Issue(s): Punisher #8, Punisher #9
The Punisher takes a break from his usual focus on drug crime and turns his sights to white collar corruption on Wall Street (for context, the Savings & Loan crisis was going on at this point, and Oliver Stone's Wall Street was released in 1987). The Punisher's source of information is a former Wall Street trader that used to be very successful but has now fallen on hard times and is homeless. And there's also a serial killer targeting homeless people on the loose, but the Punisher has decided to stick to his Wall Street targets. When questioned about this by Microchip Jr., the Punisher says, "It's a value judgement. I can't do it all. These inside traders are tying a multi-billion dollar anchor to the economy. Millions suffer. Men beat their wives... suicide... don't ask me this crud." Heh.
It turns out to all be related though, as two of the Wall Streeters are actually the homeless slashers. The story is that there's a merger and dirty dealings going on between some American Wall Street traders and a Japanese company with Imperialist tendencies. And that means eventually we get to fight ninjas.
Also, one of the Americans and one of the Japanese bodyguards go out at night and kill homeless people for kicks.
The Punisher does make some effort to go for the slasher, but he winds up stopping a copycat group instead, including one guy for whom Wolverine is a bad influence.
Meanwhile, the real slashers kill the Punisher's homeless friend.
The Punisher had been using Microchip Jr. on missions, and that gets him badly injured by the big Japanese bodyguard. But he recovers enough and insists on continuing to work with the Punisher...
...and that winds up getting him killed.
The Punisher brings him home to Microchip Sr.
It's not really relevant, but Microchip Jr.'s death reminds me of the death of Junior Juniper in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #4, which was a sort of signal that the book was serious enough that characters could die. Of course, that turned out to be the only Howler to ever die, and here, beyond Microchip and his son, there isn't a supporting cast, and it's not like the Punisher will be killed. But it's definitely a surprising thing to have happened and lets us know that it's not just the bad guys that can get mowed down.
As for the Wall Street story, you can see the wish fulfillment appeal of seeing the Punisher going after guys that are maybe not technically doing anything illegal or are at least above the law (not that i am at all advocating for anyone to go shooting up Wall Street in real life. Please do not misinterpret!). But there's only so much you can do with that in an action comic so it's to be expected that we end with ninja fights.
An interesting characteristic of the Punisher lettercols is that they are full of debates about technical gun issues, like whether or not an AK can have a pistol grip or what an Uzi with a silencer looks like or if the Striker 12 shotgun can be converted to a machine gun. It's all about as nerdily amusing to me as this website probably would be to the average gun enthusiast. At the same time, though, the Punisher is starting to use more high tech and seemingly less plausible gear in the comics.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
These two issues hooked me on the Punisher far beyond the excellent 1986 mini-series. The stories felt real and provided a welcome change from the usual superhero stuff. I stuck around for all of Baron and Portacio's brief run and their work together still holds up to this day.
Ironically, the ninja fights didn't stand out for me the way Baron's plot twists did. Stuff like Frank blowing it when it came to saving his homeless friend and Microchip Junior, how most everyone involved in the whole insider trading racket eventually end up betraying each other, and the way Frank deals with Takegura's seemingly indirect role in the slasher murders.
Baron writes a Punisher that is clearly mentally unstable, but the people he kills are so twisted that Frank appears sane by comparison. Lots of black humor here that will please Eastwood or Schwarzenegger fans, almost like watching a toned-down Paul Verhoeven film, really.
Posted by: Clutch | May 31, 2014 8:00 AM
There's something about the look of this comic that doesn't appeal to me. The colors are flat and, judging by these panels, half the time Portacio is too lazy to bother with backgrounds so you just have blank space.
Posted by: Robert | May 31, 2014 6:47 PM
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