Issue(s): Punisher #35, Punisher #36, Punisher #37, Punisher #38, Punisher #39, Punisher #40
The lettercols are full of complaints that the Punisher fought Dr. Doom during Acts of Vengeance. Some of it is about Doom specifically (either too powerful or too hokey, depending on the reader) but some of it is a general attitude that the Punisher shouldn't be dealing with super-villains. He should be doing "realistic" things like solving America's drug problems by single-handedly blowing up every gangster in America. But the Punisher's bi-weekly summer event doubles down on the super-villains. The least of it is Jigsaw, who is only a super-villain in terms of look and the fact that he debuted in Amazing Spider-Man (but he is still as much a super-villain as, say, Black Widow is a super-hero). In this story Jigsaw is playing second fiddle to the Reverend Sammy Smith, a character that has an actual super-power (a mystical healing ability). And their plan is to put something that will make everyone in the country go sterile, something right out of the Joker's handbook. And to top it off, it turns out in this story that Smith is working for Belasco. So we are deep into "unrealistic" territory here. It seems that even though the Punisher got strong sales on a regular basis, when it comes to special events (annuals, crossovers, and summer events), Marvel still felt they were better off going with something that would be more familiar to the broader super-hero reading audience. And i guess it's not just special events, since we also had the Reavers in the previous story.
This arc starts off with a weird tribute to the Colombian government.
That first narration box doesn't have anything to do with our story.
Punisher trying to contact Micro in the scan above is relevant, though. Micro doesn't respond, leaving the Punisher on his own and unable to identify the drug traffickers that he's tracking.
It leaves Punisher thinking that he may have become too dependent on Micro.
Punisher learns that Jigsaw is behind the drug traffickers.
From the very beginning you can see something even more "comic book-y" than the inclusion of any super-villains. It's the "I want him alive" stuff. There will be more of that.
Punisher manages to blow up the current drug shipment, except for a sample for analysis, but Jigsaw gets away.
Punisher goes to Micro's warehouse, where it turns out that Micro has been working on programming a video game. Obviously the Punisher isn't happy about that. The point is to show a difference between the two: Micro supports "the war" but he's not a full time obsessive about it like the Punisher.
This creates a schism between the two. But Micro still takes the Punisher to get the sample for analysis to a scientist contact of Micro's, which is when they learn that it's a sterilizing agent.
Meanwhile, Jigsaw goes to his boss, the Reverend Sammy Smith. The Rev has promised to heal Jigsaw's face in return for his help. Jigsaw wants to know why the Rev has those healing powers. Note that the Rev thinks he's working for Lucifer, not Belasco.
In his previous appearance, the Reverend thought he was an agent of God, but now he's "realized" that he's really working for Satan. The possibility that the Reverend is actually a mutant is raised a few times in this story as well.
But Jigsaw accepts the possibility that the Reverend really is an agent of Satan, and he considers getting in Satan's good graces himself by murdering people.
Jigsaw happens to cross paths with the Punisher on the way home. One way in which this story is not like a regular super-hero story is that the Punisher isn't all that interested in civilians.
Issue #36 is actually a weird detour. Pursuing Jigsaw, the Punisher winds up in a neighborhood where the local residents have holed up in a warehouse, teaching their kids in the equivalent of a refugee center, and trying to protect themselves from a pair of rival gangs.
I mean, i know crime was bad in the early 90s, but it wasn't like this, right? This is like Robocop stuff.
Jigsaw hooks up with one of the gangs. And the Punisher helps the locals fight back against the gangs, and they really get into it.
As, of course, does the Punisher.
After that interlude, Jigsaw gets on a plane to Venezuela with the Reverend.
But there's still another interlude for the Punisher. He gets back to Micro's warehouse to find that a drug gang is trying to get inside. They're not having much luck, but the Punisher now also has to fight through the warehouse's defenses, including battling Micro's Dalek.
The Dalek has appeared enough times now that i've decided to list it as a Character Appearing. It's even got a name: Gunny Bear!
The Punisher does not find Micro in the warehouse, but he runs down the remaining gang members in a new van. This van is special because it transforms into a plane!
So the Punisher makes his way to Venezuela as well.
The Reverend, meanwhile, has set himself up in an Incan temple.
The Punisher has to go through a resort on his way there. He meets a woman named Joy Adams, who works at the resort and who he convinces to show him where the drugs that the Reverend has been harvesting are grown.
That's the second book that the Punisher is shown reading in this issue. The first is Listen, Little Man by Wilhelm Reich.
Someone is on the Punisher's tail, but the Punisher gets rid of him with a blowgun built from a club sandwhich, a mai tai, and some spicy salsa.
Between that and the plane it feels like we're in a different movie all of the sudden.
Jigsaw finds Punisher where the plants are growing.
Joy's horse helps her and the Punisher get away.
But her face gets scratched while they're fleeing.
To get back to the resort, the Punisher and Joy have to go through a bad part of town. So bad that it's "like Jersey".
This results in another interlude. Joy takes Punisher to a friend's house, and the friend's son sneaks to the hotel to get the Punisher's bag. Meanwhile, Punisher and Joy sleep together.
Jigsaw again hooks up with a local gang. He's really like everyone to stop assuming that he's just a henchman, even though that's what he is.
The Punisher and Jigsaw then fight another proxy war amongst local gangs.
This time the gang betrays Jigsaw so he's fighting them too.
Joy initially took a handgun and noted that she grew up on a range. But she blanches when it comes to shooting the young gang members. The Punisher doesn't.
Jigsaw manages to beat the Punisher, but here's another instance where he chooses not to kill him.
We are into the Jack Slamm art with issue #39. It's very different than William Reinhold and Mark Texeira, who each have their stylistic differences but are similar in tone. Slamm is something else entirely.
Slamm adds 20 years and 40 pounds (and not of muscle) to Jigsaw.
There are a lot of face injuries in this story.
And that's because we have the Reverend in this story, and he's a healer.
Reverend heals Jigsaw's face, too.
The Punisher eventually makes it to the Reverend, and shoots Jigsaw dead. And then negotiates a face heal for himself, in return for giving the Rev a 10 minute head start.
But before that happens, Belasco shows up (we're back to Reinhold art now).
Belasco says he's going to raise Jigsaw from the dead and then send him after the Punisher. Whoever wins gets the privilege of becoming Belasco's minion (actually, Belasco is still pretending to be Lucifer).
It's actually the Rev that revives Jigsaw.
Punisher's fight with Jigsaw ends with Punisher sticking Jigsaw's face in some brambles, conveniently scarring his face all over again. And now it's Punisher's turn to not kill someone.
I don't get it. The Punisher will kill young kids growing up in poverty that have turned to gangs, but he doesn't kill a guy that has repeatedly tried to kill him, among other crimes? This (on both Jigsaw and the Punisher's parts) feels much more off-theme to me than any number of Dr. Dooms or Belascos appearing in this book.
The Punisher then forces the Reverend to heal his face, and also agrees to let him go. But the Rev turns around and tries to kill Punisher anyway, and that's of course not very smart, so he does end up dying.
Belasco, whatever his plans were, also decides he's done.
I generally think Mike Baron writes a good story, but this event is a stinker. A bunch of random reversals, especially with all the contrived face stuff. Too much meandering thanks to the things i've called "interludes". An odd use of Belasco. And characters that don't kill each other just because you can't kill off major characters. Even regular super-hero stories are past that sort of thing now, so it's particularly jarring in a book where killing people is what it's all about. But mostly it's just not very good writing; Baron seems out of his element dealing with this sort of thing instead of the normal crime of the month stuff.
After printing a couple of letters in issue #43 reacting to this story, the response is, "Okay okay! We get the point already! from here on in, we absolutely promise - no more devil!". And that wasn't enough, because in issue #44 there's a special box devoted to a further apology from Mike Baron:
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I promise Marveldom Assembled that never again will Satan or any of his impersonators, from within the Marvel universe and without, rear his, her, or its ugly snout within the pages of THE PUNISHER. I'm disappointed that more of you didn't recognize Belasco, late of the Savage Land. Orignally, the part of Satan was to have been played by Mephisto, but previous commitments precluded his appearance. Belasco agreed to appear on very short notice and deserves our support.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showBelasco, Gunny Bear, Jigsaw, Joy Adams, Microchip, Punisher, Reverend Sammy Smith
Punisher has actually met mutants twice- the other time was Nightcrawler, in Jigsaw's first appearance, ironically enough.
Posted by: Michael | June 17, 2015 10:55 PM
Strong resemblance to Ernie Colon in Jack Slamn's art, don't you think?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | June 17, 2015 11:01 PM
"Gunny Bear"? Does he bounce?!?
"Gunny Bear...bouncing here and there and everywhere..."
Well, I guess I'm going to have that theme song stuck in my head for a few days now...
Posted by: Dermie | June 18, 2015 12:10 AM
Oof, that was terrible, but new to me. Never was as big Punny reader.
I think you forgot an important "not" in the sentence "But mostly it's just very good writing"☺
Posted by: PeterA | June 18, 2015 12:55 AM
The Wilhelm Reich thing is giving me all types of feels.
Posted by: cullen | June 18, 2015 2:46 AM
@Peter: yes, thanks!
Posted by: fnord12 | June 18, 2015 7:19 AM
"like Jersey"? Since the Channel Islands are generally considered a nice place to live (or at least to leave your money and the part of your company that - according to your accountant - makes the profit), I'm guessing he didn't actually mean Jersey.
Posted by: Stephen | June 19, 2015 5:06 PM
I assume you're kidding, but just in case: He means New Jersey, which we often just shorten to Jersey. NJ's urban areas have a bad reputation.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 19, 2015 5:17 PM
Lucifer is really Belasco? Wait a minute, I thought Lucifer was actually Nightcrawler's father Azazel! I wonder how many people go around the Marvel universe claiming to be the Devil anyway?
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 19, 2015 10:32 PM
Comments are now closed.
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