Characters Appearing: Punisher
Issue(s): Punisher: Bloodlines
The story has the Punisher in the (fictional) country of San Domingo, said to be between Bolivia and Paraguay. Punisher is in the country to assassinate the country's ruler, a Captain De Ortega. But Punisher delays the assassination when he sees a US State Department official, Quince Jefferson, talking with Ortega. Punisher knows Quince and his wife, Angela (nee Wynoski). Quince and Angela also have a daughter, Laura, and an unofficially adopted son Estaban Ramone that we'll learn more about. When he was still Frank Castle, Frank and Angela had a romantic interest, but Angela married Quince instead.
Here is where we get into the years, which are a little confusing. It's estimated that it's been 10-15 years since Frank last saw Quince and Angela.
And it's said that Frank and Quince were in Vietnam together, attached to the marine contingent at the Saigon embassy, "until the end, April '75". Angela worked at the embassy as a cryptographer.
15 years from 1975 would put us at 1990, about when this book would have been written. But it's also said that Frank's family's death happened "six months ago".
So there must be a sliding timescale thing going on. I guess the idea at this point was to insert a lot of years between Vietnam and the Punisher's first appearance, making this story take place 15 years after the Vietnam war but only 6 months after the death of Frank's family. That doesn't really work since a lot of Marvel comics were still referencing Vietnam around the time of the Punisher's first publication appearance (Feb 74), but that's the sliding timescale for you.
Quince and Angela are killed by gunmen working for the Ramone brothers, drug-dealers that are in cahoots with De Ortega.
The Punisher takes this like the death of his family all over again. A family, and first love, never mentioned again, of course.
Anyway, from there we get into a more standard Punisher story (with Dave Cockrum art and the giant crazy eyebrows that come with it).
The daughter, Laura, is kidnapped by the drug-lords (who have a long term plan of raising her to be a personal sex slave).
The Punisher takes Estaban, who turns out to be one of the drug-lord's sons, and goes after them. The Punisher doesn't trust Estaban at first, but eventually Estaban proves himself. And i'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that the Punisher kills all the bad guys.
More surprising is a fight with a jaguar.
I mean, why not throw in a jaguar fight?
The Punisher sends the kids off to live with an aunt in Idaho, and that's it. Pretty standard stuff, especially if you're used to random "important" people being inserted into characters' backstories, which was a pretty common thing by the 90s. Dave Cockrum's art is unfortunately kind of stiff....
...so it comes across as a subpar Punisher story. It does become potentially more interesting when you realize that it's actually a Punisher Year One kind of story, but the truth is that Gerry Conway does nothing with that except pile on to the Punisher's existing trauma. There's no attempt to explore what the Punisher would have been like in his early days when he was just getting started, or anything like that. He's already "known" as the Punisher...
...and he's already hyper-competent and everything else, so setting the story in the "past" has little benefit.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: I've placed this a little prior to Amazing Spider-Man #129 but after the Punisher's appearances in 'Nam.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Awww, a D+ is kind of harsh. Yeah, this isn't anything all that spectacular. But even so it has Gerry Conway, the Punisher's co-creator, returning to write a solo story with him for the first time in years. Plus there's Dave Cockrum on pencils, in what is (I believe) the only time he ever drew the Punisher.
And, yeah, you might as well have a Punisher versus a jaguar fight if it's drawn well!
By the way, fnord, it has been a number of years since I've looked at this special. But I have a hazy memory of it falling rather neatly into eight page segments. Perhaps this is yet another story originally intended for Marvel Comics Presents that instead was published as a stand-alone book? Terry Kavanagh & Mark Powers are even the editors of it.
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 2, 2015 4:17 PM
Ben, you're right that this reads like another Marvel Comics Presents rescue the accompanying pacing in 8 page segments. The writing and art are so stiff already that it's actually less noticeable here than in some of the others, though.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 2, 2015 6:34 PM
Your speculation is indeed correct and this was a re-purposed Marvel Comics Presents story. It was announced along with The Young Gods (another delayed Conway serial) and Black Knight by Roy Thomas (which he mentioned in a letters page for the limited series).
Posted by: Tenzil | September 2, 2015 10:05 PM
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