Punisher: POV #1-4
Issue(s): Punisher: POV #1, Punisher: POV #2, Punisher: POV #3, Punisher: POV #4
I have reviewed A LOT of Punisher books, some of them well written, some of them not. But after a while it's like, ok, who is he shooting up this time? You kind of know what you are going to get. Sometimes the script has a nice hard boiled quality to it, sometimes it's a mess. And the art can vary. But overall it can get repetitive. So i picked this up with that kind of weary attitude, but i quickly found myself paying more attention. Because the script was really smart. And (since i didn't look ahead at the final two issues' covers), i was legitimately surprised by a turn in the plot, and even after that turn the plot remained engaging. And the art is nice. So if you're looking for a Punisher story but are overwhelmed by the number of choices, this is a good one to get.
The creative team is Jim Starlin and Berni(e) Wrightson. To me, Jim Starlin is the cosmic guy. But Starlin did write Batman for DC, including the Death In The Family storyline, and with Wrightson he did a Batman mini-series called The Cult, which was in a similar format to this series.
Wrightson's art is not flashy but it is good at depicting the gritty street level world that both Batman and the Punisher normally live in, and as the plot turns, he handles the gruesome weirdness well, too (which is no surprise after Hooky).
The story starts with two 1970s era radicals (kicked out of the Weathermen for being too radical and violent), Deke Wainscroft and Barry "Zonkers" Powell, getting released from prison. According to the Punisher's War Journal entry that introduces them, Deke and Zonkers "were political; liked to blow things and people up in order to put the brakes on the old Capitalist Imperial War Machine. 'Bomb the populace into political awareness', was their motto.". Sixteen people were killed during their actions, and the Punisher is upset that they spent less than a year in prison for each death.
Since the title of this mini-series is POV (Point of View), i thought that this story might be setting up a war of philosophies between Punisher and these anti-war radicals. From the Punisher's point of view, they are murderers, and on top of that they were fighting to stop a war that he served in. I thought perhaps we would also see things from Deke and Zonkers' perspective, demonstrating an earnest desire to stop the war, and maybe regretting or not really being responsible for the deaths. But as i said, i had this series pegged all wrong. This isn't that kind of a story. Frankly, Deke and Zonkers are one dimensional characters. They are purely malicious and self-serving, and it's clear that they don't really have any ideals. That's my one disappointment with the story.
Deke and Zonkers first cross paths with the Punisher while he is staking out a weapons dealer's warehouse. He sees them come and go, but since they weren't carrying out a lot of stuff (it turns out they had plastique) he let them go while waiting for (what he thinks are) bigger fish.
Deke and Zonkers begin ransoming banks, blowing up a branch (wantonly killing people)...
...to make sure the bank president knows that they mean business, and then demanding money to stop more bombings. That gets the Punisher's interest.
It also attracts the attention of another character, a weird touch in this series. He's Chester Goudal, a mentally ill man that believes the world is being taken over by monsters, starting with his mother. Wrightson draws him in such a way that he's very cartoony, pretty incongruous compared to the other characters in the book.
Chester aside, like i said, i thought i had a good handle on the plot. But then things take a turn when midway through issue #1, Zonkers screws up while making a bomb and causes an explosion, killing him and ripping all the skin off of Deke.
Deke takes Zonkers' head and heads into the sewer, following a "secret path" known only to him. At that point, at a Wainscroft Chemical plant (remember Deke's last name), an experiment starts to go bad, so they dump the chemicals into the sewer. And onto Deke.
People from Wainscroft head into the sewer after it's flushed with anti-biotics, and they first find a giant mutated rat, and then Deke's unconscious body. They bring them both to the plant for investigation ("That creep Nelson'll have an orgasm over it.") The owner of Wainscroft Chemical, Daemian Wainscroft, does turn out to be Deke's father, and he therefore is aware that his son is a wanted criminal and that the authorities won't worry about the fact that he's gone missing (and he clearly shows no compassion over what's happened).
Deke later escapes, and starts attacking women and drinking their blood.
Deke doesn't actually kill these victims; he just takes their blood.
With news of the "vampire", Chester Goudal decides it's time to go into action. He starts by killing his mom.
Daemian Wainscroft, trying to keep things quiet, goes to the Kingpin for help in recapturing Deke.
Punisher, meanwhile, has been trying to find Deke and Zonkers by infiltrating the "old political underground", where he doesn't have a lot of contacts. But he catches a break when he's in a bar, disguised, when one of the Kingpin's men comes in and asks him if he's seen Deke.
You may have noticed that the bank that Deke and Zonkers blew up earlier was Gotham Federal. That did get me wondering if this story was perhaps a Batman story that was repurposed for the Punisher. But there wasn't a lot for me to hang on that theory, except perhaps the unusual amount of time focusing on a Detective Holiday during the Goudal's mother scene. Until the Punisher and Det. Holiday suddenly start meeting to compare notes.
Punisher starts using a listening device to listen in on Daemian Wainscroft's phone calls, and overhears Nick Fury of SHIELD calling him. Fury has the call scrambled before the Punisher can hear anything.
After two more "vampire" attacks, Punisher catches up with Deke and learns that he's mutated.
Punisher's bullets are ineffective and he's unable to outfight Deke. So issue #1 ends with the Punisher about to get his head squeezed off. But (after a vision of his dead wife and kids, which will be semi-important later) he's saved by the Kingpin's men.
So dead, so fast alert:
The Punisher is nearly out of bullets and very outnumbered. So his rescue doesn't really seem like good news. But then an unusual alliance is formed.
The Punisher's temporary alliance with the Kingpin, and especially his "Chief" (the unnamed guy that hands Punisher the phone), is an important part of this story. And i guess indicates that, at least by issue #2, we're not just following a Batman plot. Who would play the role of the Kingpin? The Penguin?
While the Punisher and the Kingpin are negotiating their alliance (hilariously, the Kingpin calls the Punisher a second time, knowing that by now he's had a chance to get more ammo, and reminds him that there are benefits to the alliance), Chester Goudal follows Deke's trail, stopping near a homeless woman that Deke attacked while he was fleeing. A pair of police officers see Chester, thinking he might be Deke. But Chester thinks the cops are demons, and shoots them both. With a blunderbuss full of dimes.
And then puts a stake through the heart of the homeless woman, to prevent her from becoming a vampire.
Chester will continue to go around and kill Deke's victims.
Punisher later stakes out the Wainscroft manor again. This time Nick Fury - whose hair is white or blond throughout issue #2 and in parts of #3-4 - visits in person.
We learn that Fury is aware that Daemian Wainscroft went to the Kingpin, and wants him to call that off. We also hear that Deke's vampirism is just a psychological thing, and that seems to bear out.
Fury figures out that all of Deke's attacks are near a skyscraper that Daemian is building, and he orders a squad of SHIELD agents to head there. The Punisher gets there first. He has about as much luck as the first time, but the Kingpin's men planted a bug on his van, so they arrive sooner this time and help out.
Punisher gets thrown off the building, but uses Batman's grapnel gun to save himself.
I love that the Punisher gets back to the fight, thinks to himself that nothing works against Deke, including bullets, and then shrugs and says, "I figure I'll give bullets another try.".
But what turns out to be most effective are blows to the back of the head.
Deke is knocked off the building, but he doesn't die.
The Punisher and the Kingpin's "Chief" bond while they're fighting Deke, especially as the chief loses a lot of friends during the battle.
The Punisher and the Chief go to Wainscroft manor and interrogate Daemian. He tells them that the serum that Deke got covered with was supposed to create a super-soldier for the government, with the ability to regenerate and go without food, water, or air. But the fact that the serum got mixed in with sewer water has caused it to mutate. Daemian then flees when the police show up. It also turns out that Nick Fury (with Network Nina) was listening in on the conversation, and he plans to sit back and let the Punisher do his dirty work.
Deke, meanwhile, heads upstate.
Deke eventually attacks a woman in a town in the Catskills. The local police match it to the MO of Deke, and alert the police, and a corrupt police captain notifies the Kingpin, and the Kingpin's phone is tapped by SHIELD. Micro also has tapped the police. Pretty funny scene. Everybody's tapping everybody.
Micro gets additional information, though, about a Waincroft property in the area, so the Punisher would have gotten there first, if the Kingpin's men weren't waiting for him on the road. However, they again join forces (the Chief has restocked up on canon-fodder goons) to go after Deke. Punisher goes in first, with a rocket launcher.
But he misses, and the Kingpin's men move in. Unfortunately, they are not all up to the Punisher's level.
Punisher gets out of the net, tries to use the net gun again, and has better luck, but it unable to switch to a flame thrower before Deke gets close to the Kingpin's goons. He eventually gets it right, setting Deke on fire, but Deke is able to put himself out in a nearby pond.
Punisher eventually, after all the Kingpin's goons except Chief die or flee, remembers that hitting Deke in the head in the previous fight had the best results.
But when they finally have Deke down, Nick Fury and SHIELD show up.
The Punisher thinks that Fury won't know what he's dealing with and that Deke will get loose again. But before he can try to kill Deke, he's stunned.
When Punisher comes to, he begs Fury to kill Deke, but it's no dice.
Fury then turns over the Punisher to the local police. We'll see later that he knows very well that the Punisher will get free; he's just hoping to slow him down (and maybe as payback for the Hydra incident, but of course that wouldn't have been intentional on Starlin's part).
Note also the continued friendship between the Punisher and Chief. It adds a nice layer to the story.
While he's being transported by the police in a plane, the Punisher thinks back to that vision he had of his wife and kids. It's been floating around in his mind, looking for something to connect with (note also the local cop's "young buck" comment).
And now he realizes: one of Deke's victims was pregnant, and he worries about what effect Deke's genetics would have had on the baby. And indeed:
So the Punisher takes his leave.
I get a little jaded, having read so many super-hero comics. But that was a pretty awesome scene.
Between the dive's impact and the swim to shore while handcuffed, the Punisher is pretty exhausted. But over Micro's objections, he goes looking for the baby.
Meanwhile, the strangely cartoonish Chester Goudal hunts for the mutated baby, which has escaped into the sewer.
SHIELD agents are also in the sewer. Fury has authorized the use of lethal force against the baby, but not against the Punisher. Daemian Wainscroft is unhappy about the latter, and threatens to complain to Fury's "superiors".
The Punisher finds the baby. It's possible Chester was fighting it earlier, or he might have just been delusional, but this is the first time we see it fully.
And in one of the weirdest twists in a plot that's been pretty weird, the Punisher decides he's going to adopt the baby!
But then Chester shows up and shoots it.
The Punisher and Chester fight, with Chester seeing the Punisher as another demon.
The baby pulls Chester off of the Punisher, and Chester flees. Punisher stays with the baby as it dies.
Punisher catches up to Chester and throws him in front of a subway train.
I'm not quite sure what to make of Chester. He's kind of a comedy character, but not really. I'm not too into laughing at the mentally ill, which Chester clearly is, but Chester is really just more bizarre than funny, adding another element of the macabre to the story. Punisher is all over the place. I find his reaction to the baby to be odd. On the one hand, it's another thing that feels more like Batman than the Punisher. But Batman would never throw a mentally ill person in front of a train. The Punisher's reaction to the baby is put in the context of the loss of his own kids, so i guess that's part of the explanation. And who knows; maybe the baby released pheromones as well.
In the end, the Kingpin calls to call off their temporary truce and also to note that neither of them won, since Daemian Wainscroft got off scott free. But then we learn that Fury has basically imprisoned Daemian on an island where he'll be forced to live (for his own "protection") until he perfects the super-serum. The brain-damaged Deke, in a coma, is kept there as well.
This isn't high art, but it's a good adventure story with interesting twists, unusual alliances, and a weird threat for the Punisher. Starlin has the right mix of humor and seriousness in the script, and Wrightson's art is great with both the street action and the horror. The Punisher is sometimes a little more "athletic" than he should be, doing more hand to hand fighting and the like, which again says to me that Batman was the original intended star, but it's really not that unusual for the Punisher to get physical, and if it was originally a Batman story, it's adapted well.
These books are ad free (at $4.95 a pop, they had better be!) but there are joke ads on the back covers of the first two issues.
Quality Rating: B+
Historical Significance Rating: 1
Chronological Placement Considerations: "Weeks" pass during the course of this story.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAlexander Goodwin Pierce, Contessa Valentina Allegro De La Fontaine, Kingpin, Microchip, Network Nina, Nick Fury, Punisher
Because the name"Chester Goudal" is so close to Chester Gould, was there some commentary about the creator of Dick Tracy? Gould was known to get increasingly paranoid towards crime and criminals in his newspaper strip during the 70s, so I wonder if there was some sort of implicit message?
Or maybe the name is just a fantastic coincidence?
Posted by: mikrolik | September 29, 2015 5:06 PM
Starlin and Wrightson had several collaborations during this era, including the Cult (which you mentioned), a Hulk vs Thing entry in Marvel Graphic Novel, and a mini-series for DC called "The Weird," which starred a new character of the same name.
Posted by: Red Comet | September 29, 2015 6:46 PM
Fnord, you're right- this was intended as a Batman story. This was supposed to be a sequel to Batman: the Cult:
Posted by: Michael | September 29, 2015 7:52 PM
Deke has been taking the situation of not having any tail for 15 years in hand. What a w#nker haha
Posted by: JSfan | September 30, 2015 4:44 AM
Comics Journal #176 had some commentary from Wrightson about this book: "I hated doing the Punisher...I remember talking to the editor...and I said 'Tell me something about this character'...He thought for a second and said 'Any time the Punisher appears in a panel with somebody else, he shoots him. Any time the Punisher is in a panel with some object, he blows it up.' ".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 19, 2015 3:45 PM
That final image of the strobing windows of the subway train is a visual homage to Krigstein's masterpiece from the 1950's Impact #1, The Master Race.
Posted by: Andrew | December 22, 2015 8:30 PM
The real Weathermen never spent much time in prison because, crazy as it seems, none of their bombings killed anyone...at least no bombings that could be proved were theirs. There was one that killed a cop in San Francisco, but it's believed that was likely a counterpart black radical group since they preferred to target the police.
After the Weather Underground fell apart a few of their members joined another radical group called the Family whose members preferred armed robbery and blow to bombs and grandstanding. Most of them were killed or imprisoned after the botched Brinks armored car robbery where two security guards and a cop were killed.
Posted by: Red Comet | March 26, 2017 8:59 AM
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