Characters Appearing: Bernard Modine, Brady (VIGIL), Harold Jessup, Mike 'Rusty' Nails, Mondo Pain, Punisher, Riggs (VIGIL), Taylor Blackwell
Issue(s): Punisher #85
The 1994 Statement of Ownership numbers come in during this crossover. I'll post the full numbers on the relevant entries, but i thought it was worth bringing up generally here in the context of this crossover. The main Punisher title is at a respectable ~215,000, which is down significantly from last year (330,000), but actually very steady compared to years prior to that (it was 211,000 in 1992, 228,000 in 1992, and 184,265 in 1990). War Zone is at the same level and also holding steady (197,000 vs. 230,000 last year). But War Journal is a lot lower at 139,000, and its "most recent" number is an alarming 83,000. To be fair, all the books have big drops between their average and most recent numbers, which is odd because the Punisher didn't have any artificial sales-boosting events this year prior to Suicide Run. It's possible therefore that all three books were in "trouble" but at the moment i'm interested in the disparity between Journal and the other two books. It's true that Journal sold at a higher price point than the regular series, but so did War Zone. War Zone is newer, and may still have been coasting on the initial high profile run, but we're two years in at this point.
What's surprising about Journal being the second tier book is that at times it seemed like it was going to be the book that tied in more with the larger Marvel universe. Over its run so far it's had guest appearances by Daredevil, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, and Black Widow. Granted it wasn't Punisher Team-Up, and there were a lot of times that the book failed to distinguish itself from the regular series. But failing to distinguish itself from the regular book shouldn't result in lower sales, especially when the same pretty quickly became true of War Zone.
Anyway, Suicide Run got a lot of hype, so it was an opportunity to bring in new readers and also perhaps distribute those readers between the three titles better. Marvel also takes the opportunity to repurpose the titles in the aftermath of the crossover, although the description of the strategy is nearly incomprehensible to me:
In terms of future PUNISHER issues, the entire PUNISHER creative team moves over to WAR JOURNAL to bring you the direct result of what happens at the conclusion of the "Suicide Run"... WAR ZONE, on the other hand, will be going back to featuring "classic" Punisher story arcs by top pros in the business...
As for the regular Punisher series, it's said elsewhere that it will bring us "some fine, unrelated stories".
Having now read that repeatedly, i think i understand it, but on my first pass it sounded like something Mr. Turkentine would say.
As for the plot of Suicide Run: Like Superman before him, the Punisher dies and is replaced by several copycats. Some of the copycats are new characters, and some are characters that we've already met (nobody "famous", just minor characters from the Punisher's series). The timeframe here is much shorter than Superman's death and return, so the copycats don't get a ton of page time (especially for the truly new characters) and the story quickly becomes a mad rush to (re-)kill the Punisher after his speedy return. The anti-vigilante task force VIGIL, and especially their out of control Lt. Taylor Blackwell, plays a large role in this story as well. The story is chaotic and implausible, but it's fun and it's a nice break from the one-off ripped from the headlines stuff. The Punisher's death was leaked as part of the hype for the crossover, so the early lettercols are full of people threatening to cancel their subscriptions or guessing who the replacement(s) will be.
This "zero" issue isn't directly related to the crossover but instead reinforces VIGIL's need to get the Punisher in order to justify its existence and funding.
VIGIL's captain, Mike 'Rusty' Nails, is supposed to have red hair but it's colored while a few times during these issues. He and most of VIGIL aren't the focus anyway. The VIGIL part of the story will really be about Blackwell going rogue.
His partner, Harold Jessup, acts as his squeaky conscience (which doesn't get listened to).
The villain in this issue is a guy named Mondo Pain, who at first glance you might think is Jigsaw.
Mondo is supposed to be a heavy for a crime boss named Mr. Ballard but the relationship is inverted.
Blackwell figures that Ballard and Mondo are likely targets for the Punisher, so he and Jessup try to pick up Mondo.
As you can see, Mondo's thing is all about daring people to attack him, betting that they'll back down. But it doesn't work with Blackwell, who Mondo identifies as a true psychopath.
Blackwell tries to get Mondo to set up a sting to catch the Punisher. But the Punisher is aware of that, and he instead springs the trap and makes sure that everyone, Ballard included, thinks the others are betraying them.
The Punisher also doesn't fall for Mondo's bluff.
Blackwell comes out of the situation looking like a hero for taking Ballard (and a made-up vigilante that they call "Border Stalker") down, but the issue ends with him all the more pissed at the Punisher for outsmarting him.
Mondo Pain doesn't figure into the rest of Suicide Run, but it will turn out that he survived the Punisher's shot and will appear in a later story.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part "zero" of Suicide Run. Part one is in Punisher War Journal #61. For what it's worth, there are back-up stories in a few issues of Suicide Run. They are the usual kind of 8 page filler with the Punisher shooting some random criminals. I'm not going to cover them, but you can assume they take place directly before this story.
Crossover: Suicide Run
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
We're already to Suicide Run! I remember seeing multi-page ads for it in contemporary comics, written in the style of war journal entries and building up that the Punisher wouldn't survive ("It will be nice to see Maria and the children again...") I didn't pick up any of the issues, though; Punisher was a joke to me prior to Garth Ennis' work.
Posted by: Mortificator | March 31, 2017 4:49 PM
The Punisher books will limp along for another year and a half before they all get cancelled and Frank Castle killed off in the Countdown event (of course the Punisher then gets rebooted a few months later). Be interesting to see what's done with them in the meantime.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 31, 2017 6:52 PM
At this point, the Punisher's continuity becomes a complete mess. Punisher War Journal featured the followup to Suicide Run. Punisher is working without Microchip and his battle van. And he's believed to be dead (again) after the arc in Punisher War Journal 65-69. Meanwhile, as fnord mentioned, Punisher War Zone featured stories prior to Suicide Run. And Punisher 89-93 feature stories prior to Suicide Run, while Punisher 94-99 feature stories after Suicide Run. This understandably caused confusion whenever the Punisher made a guest appearance. For example, the Hearts of Darkness sequel, Dark Design, takes place after Silver Surfer 100 but Frank seems to have his battle van (i.e. not a van he stole from a crook). Even the writers of Punisher Annual 7 were confused- Frank appears with Microchip but Rapido makes reference to the events of Suicide Run. The MCP discusses the problem in this thread:
Posted by: Michael | March 31, 2017 7:56 PM
fnord has been going deep enough into 1994 on enough books - virtually every story arc that started with a 1993 cover date - I almost wonder if he's moving to organizing years by actual publication date rather than cover date. At the moment I doubt that's actually the case (and part of it is all these huge crossovers that span the year boundary by cover date but were mostly published in 1993), but he might as well have pushed Suicide Run into 1994; by my count the only regular series books with 1993 cover dates he hasn't covered, and would cover before the Marvel Comics Presents marathon, are Deathlok #30 and Wonder Man #28.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 31, 2017 9:11 PM
He did cover Deathlok 30- he pushed it back into 1992.
Posted by: Michael | March 31, 2017 9:24 PM
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