Punisher War Journal #20-24
Issue(s): Punisher War Journal #20, Punisher War Journal #21, Punisher War Journal #22, Punisher War Journal #23, Punisher War Journal #24
I mention this at the top of the review instead of in the Considerations section because it's a good indication of the fact that we're already reaching Punisher overload. And these issues also show that this War Journal series is losing whatever made it distinct from the other Punisher book. This book seemed to start off as the book that was more likely to touch other parts of the Marvel universe, and it was also more prestigious, both in terms of art and format. But with the Punisher popping up everywhere, and with Marvel universe aspects appearing more and more in the regular Punisher book, that distinction, if it ever really existed, is lost. And Jim Lee is no longer the book's artist, and the current art is substandard. And there's no longer anything in the format of the book that distinguishes it from other Marvel titles (e.g., the inside covers of this book used to serve as title cards, but now they have ads). The stories in these issues are fine. The normal outrageous action and violence, and it can be quite fun. But aside from the international settings there's nothing to distinguish the story from the regular Punisher book. Carl Potts does tease at some character development, but if that was going anywhere it's lost when Potts leaves the title after these issues.
In flashback scenes shown in both issues #20 and #21, we see the Punisher telling Micro that he needs a break and he's going to visit an old friend in the Philippines. Micro, who is staying behind to help with funeral arrangements for his friend from the previous arc, tells the Punisher that most likely it won't be an actual vacation, since the Punisher manages to find trouble wherever he goes. This hangs over the Punisher's head throughout these issues and is the basis for the potential character development.
Issue #20 then has the plane the Punisher is on getting shot down over Triji. Triji is a former French colony that is currently experiencing a civil war, which is why the plane is shot down. The French Foreign Legion has been hired to help the current government, but as far as the Legion is concerned, both sides are full of scoundrels. Punisher initially helps the Legion fight off some rebels, but he starts to notice how ruthless the Legion are.
In the end the Punisher gets involved when the Legion massacres a village.
A point was made earlier in the story that a lot of Nazi war criminals went into the Legion (and the current commander here is the son of one of Mussolini's fascists), which may be why the "just doing my job" line resonates with the Punisher.
In the end, while the Punisher is writing a note to Micro, we see Rikichi behind a newspaper. But that's the last we'll see of Rikichi. He disappears when Carl Potts does.
Issue #21 has the Punisher making it to the Philippines, although first he has to contend with some pirates. Not the "Harrrr, matey!" kind, sadly.
But as if to make up for that, he does get to fight a hammerhead shark.
Anyway, Punisher starts hanging out with one of the locals who helped out with the pirate attack, and he finds the home of his friend, David Keeton. We learn that the friend was an army buddy of the Punisher's, but David found a wife in the Philippines and then quit the army due to violence. It's potentially interesting that the Punisher has decided to seek him of all people out, again part of that potential character development, but Potts is not going to make it that easy. It turns out that David has been kidnapped by pirates because his knowledge of sonar allows the pirates to know when to attack ships, and David has been brought around to their way of thinking. So Punisher uses him as a distraction for the sharks while he rescues the pirates' prisoners.
So any possibility of a "so, what's this retiring from violence thing like?" conversation is nixed.
From there, the Punisher moves on to Lima, Peru (initially just to catch a connecting flight back to New York). At the airport, there's a violent attack meant to intimidate a judge. An innocent family is caught in the crossfire, and the Punisher is able to save the child, but the husband is killed. The Punisher sees the situation as an inversion of his own origin story, where the father survived but the rest of the family died. So he looks into the situation with the wife, especially when the drug dealer responsible for the attack on the judge offers the victims of the attack $5,000 in a PR move. The wife finds that the offer was only the widows of police killed in the attack. The wife instead gets roped into a drug trafficking scheme.
Punisher fights his way into the home of the drug dealer, Santiago.
The Punisher is a holy terror. He kills most of Santiago's guards, and then is unfazed when Santiago tries to trap him.
The Punisher is also able to rescue the daughter of the woman that was forced into drug trafficking.
It's nice to see the Punisher solving all of Peru's crime problems by himself. Why should New York get all the help?
The Punisher got Santiago to swear that he'd turn himself in, but at the end of issue #22 it turns out that he's been released from jail and has fled to Belize. So that's Punisher's next destination.
We saw in #22 that Santiago is also fascinated with Mayan artifacts, so that's his main focus in Belize. Issues #23-24 are just an outrageously crazy war between various factions. There are Santiago's drug dealers. There are British soldiers and Nepalese Gurkhas, who are working for the Belizian government. There are Guatemalan soldiers that are trying to take over Belize. And there are Guatemalan rebels, fighting the Guatemalan government. I *think* i have all that right. The main point is that there are just tons of people shooting at each other. A lot of time is spent building up the Gurkhas.
Punisher winds up allied with the Gurkhas, and helping out a group of archeologists working at a Mayan temple.
And the nut is in the history of the Mayans. According to the archeologists, the Mayan's were at first relatively non-violent, in the sense that they'd only cut off their enemies' leader's heads and use them as soccer balls. But later, the Mayans became more bloodthirsty, killing all their enemies, and this is associated with the civilization's decline. The fact that the later period is symbolized by skulls is not lost on the Punisher.
The story of the Gurkhas similarly involves assimilating, not destroying, your enemies.
Santiago attacks the archeologists' site, and Punisher and one of the Gurkhas, Thapa, are the only ones around to fight back.
Punisher has the option of blowing up Santiago and all his men, as well as the Mayan temple, with a bazooka. But, with the lesson of the Mayans in his head, he allows an archeologist to convince him not to do it that way.
So instead, he and Thapa work out a pretty badass way of getting close to Santiago.
So only Santiago is beheaded.
Yay, happy ending?
This decision does seem like it could have been a turning point for the character, with him learning that all of his indiscriminate violence is not productive. In fact, these five issues in total seem to be headed in that direction. The Punisher sees himself in the ruthless violence of the French Foreign Legion, and doesn't like it. He tries to go to a friend that quit the army. And then this. It's also possible that Carl Potts was building to some kind of change for the character through Rikichi. But Potts is gone after this, and really any significant character development for the Punisher along these lines would really have resulted in the end of his series, or at least a dramatically different series.
Some long term set-up that won't have any immediate payoff due to Potts leaving. We saw previously that the Arranger was working to revive Damage as an agent for the Kingpin. In this issue, the doctors are having trouble bringing Damage back, but the Arranger is able to motivate him.
Is the Kingpin sure he wants to kill off this guy? He seems pretty useful to me.
Then we see the Arranger also recruiting the Sniper.
We won't see a payoff for these two scenes until 1993's Wolverine/Punisher: Damaging Evidence (which is written by Potts, and has a new, albeit female, Arranger inserted directly into the role the current one is playing here).
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: See the top of this entry. Punisher shouldn't appear anywhere else between Punisher War Journal #19-20. The Arranger is still alive in this story, placing it before Spectacular Spider-Man #165.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Shouldn't Sniper be worried that the East Germans might hand him over to the West? Punisher 21 came out in June 1990 and at that point that Germanies were preparing to reunify.
Posted by: Michael | June 24, 2015 8:51 PM
I hated PWJ when Jim Lee left. I collected some of Texeira's ones that came shortly after these but man I hated these issues. Been about 25 years but I thought Bushwhacker was also considered by the Arranger. Is that right?
Posted by: Grom | August 14, 2015 11:26 AM
Not that i can find. In issue #17 the Kingpin says that he has a list of candidates for Arranger to consider, but we don't see who they are. In issue #18 Arranger thinks to himself that he doesn't know where to begin, but then he sees and article about Damage and his focus after that is on him until issue #21 when we see him approaching Sniper. I don't see any mention of Bushwhacker (although i agree he'd be a logical addition).
Posted by: fnord12 | August 14, 2015 11:33 AM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|