisher has to be dedicated not just to destroying criminals, but protecting the innocent. Second, he has to really go after those criminals who are still somehow protected by the law or otherwise act with impunity. Lastly, there are all sorts of criminals considered totally outside the boundaries - mostly sexual criminals - that many people really wouldn't care about. If the Punisher revisited cold cases where the cops have given up, or had worked to find people who didn't have normal legal recourse (think of all those TV shows of experts who break the law to help people like Leverage), it would put him in a more positive light.
I've always assumed that Captain America killed people during WWII. It is silly to think otherwise. I would interpret that statement as Cap only killed when not having any other choice (never willingly taken a life), not that he's never done it. One could say he was only referring to comic book events where killing happened by accident (like the first Baron Zemo), but I choose to interpret it as meaning in situations where he did not have any choice.
This distinction will come into play real soon when FNORD12 reaches Cap #321.
Posted by: Chris | January 1, 2014 5:25 PM
This is probably one of the only early appearances (the other is a spider-man annual*) of the Punisher I like (I dont like any of his later ones).
(*My favourite punisher appearance is actually in an RPG called "Lone Wolves")
Posted by: kveto | December 20, 2016 4:25 PM
@kveto: Yeah, agreed on that, although I think you meant to type laissez-faire. Lassie was the dog who was always rescuing Timmy after he fell down the well :)
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 20, 2016 4:59 PM
Posted by: kveto | December 20, 2016 5:07 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|