Punisher annual #1
Issue(s): Punisher annual #1
Punisher's main series has been keeping itself apart from the main Marvel universe for the most part - even the recent cross-over with Daredevil was pretty mild - but it's funny that every one of the annuals for this original series, excepting the last one or two (depending on if you count his participation in 1993's "everybody gets a new character" event), are part of a big super-hero crossover. It's almost like these annuals were Frank Castle's outlet, a way to keep in touch with his roots where he used to get hired by the Jackal or get into Misunderstanding Fights with Nightcrawler.
It's true that even in these events he's usually on the lower end of the participation scale, fighting the baddie while's it's still in larval stage or whatever, and that's certainly the case in this Evolutionary War issue which has the Punisher going up against the High Evolutionary's goons but never encountering the Evolutionary himself, or any other heroes, or any scenes of someone trying to cull a hidden sub-human race or anything. So basically he just gets to shoot a bunch of people, as usual; the difference is that he comments on his enemies' unusual high tech weaponry while he's doing so.
This annual is also notable for being pretty much the first instance of Mark Texeira pencils on a Marvel universe title (he was one of several people that helped out on a Web of Spider-Man issue, and he had done DC work and non-MU Marvel work prior to this).
Punisher is in a neighborhood of Bogota, Colombia on the hunt of a cocaine manufacturer and dealer called El Caiman. A caiman is a type of crocodile, but just to keep things interesting his nickname is the Great White, "for obvious reasons". El Caiman is said to be one of the largest suppliers of coke to the US, but he's used the money from the coke sales to become a patron and protectorate in his local community.
The Punisher finds that the neighborhood is under attack, and unlike him, the attackers are targeting civilians. He says that describing an attack is like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, with each individual part not giving the full picture. But he says the metaphor breaks down when he sees the attackers.
Despite the super-science gear, the Punisher is able to stop the guy with a grenade, and he finds out that they are here to "weed out the junkies and the crazies" and that includes the Punisher.
The Punisher is surprised to find himself on the list. No matter how hardcore you are, there's always someone even crazier that thinks you're the poseur.
It's also weird that if they're targeting "junkies" they are in Bogota at the source of the drug trade. The junkies aren't here; they are in America. The people that these guys are targeting may be benefiting from that trade, perhaps even knowingly, but based on this guy's own words they aren't the target.
The Punisher has rescued a young woman, Lucinda, and he helps her flee as more armored goons show up. I enjoy the continued references to the high tech arsenal.
Lucinda turns out to be El Caiman's daughter. He and the Punisher form an uneasy truce while the Eliminators, as they are called, are attacking civilians.
They withdraw to El Caiman's farm to draw them away from the city, and El Caiman feeds a captive Eliminator to his pet.
The Punisher is then given access to El Caiman arsenal, so he can combat the Eliminators.
In addition to the continued observations about the high tech equipment, note the reference to Pepe, the brujo from Punisher #11. Outside of generalized references to his origin story, that is the only time i've seen Mike Baron make a reference to a previous issue so far.
We run the risk of having a character moment and seeing the Punisher facade break down when the Eliminators start using incendiaries and Frank starts thinking that it's "too much" like Vietnam.
But shooting people in the face seems to help drive that back.
The Punisher, El Caiman, and Lucinda wind up holed up in the ammo / crocodile tank room. El Caiman provides the Punisher with teflon coated bullets that help pierce the Eliminators' armor. When they are down to one final Eliminator, the Punisher finally gets "the scoop".
Again, coupled with their choice of targets, the Eliminator's talk of "genetic pollutants" says to me that the High Evolutionary's recruits are taken from white supremacist groups. In fact, i'm sure that's exactly what it sounds like to a non-super character like the Punisher, to whom "High Evolutionary" probably sounds like "Grand Wizard" or something. But we don't get to hear the Punisher's thoughts on the Eliminator's words, because he's too busy shooting.
With the last Eliminator eliminated, the Punisher turns his fire on the fish tank, releasing the caiman to devour El Caiman. But he helps Lucinda escape.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Punisher's participation in The Evolutionary War. As i said in the introductory X-Factor issue, the High Evolutionary's strategy seems incredibly haphazard. Targeting a single, if large, drug lord seems ineffective and not relevant to the High Evolutionary's goals, and targeting all of the surrounding civilians to eliminate "junkies and crazies" is especially unfocused. If the idea is that this operation in Bogota is just one of many, that isn't made clear in this or future stories (the Amazing Spider-Man makes a big deal of this specific event and how it effects the drug supply in the US). If it was said that El Caiman had developed some new kind of synthetic drug that could affect people's genetic structures, Cloak & Dagger style, then it might have made sense as a target for the Evolutionary. I guess that might have been too "unrealistic" for Mike Baron's tastes, but surely that's true of this entire story. Arguably even the Punisher's amazement at the High Evolutionary's technology neglects the fact that he's gone up against the likes of Moses Magnum and similar foes, but i really like that fish out of water aspect of this story.
In addition to the Saga of the High Evolutionary back-up that i cover in a separate entry, there's three pages of schematics of the Punisher's van and warehouse, and our first ever Microchip solo story. It has Microchip helping the wife of his godson, Felicia, whose new husband has turned out to be an assassin for "Kafdrah and the Aquirians".
What's nice is seeing that unlike the Punisher, Microchip has to steel himself up to kill people.
But he still does.
Quality Rating: B
Historical Significance Rating: 1
Chronological Placement Considerations: Due to the reference, takes place after Punisher #11, maybe with the Punisher traveling from Mexico down to Colombia. This is part two of The Evolutionary War. Silver Surfer annual #1 is next.
Crossover: The Evolutionary War
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
It's chilling seeing Microchip steel himself to kill people to protect the ones he cares about considering that in retrospect we know that his downfall will come when he agrees to kill a SHIELD agent in return for having his son magically brought back to life.
Posted by: Michael | July 8, 2014 7:56 PM
The Archie Goodwin mention is probably due to the Caiman coming out of the tank and eating El Caiman---in Goodwin's Punisher story in Marvel Super Action #1, a shark comes out of a broken tank and eats the main gangster.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 12, 2014 12:47 AM
Dragging the Punisher into a High Evolutionary story could've been disastrous, but this wasn't bad at all. Good writing and art, big fan of Texeira.
Posted by: RikFenix | May 29, 2016 9:33 PM
The story is pretty simplistic- Punisher teams up with scumbag to take out bigger threat, betrayal ensues, Punisher wins- but the narrower focus and overall script make this chapter of The Evolutionary War a lot stronger than the X-Factor part of the crossover. I also like that the High Evolutionary feels that drugs would hinder mankind's evolution. It's a lot more subtle than the usual drugs-are-bad stories we see in this era.
Posted by: Jonathon | October 1, 2017 10:20 AM
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