Sunday, April 12, 2009

Out of the Vault - The Punisher

People have been recommending the movie "Punisher: War Zone." I've never been a huge fan of the Punisher, but I knew I had some copies of his title, so I thought I'd look at the book and see how it held up.

Frank Castle, The Punisher, first got his own title in July 1987, written by Mike Baron (of Nexus, Badger and DC's post-Crisis reboot of Flash) and drawn by Klaus Janson (maybe best known as Frank Miller's inker on Daredevil and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns). He had started out as a Spider-Man villain, a vigilante-murderer modeled on The Executioner.

But though his murderous ways had made him a villain during the 70's, he was recast as a hero during the rise of the grim'n'gritty anti-heroes of the 80's. In the first issue, he blows away a crack house, leaving one man alive enough to tell him the name of his distributor. He then moves up the food chain, killing the distributor and his henchmen, but not before learning that the head of the syndicate is someone called "The General," in Bolivia.

In issue 2, Castle goes to Bolivia and learns that the General is a former RVN general whom Castle had known in Vietnam. The General and some of Castle's former squadmates are running a huge cocaine plantation/distribution network. They don't survive the issue.

The series was capable enough, taking more inspiration from action movies like "Lethal Weapon" and "Commando" than from Marvel's comics line. But as a fan of Baron's quirky/crazy work on Nexus and Badger, I was disappointed in the series. It featured solid action, but little of the wit or spontaneity that was Baron's usual hallmark. And since it was such a straightahead action story, the costume started to seem a little silly.

I ended up getting bored with the series and quitting after 6 issues.

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