Punisher War Journal #45
Issue(s): Punisher War Journal #45
Punisher hasn't been involved in the Dead Man's Hand crossover so far, and this issue starts with him still in New York. But he's been contacted by a mysterious woman. His narration says that "women are my blind side", which is news to me. The woman turns out to (seemingly) be Viper. She tells him about the meeting in Vegas. Thanks mostly to Chuck Dixon (established during his Moon Knight run), the Punisher has a special interest in the Secret Empire, so that's what gets his interest. Not that a bunch of criminals getting together to divide up the Kingpin's empire wouldn't have demanded his attention anyway.
Two issues here. First, the Punisher actually fought Viper in Punisher annual #2. Even if they hadn't fought, she seems like the sort of person that would be on his radar. This will belatedly be addressed in two issues, but right now there's no sign of recognition from the Punisher.
Second, in the Captain America book, Viper is currently working with the Red Skull. And in this story, it's the Red Skull who is facilitating the divvying up of the Kingpin's organization. So readers would be forgiven for thinking that the Viper is getting the Punisher involved as part of a further scheme of the Skull's. But that's not the case. And indeed throughout this event, Viper's role is pretty ambiguous, and we never find out what she's up to, and she seems to serve no purpose in the plot. That may have to do with some editor belatedly realizing that she's supposed to be with the Red Skull. But for whatever reason, Viper doesn't really do anything in this story besides get the Punisher to Vegas and then hang out with him for a while. This mess will later get cleaned up in an issue of Silver Sable, of all places, where it's revealed that Viper has a bunch of duplicates running around whose only purpose is to cause mass chaos to keep people off her trail, and it'll be confirmed that this Viper is one of them. So the character appearing here is really a duplicate, and anarchy is her only motivation. Which, to be fair, fits just fine for the Viper's character, but it's weird when this is a story involving the Red Skull and there's no connection made.
Anyway, Punisher agrees to meet her in Vegas. But they don't go together. Punisher goes to Mickey Fondozzi, the character that he pretended to be related to in the inaugural Punisher War Zone story. Fondozzi is currently making a living smuggling cigarettes.
Punisher gives Fondozzi $100,000 and tells him to go to Vegas and set himself up with a cover as a high roller.
Then Punisher goes to Vegas with Micro. They learn that it's not that hard to find the Secret Empire.
This is actually in accordance with something that Dixon established in Moon Knight, which is that the Secret Empire has a lot of normal (well, non-criminal) people as members, people that think that they are in an organization like the Knights of Columbus or the Masons.
Punisher and Micro go to Fondozzi's hotel room, but they are attacked by Secret Empire goons (they're not in costume, but it's confirmed later that that's who they are). So they relocate to a small motel outside of Vegas, in the desert. It happens to be where Silvermane is also staying. Fondozzi notices him but thanks to the standard Marvel disguise, he doesn't see that he's really a cyborg. Silvermane is sporting a nice mustache in this issue, but he'll shave it off before his next appearance. He also seems to have an army of bodies for his now removable head (as of Web of Spider-Man #79-80).
Since the Secret Empire's first attack failed, they send their Pretorians, led by Chainsaw, after Punisher and his companions.
By the time they arrive, Punisher has sent Micro and Fondozzi back into Vegas on a scouting mission. After they leave, "Viper" shows up again.
And then Chainsaw shows up and ohmygoodnesstheyhaveBucky!
D.G. Chichester and Fabian Nicieza, who are writing the other two books in this crossover, have a tendency towards involved, complex plotting. That's not at all the case with Chuck Dixon. So the Punisher War Journal chapters are pretty short and light on content compared to the others. I suppose that is fitting for the character. Punisher doesn't have time for a lot of nonsense. You're lucky he let you have that Silvermane subplot; that's a whole page of not shooting people that he had to give up.
As i've said earlier, it's best to just live in the moment with this crossover. In retrospect, the Viper story goes nowhere, and Silvermane turns out to be a bit player in this event as well. Even setting up Mickey Fondozzi as a wealthy gambler serves literally no purpose. Things are happening, but they will turn out to not mean much.
In the lettercol there have been questions about the Punisher's age. After taking a few guesses from readers in this issue, the response is basically, "It's Marvel time!".
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part three of Dead Man's Hand. Part four is in Nomad #5. Note that Nomad #5 being next breaks the pattern, since Daredevil's book was part one and Nomad was part #2, so Daredevil would normally be part four. That's due to a scheduling snafu. There's also a slightly weird storytelling decision in Punisher War Journal #46, which picks up directly from the end of this issue, even though Nomad #5 will cover that. More on that in those issues; for now, i assure you that Nomad #5 is the next part of this crossover.
Crossover: Dead Man's Hand
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showBucky (Julia Winter), Chainsaw, Mickey Fondozzi, Microchip, Pit-Viper 12, Punisher, Silvermane, Werner Von Strucker
Not gonna bother tracking the Pit-Viper? (as the Appendix calls her: http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix3/pitviper.htm)
Posted by: AF | March 17, 2016 2:39 PM
She is "a" Pit-Viper. Does this one definitely appear in the Silver Sable issue?
Posted by: fnord12 | March 17, 2016 2:43 PM
Yep, I think this story is even footnoted possibly, although there's other Pit-Vipers as well in that one. (and she has a BTS appearance in a Nick Fury apparently)
Posted by: AF | March 17, 2016 4:03 PM
Specifically she's named as Pit-Viper #12.
Posted by: AF | March 17, 2016 4:07 PM
Ok, thanks, i've added her. I did skim Silver Sable #15 and there is indeed a footnote to this issue. But i thought it was just the real Viper asking about the status of #12. I see now that Viper actually kills #12 later in the issue.
(Note that i haven't tagged #12 in PWJ #46, for reasons explained in the Considerations).
Posted by: fnord12 | March 17, 2016 4:15 PM
Seeing all these parts laid out together make me feel better about my past mental states and level of reading comprehension. Seeing Bucky on the front of Chainsaw's motorcycle when this came out made me think I had missed a part of Dead Man's Hand (how did she get from Bushwacker to Chainsaw?), but now I see I did not and it was all off panel. I feel the elation from a reprieve.
Posted by: Mark Black | March 17, 2016 6:38 PM
I've always thought it was odd that around this time the Secret Empire was able to pass itself off as a legitimate fraternal organization when they attempted a very public takeover of the United States years before in the pages of Captain America. What did they say if anyone bothered to bring that up? "Oh, no, that was a completely different Secret Empire! There's absolutely no connection between them and us! Nope, none at all, honest!"
I own the original artwork from page three of this issue. I bought it from penciler John Hebert many years ago...
I always chuckle at the deadpan narration Chuck Dixon gives the Punisher on that page as he offers up his "solution" for prison overcrowding.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 17, 2016 11:18 PM
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