Today this reviewer takes on one of my oldest and personal favorites, Punisher. Specifically Essential Punisher volume 2, which is the first 20 issues of the on going Punisher series, along with the first Annual and Daredevil issue 257 which crossed over with an issue of The Punisher. As always, the Essential line is reprinted on newsprint in black and white. I had a discussion with a friend about how this was an improvement in my eyes, as the coloring in the 1980′s was predominantly horrible. Ashler said he liked the old style of coloring. Although I think we can all agree that even though colorists did their jobs in the day, the digital revolution is by far superior. Before I get to the meat of the review, I should say, that Punisher is one of my all time favorite comic book characters, and the first character I truly loved. His skull logo was even my first tattoo.
Let’s get the bad over with. And there’s a freaking lot of it. First of all, the continuity. Half the time Punisher refers to his wife and child being murdered by gangsters. The other half he says it was his wife and children (PLURAL). I guess this was before they hired someone to edit comics. After that, was the heinous writing. He was constantly blindsided and beaten to the punch. He got shot way to often, even for a guy who’s wearing a kevlar bodysuit. The War Journal entries claimed it had been ten years since he lost his family, whatever it may have consisted of. He was a Nam vet, and a top flight Marine, and he’s constantly getting bested before he some how pulls the victory out of his ass. Sometimes being saved by someone else. Like when he hired a team consisting of a high school student and a chemistry teacher in an effort to stop the Kingpin? Even in the 80′s who comes up with crap like this?
After that, I’ll rip apart the artwork. Whilce Portacio’s style in the 80′s was atrocious. The super tight pants and triangle cowboy boots and tiny ankles, c’mon! Sure Portacio’s style has gotten WAY better since his stint on the “man in black,” but it sure doesn’t hold up. True, Whilce was not the only one working on the book, but he was the main artist, and quite frankly none of the art holds up nearly thirty years later.
Let’s talk about the stories. The whole battle with the Kingpin and Punisher recruiting some regular citizens into his war…. WEAK! His fight with Daredevil when some muscle bound psycho decides to begin tainting a pharmaceutical company’s over the counter medications, was pretty terrible. There was Punisher’s one issue jaunt into the Outback of Australia, complete with, “that’s not a knife” reference. There were the Middle Eastern terrorists who met in the middle of a toxic waste dump. And the metaphorical “wild rose” growing right in the middle of everything. I’m just saying, for early Punisher stories, nothing beats the Richard Grant and Mike Zeck mini series, “Return to Big Nothing.” Although my favorite creative teams on Punisher were Ennis and Dillon, even if Dillon’s art was not my favorite, and Dixon and Romita Jr. Ennis’ work on Punisher MAX was some of the greatest writing for Punisher ever.
Now, for the grade. As with everything I review under the Hardcore Review, I base the final say so on a moment in wrestling history. The more hardcore the moment, the better the promo, or amazing the entrance or finisher. Today, I am going with a wrestler who has done a ton and for the most part is amazing, but was given a crap gimmick for a while and stunk it up, cause he was never going to main even Wrestlemania. You could have done a new Second City Saints gimmick. You could’ve had him feud with CM Punk. You could have had him bring back comedy wrestling without it being a cheesey gimmick. But no. Creative, in it’s infinite wisdom, chose to take a top flight indy wrestler like Colt Cabana and make him into Scotty Goldman? They could have made money on some Cabanarama! headbands. But no, instead they turn Colt into a jobber. In the day and age of “superstars,” that a potential headliner was reduced to nothing more than a joke. Well, the joke’s on you WWE. Cause Colt is taking bookings world wide and has a top rated weekly podcast and video series. You won’t have to look hard to find The Art of Wrestling podcast on itunes or Creative Has Nothing For You on youtube, or any great Colt Cabana matches on a Ring of Honor dvd event.