Punisher War Journal #6-7
Issue(s): Punisher War Journal #6, Punisher War Journal #7
This two part "African Saga" takes the inevitable meeting of Marvel's two biggest anti-hero characters and does it in a way that is pretty weird. Issue #6 opens witha statement saying "With appreciation for the works of Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans and Dr. Roy P. Mackal". Those guys are cryptozoologists, i.e. people that look for stuff like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. This issue gets back to the Mokele-Mbembe that was previewed in Punisher War Journal #1. The Mokele-Mbembe is the Congo's equivalent to the Loch Ness Monster, thought to be an apatosaurus or a similar sauropod. So that is the backdrop for the Wolverine/Punisher meeting.
To get the characters there, Microchip convinces the Punisher to take a "vacation"...
...by becoming a guide for an expedition to search for the Mokele-Mbembe.
And Wolverine notices someone selling King Cheetah pelts and other endangered animal parts in Madripoor (Wolverine not only brought his own blades, he grew some fangs)...
...and decides to go to Africa to stop it.
The Punisher's motivation seems especially weak to me. With Inferno having wrapped up a number of dangling X-Men plot threads, i can't complain if Wolverine wants to go traipsing around the world to help endangered animals, but i don't see the Punisher agreeing to give up on his "war" to go dinosaur hunting. I'll also just note that in the Marvel universe the Savage Land was recently restored and there are a few other areas (Wakanda, the Bermuda Triangle, a different underground area in Anarctica) where we've already seen dinosaurs, so the idea that they might be in the Congo is hardly far-fetched to us as readers. It's fine for Microchip and the Punisher to not know anything about that (although New York has had its share of dinosaur invasions). But it would have been nice for someone in this story, perhaps one of the scientists in the expedition, or perhaps Wolverine, to comment on the existence of dinosaurs elsewhere. The Punisher comics live on the edge of the Marvel universe and often like to act as if they are not a part of it, and given the different audience (the lettercols remain full of people writing in to correct the writers about the gun nomenclature and other technical details) i can understand that. But when you have a Wolverine crossover, it seems fair to ask that there's some acknowledgement of the larger Marvel universe. There's no actual contradiction here; it just neglects the obvious "But what about...?" question that would spring to the mind of any Marvel fan.
In addition to the Mokele-Mbembe, the locals in Africa provide evidence that there are gorillas living in an area where gorillas aren't thought to live.
And it turns out two members of the expedition have money, not science, on their mind, so they slaughter the gorillas for their body parts.
They kill a native boy that was a witness, and then go back to the village the expedition is staying at and blame the death on the gorillas.
I chose that scan above to show the interesting attempt at showing the shadows from the surrounding trees. It looks like it was done by the colorist (Gregory Wright) as opposed to one of the pencilers. I'm not 100% sure it works; on my printed version i first thought it was a kind of smudge. And it's not used very often. But it's a cool idea.
Punisher and one of the natives quickly realize that the boy wasn't killed by gorillas. The boy is brought back to his village, and Punisher continues on alone to investigate further. At this point Wolverine, wearing one of the cheetah skins that brought him here, is closing in.
And of course he shows up after the Punisher is forced to kill one of the remaining enraged gorillas...
...and Wolverine gets the wrong idea.
As it should be, the Punisher doesn't fare very well against Wolverine.
But he does survive the encounter, by falling into a river.
A third thread in these issues features the characters that will later appear in the Shadowmasters prestige mini-series. We saw them in the earliest issues of this series fighting against eviction, and we now see that Daredevil has stopped the attacks on their shop, but they still have a legal battle coming up.
Meanwhile, Rikichi, the eldest of the group, has been having visions relating to the expedition Punisher is on, so he travels to Texas. Texas is where the guy that is paying the two corrupt expeditioners lives, and Rikichi eventually sneaks into his house...
...and gets on his computer, donating all his money to the World Wildlife Fund.
But in the meantime, while the Punisher fights a crocodile...
...the corrupt expeditioners discover the Mokele-Mbembes (plural).
Wolverine and Punisher converge on that spot as well, but get caught up fighting each other...
So far i've been willing to put up with a lot of contrivances to get these two guys together, and Jim Lee's splash panels don't disappoint from that perspective. But the writing at this point just gets awful. I've been enjoying both Mike Baron and Carl Potts' writing on the two Punisher titles because it's been sparse and no nonsense. But at the end here it gets unnecessarily expository...
Wolverine just bugs off without a word after the immediate threat is over.
When the Punisher returns home, he's considering going after the Texan financier, but he gets an anonymous package (from Rikichi) telling him there's no need.
I've seen rumors about both Wolverine's first limited series and his ongoing series in Madripoor that the settings were chosen by Claremont to sort of cool the enthusiasm for Wolverine as a solo character. Those rumors have been debunked, i believe. But they persisted as rumors because the unusual settings made them feel plausible enough. And i could imagine myself believing similar rumors about these issues (to be clear: not that there are any). A story with these two characters encountering each other in the streets of some city, fighting, and then teaming up to violently plow through an army of drug dealers or something would be much easier to contrive and the resulting body count would probably be much more pleasing to their average fans. Instead Carl Potts does a lot of extra (and not very convincing) work getting the characters out in the middle of an African jungle in a plot with an endangered species theme, and then has the two characters barely interact aside from a few splash panel fight sequences. I wonder if some of this was due to Wolverine's status of being thought dead to the world, but it's not like the Punisher was in a position to know or care about that.
Quality Rating: C
Historical Significance Rating: 1
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MPC has Wolverine appearing here before Uncanny X-Men #245. Wolverine does wear his patch in Madripoor at the beginning of this arc, but that's not a factor for placement.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Roy Mackal was the premiere "expert" on Mokele-Mbembe. He appeared on various cryptozoology shows & specials on television the last few decades before his death. You can still catch some of these airing on cable from time to time. Seemed like a nice guy. Worse ways to spend your life than looking for dinosaurs in the jungle.
This was probably the highlight of the entire War Journal series. Certainly the most notable. That says something considering the series goes on for many more years. I think the next time I paid attention to this series was during the "Over the Edge" storyline, or whatever it was called, where they had him kill Fury.
Posted by: Robert | September 29, 2014 3:08 PM
Note that the Shadowmasters think the landlords won't try to harass them again because Daredevil is watching over them and the Punisher thinks about how Daredevil doesn't leave New York. In Daredevil 267, Matt leaves New York and doesn't return until Streets of Poison. Now obviously Matt didn't publicly announce "I'm leaving New York. Criminals of Hell's Kitchen, feel free to rape and rob and kill as you see fit." but this should take place before anyone notices Daredevil is absent from New York.
Posted by: Michael | September 29, 2014 7:49 PM
Oh yeah I think I saw Roy Mackal in an old special called More Dinosaurs and they talked about Mokele-Mbembe. I got that on DVD the moment it came out.
Posted by: davidbanes | September 29, 2014 10:47 PM
"On The Track Of Unknown Animals" is the title of one of Heuvelmans's books.
Posted by: Thanos6 | June 18, 2015 3:21 AM
Agree with Robert that it was the high point of the series. These issues drew a lot of my school mates into comics. Punisher and Wolvie were peaking in cool factor. These issues were selling for about $30- 40 each within 12 months after release. Extremely sought after at the time in Australia.
Posted by: Grom | August 30, 2016 9:57 PM
When Rikichi goes to Texas, there's a panel in the airport showing a guy who really looks like Harry Osborn, talking with a mostly-offscreen blonde person (Liz?). Maybe they went on some holiday.
Posted by: Nate Wolf | May 31, 2017 3:44 AM
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