Punisher/Captain America: Blood & Glory #1-3
Issue(s): Punisher/Captain America: Blood & Glory #1, Punisher/Captain America: Blood & Glory #2, Punisher/Captain America: Blood & Glory #3
This is a three issue prestige format series with each issue costing $5.95. The first issue, at least, is well worth that price because it has an embossed cover. Sure, go ahead and click that link. You can look at the cover. But only if you actually own a copy can you run your hand over the cover, as i am doing now, and feel the lovely, lovely texture. It's ok to be a little jealous.
Inside the books, we have full art from Klaus Janson, but unfortunately it is a little stiff and not reminiscent of when he was doing full art after Frank Miller's Daredevil run or in the first few issues of the Punisher's ongoing series.
The problem may be related to the paper quality or the coloring. Janson usually has a kind of rough sketchy quality, but i'd say the problem here is that the art is too clear, almost like it's over inked or otherwise just too starkly rendered.
Areas where Janson has obviously tried to do shading clashes with the coloring.
Storywise, this is a conspiracy thriller, the sort of thing that D.G. Chichester seems fond of based on his Nick Fury and Daredevil runs. As with those runs, the plotting gets a little too busy. The story is pretty simple: a US Attorney General wants to instigate a war between the US and a fictional South American country of Medisuela*...
...so he is secretly arranging for them to get a large shipment of arms so that he can point to their military build-up. The weapons are deliberately flawed so that the US invasion won't take too long. And Captain America and the Punisher get involved and stop his scheme. Pretty simple, but it unfolds haltingly over three issues with a large cast of government officials and soldiers, most of whom aren't that important but who get a fair amount of page time. The story isn't terrible, but it feels needlessly detailed. It might have benefited more from fewer characters that got developed more.
(*It's like they aren't even trying to come up with fictional country names anymore. "Venezuela, Schmedisuela, what difference does it make?")
And really, the conspiracy plot is secondary (or maybe i just think it should be) to the interactions between Cap and the Punisher, with Chichester and his frequent collaborator Margaret Clark drawing a contrast between the experiences and resulting philosophies of two veterans from two very different wars. To my mind, this is the interesting part of the story and the thing you should focus on if you are doing a book featuring these two characters. But the problem is, i guess, that it's buried among the development of the conspiracy story. It's in there, to be sure. But everything comes at you at the same volume and it's hard to sort out the wheat from the chaff (or, to not mix metaphors, the solo instruments from the accompaniment). To be clear, there are some good moments coming from this, like that scene i showed above with Cap recognizing a soldier he met in World War II. The positive feelings that soldier has about Cap's involvement in World War II is in contrast to the Punisher's feelings about how soldiers in the Vietnam War were treated.
(The third scan above is from the very end of the series.)
What's interesting is that it's implied that Captain America's motivation to try so hard to enlist in World War II was as much about Steve Rogers being manipulated by WWII era propaganda as anything else.
Normally, Cap's desire to participate in the war are always being depicted as being pure and true, but there's a kind of sinister side to it here. Not on Cap's part, of course, but in the sense that maybe young Steve Rogers' desire to enlist was thanks to the government taking advantage of the idealism of young men. The idea here being that the differences between World War II and Vietnam aren't as clear as you might think.
I think that's more than debatable, and it's not really explored in detail, but it's an interesting topic to see raised. And if you're not into such heavy stuff, Cap and Punisher have non-political interactions as well, including what is clearly the best panel in the mini-series:
We do have some continuity considerations here. The first relates to the sliding timescale, and probably can be dismissed. But based on the sliding timescale, Captain America would have been on ice during the Vietnam war, so he probably doesn't deserve to be criticized for not participating in it. But the sliding timescale also applies to the Punisher, so whatever conflict in Southeast Asia that he is talking about is probably one that Cap was around for. And in any event, Cap actually did go to Vietnam (or whatever the sliding timescale causes it to be) in Tales of Suspense #61 where he fought a sumo wrestler and rescued a POW, so he clearly was available and could have done more. So like i said, this can probably all be dismissed, but i thought it was worth going through.
The more alarming thing is that Captain America narrates like he was around for the final days of World War II.
We know that's not the case. Captain America was frozen before World War II ended. Cap must be referring to having "watched" documentaries or something.
For his part, the Punisher doesn't watch movies, especially after he tried to watch Ghost and didn't like it.
Anyway, the plot. The Punisher finds evidence that the Attorney General is selling drugs from the Fed's evidence locker, and he starts investigating. He winds up getting mixed up in the head by an agent of the Attorney General (and seriously, it's a little late to begin rationalizing why he's going to have sex with someone; he's already slept with half of the women he's met since he was introduced).
And she convinces him that Captain America is responsible for the conspiracy.
So Punisher tries to assassinate Captain America.
But Cap's chain mail armor saves him. Cap has Nick Fury fake Cap's death, complete with a funeral.
This plot turn, as far as i can tell, has literally no impact on the plot, except that Cap is out of costume for a while.
Cap and the Punisher wind up going after the same group of weapon smugglers, and meet up.
And then they go down to Schmedisuela together.
They get caught in a bomb blast, and Cap is captured. Which leaves the Punisher with Cap's shield.
Punisher rescues Cap and they get back on their trail.
Meanwhile, a sharp left turn as a character named Terror shows up.
Terror is a character that was created by all of the creators that are responsible for this book (Chichester, Clark, and Janson). But the comics he originally appeared in were for Marvel's Shadowline books, which were a part of the Epic line and were not part of the Marvel universe. Terror at the time was actually a villain called Shrek. But by the time this mini-series was being published, Marvel was publishing Terror Inc., starring Terror/Shrek. According to Wikipedia, originally Marvel's position was that Shrek and Terror were separate characters but it seems that a later handbook confirmed that they were the same character and it's theorized that somewhere along the way Terror moved from the Shadowline universe to the mainstream Marvel universe.
The above two scenes, separated by a few pages, are the closest we get to an introduction to Terror in this comic, with no footnotes or anything. He's a pretty weird guy and his participation in this story is pretty minimal, so it's very strange storytelling to include him. He provides a little bit of warning to the president of Medisuela, and then later provides a little info to Cap and the Punisher. So he's the MVP of Moving The Plot Along, a self-acknowledged Deus Ex Machina, but not much else.
I was collecting comics in 1992, when this was published, but i never heard of Terror until his appearance in Marvel Team-Up's Legion of Losers storyline in 2006. So if i had read this series in realtime (which i didn't), i'd have been, if not completely bewildered, at least put off by his appearance here. He's introduced like someone we should already know, with no footnotes or anything.
In the end, after fighting through the forces of Medisuela...
...Cap and the Punisher catch the corrupt Attorney General, and it's Cap that goes a little crazy.
But, according to the narration, Cap realizes he's gone over the edge and begins to pull back. But the Punisher doesn't realize that, and he, of all people, tries to talk Cap down.
And the big moment is when the Punisher only shoots the Attorney General in the knee instead of killing him.
In the end, Cap not only lets the Punisher walks away, but he salutes him like a soldier.
This makes sense if the Punisher were a slightly mixed up Vietnam vet that had done a few misguided, if illegal things. But the Punisher has been massacring criminals without due process for years. It's amazing that Cap (and, for example, Nick Fury and SHIELD) allow him to continue to operate. Or does Cap's experience with the Punisher in this story make him decide that the Punisher is actually doing good work? I mean, i hope not, but maybe that's the case. Alternatively, if, as this story wants us to believe, the Punisher's attitude and actions stem from the lack of acknowledgement that he and other Vietnam vets got after the war, you'd think the end of this mini-series would be a major turning point for him. Maybe with him agreeing to work within the law from now on, maybe joining SHIELD or something. Instead the conclusion to this story has no impact on either character. And that's the problem with the increasing number of books that Marvel is putting out at this time. So many stories. This one has its moments. It's not great but it's ok. But it's destined to have no consequences. Nothing that happens here "matters" to future stories. On its own merits, this is a decent story, but who cares? It would be judged much differently if what happens here actually changed something about the characters involved.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Thor is beardless and in his classic costume for Captain America's funeral, pushing this back quite a bit in publication time before Thor #431. That makes this Terror's first Marvel universe appearance, but that should be ok since he is already established in his mercenary role by the first issue of his 1992 series (which would be his first Marvel universe appearance by publication date; see above for more regarding Terror). This story takes place over at least a week.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showCaptain America, Dum Dum Dugan LMD, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Jarvis, Nick Fury, Punisher, She-Hulk, Terror (Shreck), Thor, Vision
I like that Jarvis gets to be one of the pallbearers at the funeral, but why is She-Hulk there instead of, say, the Falcon?
Posted by: Berend | October 20, 2015 4:49 PM
This isn't the first time Cap's talked about the end of WW2 like he saw it happen first-hand. After Thanos got turned to stone and his troops surrendered, Cap mentions how it reminds him of Berlin after Hitler's death.
Posted by: Thanos6 | October 20, 2015 4:54 PM
@berend Cap likes to alternate pallbearers for his fake funerals. What're we on at this point, number 3? There are more to come!
Posted by: cullen | October 20, 2015 8:17 PM
Thanos6, that's different. Hitler died on April 30,1945, his death was announced on May 1st and Berlin surrendered on May 2nd. Different writers have different ideas about exactly when Cap when into suspended animation- Waid in his Man Out of Time series described it happening between April 1st and April 12th, Brubaker once described it as happening in March but claimed that was an error and he'd try to correct it in the trades, Roy Thomas described it as happening on April 30th in What If 4 and Gruenwald described it as happening on May 2nd. So if it happened on May 2nd, then yeah, Cap could have seen how the Germans reacted to Hitler's death.
Posted by: Michael | October 20, 2015 8:20 PM
they very idea of Cap teaming up with the Punisher is wrong. What's the difference between Punisher and Scourge (who cap saw as a criminal pure and simple)? Other than the Punisher has his own books? that makes him a good guy somehow?
this is the problem with the Punisher existing in the same MU as heroes. By straight up heroes like Cap, Punisher should be seen as a criminal, or at least a mental patient that needs help. Cap has arrested guys with much less blood on their hands than Castle. It goes against all the sense of justice and due process that Cap should believe in.
Posted by: kveto | October 21, 2015 12:21 AM
As a side meta-commentary, I don't really mind the differences of approaches between Cap and the Punisher and the different experiences they both had with war, even with Vietnam. Remember: when Vietnam was first utilized as a story element in the early-mid 60s (Iron Man's origin, the afforementioned "Sumo" story), it was just another war, written by people who were more of a mind that whenever the US entered a war, it was all for the good of things. This was before the true darkness and cynicism of what happened in Vietnam occurred that lead to the creation of characters like the Punisher. (and even in a way drove Cap into a period of not trusting what this country stood for anymore) Its more or less the passage of time and changing of attitudes that lead to two different war-hardened characters with two different perspectives on elements: Cap represents the positives of standing up for your beliefs and a more idealistic time with a war where things were more clearly black and white; while the Punisher represents the monsters that can emerge due to the wear and tear of the world through things such as war, a product of a war that did wear down so many people and showed the darker side of what war can do.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 21, 2015 8:49 AM
So, does the Punisher end up sleeping with the Attorney General's aide or not? It's funny that Castle seems to think it would be ok to sleep with her because she is a bad person...whereas, as Fnord pointed out, he didn't seem to hesitate at all about sleeping with all the good women he's bedded since his wife died.
I wonder how lopsided the casket was at that funeral, given that they have three super-strong pallbearers on one side, and two normal-strength humans on the other side.
Posted by: Dermie | October 24, 2015 6:20 PM
He doesn't actually sleep with the aide. They are interrupted by a fake attacker that she set up to gain the Punisher's trust.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 24, 2015 7:35 PM
Nothing written by D.G. Chichester has ever or will ever be worth $5.95 or even a drop of turd.
Posted by: JC | October 24, 2015 8:57 PM
I'm pretty sure Terror was a rip off of Dark Horse's The Mask.
Posted by: Andrew | October 25, 2015 2:31 PM
Comments are now closed.
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