Spider-Man/Punisher/Sabretooth: Designer Genes
Issue(s): Spider-Man/Punisher/Sabretooth: Designer Genes
The phrase "designer genes" has become so common i had to remind myself that it's actually wordplay ripping off of "designer jeans".
The story has Peter Parker coming across a scene of slaughtered lab animals (what are those, gorillas and lions?) at ESU.
The culprit is obviously Sabretooth, but he's not actually the problem in this story. It eventually turns out that two scientist brothers have been working on "designer genes" so that they can create super-powered creatures to sell. They were originally going to sell the technology to Roxxon but decided to go into business for themselves instead. One of the scientists previously worked for Canada's Department K and previously worked on the secret programs that Sabretooth was involved in. Sabretooth was in town to kill him and came across the tortured animals, which were a trigger for him so he went crazy and slaughtered them in a kind of mercy killing.
Separately, Punisher is with a group of homeless people, helping them fight off a group of mercenaries called the Scorchers that have been trying to clear homeless people out of the area.
Note that one of Punisher's homeless friends looks almost like he's wearing super-hero clothes - a bright green outfit with matching headband and a battle staff of some kind - and that they all get pretty directly involved in handling the Scorchers. I almost thought that the guy in green was meant to be Nomad or something and that these were the Undergrounders from his series. But aside from learning that one of the characters is named Pixie, they aren't really developed and they don't have anything to do with the main plot.
The Scorchers being Canadian i assume means that they're meant to be related to the main plot somehow, but i kind of lost track of that and it feels more like this is a completely unrelated thread. As far as i can tell, they were hired by a slumlord named Hopkins completely unrelated to the scientists, whose surname is Chambers.
Basically, after dealing with the Scorchers the homeless people ask Punisher to deal with a different problem, which is that one of their numbers has been gutted.
Again the assumption would be that Sabretooth was responsible, and he is hiding out in the area, but the trail leads the Punisher to the scientists at a Roxxon facility.
Before i get to that, though, here's a weird couple of lines from the Punisher about family that don't sound like how he usually talks.
It's not inaccurate. It just feels... off, especially the line about how family is not all its cracked up to be. If anything, the Punisher usually puts the concept of family on a pedestal.
Anyway, Spider-Man and Punisher arrive at the Roxxon building at the same time, and Sabretooth is there as well.
Lots of splash pages in this graphic novel.
In Spider-Man #32-34, Spider-Man made a vow to deal with the Punisher the next time they met. I don't know if that was meant to lead to something specific, but i half-wonder if that's the reason Punisher wasn't involved in Maximum Carnage, for example. This works out to be the next meeting of the characters, but probably wasn't coordinated to be so. It doesn't reference Spider-Man's vow and it basically just continues the same tedious conversation (basically also the same conversation Spider-Man had throughout Maximum Carnage). Punisher wants to kill Sabretooth, Spider-Man keeps trying to stop him.
Meanwhile, Punisher can't wrap his head around the fact that Sabretooth is a mutant with a healing factor. Never met one of those before, Frank?
Eventually they learn about the scientists from Sabretooth and go find them and their designer genes.
Then they're made to fight a third Chambers brother. One of the brothers thought this sibling died from cancer, but it turns out that the other brother instead made him a human/rat/bear/coyote/wolf hybrid (whew!).
This revelation turns the non-Wuzzle brothers against each other. Sabretooth kills the bad(dest) brother, and then escapes, leaving Punisher and Spider-Man to renew their debate about the merits of lethal force until the police show up and break it up. The other brother dedicates his life to curing the third.
Note Spider-Man again vowing to have a final confrontation with the Punisher.
The art by Scott McDaniel generally looks good...
...although faces are sometimes a problem.
A bigger issue is with the sequential flow. There's a portion in the beginning where it's not at all clear that time is meant to have passed, so we go from Spider-Man chasing Sabretooth to the crime scene having suddenly been all cleaned up. That's not necessarily a problem with the art; a simple "Later" caption would have sufficed. But either way it's a bit jarring. A later scene is meant to show Spider-Man and the Punisher both coincidentally arriving at the same place at the same time, but instead of setting up that scene properly, McDaniel goes for a big splash panel and we don't even see the two reacting to each other until the next page.
These aren't the worst examples of bad storytelling that one could find. I point them out because it feels like around this time basic craft is getting lost. I blame this mostly on the artists that left for Image (where you can find the worst examples of bad storytelling), but i think it's worth noting the effect that they had even on generally competent artists that you wouldn't associate with that group, like McDaniel. And the bigger point is that editorial oversight has slacked. In the Jim Shooter era McDaniel might have had to redraw pages like these. But even if that was too extreme, slapping in a "Later" caption isn't a lot of work. It just requires an assistant editor to sit down and read the book and go "hmmm, maybe this could be clearer". But considering Marvel's output at this time, that was probably a harder ask than it sounds.
Beyond that, as i've said regarding Wolverine stories, when i'm faced with these sorts of things there's first an initial hurdle that i think needs to be cleared where the story justifies its existence. When i see a one shot featuring three hyper-popular characters, i check the credits and, ok, Terry Kavanagh, there's no way this isn't just a cash-in. The story is mostly average, a little convoluted and with a big revelation that honestly is a bit underwhelming (ooh! genetic monsters! i haven't seen those in a superhero comic since, well, always.). There's no connection to anything going on in any of these characters' regular books except coincidentally and therefore not smoothly (i.e. the ongoing "debate" between Punisher and Spider-Man, and also see the Considerations regarding Sabretooth). The one hook/justification for having a story with Spider-Man and Sabretooth is that Sabretooth actually appeared in Spidey books a couple of times in the days before he was a super big shot, and Spider-Man wiped the floor with him (and so did Black Cat). Exploring that might have helped with the justification of having these characters together instead of what was probably a thought process that went like this:
"How about a Spider-Man/Punisher/Wolverine oneshot?"
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: I think it makes sense for this to go after Sabretooth's miniseries. Sabretooth is a mess in this story, and even has a freakout when he sees the poor tortured lab animals.
That all suggests a period where he's extra unstable and not getting regular mental treatments from Birdy. This might also explain his decision to suddenly go after a Department K scientist. This would still have to go before Sabretooth's appearance in X-Men Unlimited #3 when he becomes a prisoner of the X-Men. The story is context free for Spider-Man and the Punisher unless the homeless group that the Punisher is with at the beginning of this story are from somewhere that i'm not aware of. This story will be referenced (in passing) in Lethal Foes of Spider-Man #3, so it takes place before that.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I think the sad thing is it really was this whole aspect of anyone associated with a hot character was suddenly hot themselves and getting minis or series due to the "glutting the market" mentality Marvel had. Spider-Man begat Punisher and Venom, Venom begat Carnage, Wolverine begat Sabretooth, Ghost Rider begat Vengeance, Cable begat Deadpool...well OK, the last one ultimately worked out but seriously, it really just shows what we've come to now considering the 80s had minor heroes like Jack of Hearts or Gargoyle or Balder getting the minis and such.
Posted by: Ataru320 | November 16, 2016 2:41 PM
"he's a killer who needs being dead"- what kind of dialogue and grammar is this??
Posted by: Wis | November 17, 2016 1:21 AM
Scott McD in his Frank Robbins moment is my guilty pleasure. I'm sure I'll burn in hell someday, but I like these comics more than Fall of the Grace and the oher Frank- Miller- oriented works. Ciao from Milan, Italy.
Posted by: CREPASCOLO | November 17, 2016 9:07 AM
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