Issue(s): Punisher #47, Punisher #48
As we'll see, this isn't really about Desert Storm, despite what it says on the cover of issue #47. But the story does have the Punisher and Micro taking sides in the war between Iran and Iraq, although they are called Zukistan and Trafia in this story.
On a different level, this story is notable for having some characters that have appeared in the series before: the mercenary Saracen, a repeat rival of the Punisher's, and "Wild" Rose Kugel, an Israeli agent that Punisher briefly partnered with and possibly had a romantic interest in. It's also worth mentioning that this story makes a pretty obscure and unfootnoted reference to a Carl Potts Punisher story (see References) and also builds on the fact that Micro has been established as being ruthlessly pro-Israel. Mike Baron is not just writing one-off "Punisher shoots drug gangs" stories; he is working within real continuity here. I still don't think much of these two issues, but it's interesting to see the way that Baron is building up and using an ongoing canon for the characters and not just coming up with new things for the Punisher to shoot.
The story begins with the Punisher noticing an arms dealer named Morris Brattle. Punisher approaches him to talk, maybe hoping to buy weapons from the guy who is "to big guns what Disney is to animation", but before Punisher asks him anything, he sees an assassin waiting for Brattle and kills him. He then takes him to his safehouse. Micro has already been established as someone that has been supplying factions of the PLO with weapons in the hopes that they'll spend time fighting each other instead of Isreal (Punisher War Journal #26). So when he sees Brattle, who has sold weapons to Trafia, he's not happy.
I do love the Punisher's complete disinterest in the politics of Trafia. "So?".
But when they hear that Brattle is returning to Trafia to repair the gun, Micro offers to pay Brattle to sabotage it instead. And the Punisher goes with Brattle to Trafia so that Micro doesn't go and get himself in trouble.
Trafia has recently captured some spies, including Rose.
It's said that "humiliation" is the driving force behind policy in the Middle East.
While Punisher and Brattle are in Trafia, Micro goes to the leaders of Zukistan.
And he winds up loaning them some equipment....
...and even leading a division of tanks for them against Trafia, with the aim of destroying the Brattle gun.
The Punisher, meanwhile, has been found out and captured by the Trafians. He's recognized by Saracen, who is working with Trafia at the moment, and he's tied to the gun so that he'll be killed when it is fired. But Punisher manages to escape, and of course his first priority is to paint a skull on his chest.
He teams up with Rose.
She confirms that the assassin that tried to kill Brattle in the US was an Israeli agent (it was thought to be a Zukistanian). It also turns out that Saracen is a double agent, working for Israel too.
However, Saracen turns out to be a triple agent. He lies to Rose, saying that their orders are now to kill the Punisher and let Brattle live. She doesn't accept that. She goes after Brattle, leaving Punisher to fight Saracen.
Punisher is in trouble, but he's saved by Micro, who comes bursting in on a tank. This story is getting more and more ridiculous!
Micro won't let Punisher kill Saracen because he's really a Zukistanian agent.
Rose kills Saddam Hussein.
And two weeks later, Punisher kills Brattle.
I guess you could see Micro working with the Iranians while Punisher goes with a gun dealer to Iraq to be a metaphor for the fact that the US was arming both sides of the Iran/Iraq conflict in the 80s. But there's no insight gained from the scenario here (except maybe that the Middle East is a mess of alliances and complexity), and the idea of Micro leading an Iranian tank platoon into battle is absurd. I do like the Punisher running into characters like Saracen and Rose on a semi-regular basis, though.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
"She must be Israeli. No one else uses women for spies."? WTF?
Posted by: Michael | September 20, 2015 5:20 PM
I really hate the scene where Frank calls Micro "paisano." It just seems wrong and out of character. But maybe that's just because how I prefer the character be written is not the way Mike Baron writes him. It amazes me the character was so popular and his books sold so well back then when, in retrospect, they were pretty boring and humorless.
Posted by: Robert | September 20, 2015 6:22 PM
"But Punisher manages to escape, and of course his first priority is to paint a skull on his chest."
He just needed the power-up. You know, "By the power of Grease-Skull.... I have the power!"
Posted by: Erik Robbins | September 27, 2015 12:30 PM
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