It’s the Most Punishing Time of the Year!-Punisher Holiday Special #1

Hello, Legions of the Unspoken!  Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate!  If you hate the season, I hope you are making it through as best you can! Emily sure did a fantastic job yesterday with her look at the Marvel Holiday Special from 1992!  Make sure you take a gander at it right here!

Emily mentioned this in her article yesterday, but it is really important to remember that many folks don’t have a great time during the holiday season.  Try and spare a kind word for them, and when it comes to food charity, I encourage you to not only give during the holidays, but it would be swell if you could give during the entire year when you can.  People ain’t just hungry at Christmas.

Many comic book characters also do not have a particularly swell time during Christmas, although most have a bad time for reasons other than hunger.  Characters like Batman or Punisher don’t care for Christmas for obvious reasons and reasons many in the real world can relate to as well.  Having lost family can put a damper on the whole holiday thing.

Which is why it is sort of surprising that Marvel put out three Punisher Holiday specials, and he was prominently featured in several Marvel Holiday Specials in the 90’s as well.  The other side of that, though, is that Punisher was so popular then that they milked him for everything he was worth.  There were Punisher Summer and Back to School Specials as well during this time, which also don’t seem like prime specials to be propped up by a psychopathic serial killer like Frank Castle.

But that doesn’t mean that this Holiday special has to be bad.  In fact, the opposite is very much true.  Thanks to the hard work of the creators involved with this special, we have a lot of fun.  The first story is a little like the movie Die Hard in that there is lots of action with the trappings of Christmas permeating the background.  Also, since this is the 90’s, the special has a gimmick cover.

Stephen (why it isn’t spelled Steven as it should be is a mystery that the world may never know the answer to) Grant writes this fun tale, where we get introduced the world’s whiniest mobster.

That mob guy sort of looks like he could be Murderface's cousin.  You don't know who Murderface is?  For shame, good sir, for shame.
That mob guy sort of looks like he could be Murderface’s cousin. You don’t know who Murderface is? For shame, good sir, for shame.

Well, the good news is that apparently even mobsters celebrate Christmas.  The bad news is that they have no idea how it is done.  Little Tony sounds like such a whiny little douche.  We all know someone like him, right?  Someone who always gets their way and then the first time they don’t, they wind up making you go deaf from their ability to alternate between screams so shrill they could pierce the dimensional barrier and whines so pathetic that they almost create their own emo albums.  One could only assume that all of these qualities would only be worse in the son of a prominent mob boss.

So, these guys set up a plan to ambush Punisher, which he learns about from a drug dealer who appears to have stepped straight out of the Chick tract, The Gay Blade.  Don’t get that reference?  Well, you can see this work of hilarious hate right here, but compare the following two images and tell me that the guy Punisher is squeezing for information would look out of place at all next to these two:

As an extra I left in Lambda being a "gay symbol" so that you can be on the lookout.  Man,m those Chick Tract folks are nuts...and entertainingly so!
That lady is reacting like a zombie is going reaching up for her in a Tales from the Crypt comic.

309 The Punisher - Holiday Special #1 - Page 4

309 The Punisher - Holiday Special #1 - Page 5

So now that Punisher has dealt with this hippie drug dealer, he has to head to the mall to cut off this plan.  Something tells me that the meeting between Punisher and these mooks won’t be quite the same experience as the one I had playing this board game with my little sister.

This game is brutal, and we still play it every now and again.  Why?  Because we hate ourselves.
This game is brutal, and we still play it every now and again. Why? Because we hate ourselves.

The only problem with this plan by Punisher is that Little Tony’s mooks are actually in control of the mall, which seems ludicrous.  I love it.  When it comes to Christmas Action-Adventure stories, they have to take place at the mall or a Santa theme park.  For these stories to work, they almost need Christmas decorations saturating the edges and the background.  That way, we never forget that it is Christmas, but we also don’t have to have the main characters addressing it all the time.

The bad guys apparently feel like they were REALLY BAD this year, and Anti-Santa must have noticed, as they are quite gleeful that Punisher is walking into their mall-trap.  We as readers know that a criminal being happy over luring the Punisher to them would be the same as a mouse being ecstatic that it had lured a cat to it.  That doesn’t stop these guys, though.

Also, Punisher mulls the evolution of mankind.  I can't tell if he thinks we have come a long way or if he thinks we are too far behind, but I can totally tell he hates the mall, which might be the last human quality Punisher has.
Also, Punisher mulls the evolution of mankind. I can’t tell if he thinks we have come a long way or if he thinks we are too far behind, but I can totally tell he hates the mall, which might be the last human quality Punisher has.

Punisher ditches his bag and sets himself up in proper position to stop the robbery he has been informed about.  The mooks put their plan in motion as Punisher has one of those Admiral Ackbar moments; you know the one.

309 The Punisher - Holiday Special #1 - Page 8

309 The Punisher - Holiday Special #1 - Page 9

it-s-a-trap

Man, I am unsure why that joke never gets old to me, but it never does.  That will stay funny even after it gets ruined in the new Star Wars movies coming out.  Or it gets elevated into new heights of grandeur.  Those were the only two positions people took on the internet about them.  But I digress.

With the trap set and Punisher dead in the middle of it, he starts putting on his awesome gloves and taking care of business.  Using some small arms fire (because the bad guys took the bag he stashed) and an ingenious car trap, he manages to take out a few of the mooks encroaching on him. They do manage to wound Castle.  He also gets to drive one of those mall display cars IN THE MALL, which is just another of many reasons that despite being a bloodthirsty and psycopathic serial killer, Punisher is more awesome than anything else.  Don’t deny it; you’ve always wanted to drive one of those cars in the mall.  Hell, the fact that this dream might come true for any of us might be the sole reason to keep malls open in the Amazon age.

Things get complicated when the bad guys happen upon a runaway at the mall, who they momentarily hold hostage.  Punisher offs a mook (Most of these mooks are dressed as mall security guards, by the by, which sort of precludes them as mooks, right?) which enables her to get away…and in Punisher’s way.

Isn’t there always a runaway at Christmas?  Don’t they always mess everything up before it gets saved?  Maybe I am just superimposing that girl from Ernest Saves Christmas into every Christmas movie, but man, it seems like a trope that gets in just in time for Christmas, sort of like  your uncle.  Point being, though, that this young lady is now caught in this death trap with Punisher, which bodes well for neither of them.

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Punisher shows us exactly why he went into vigilantism instead of counseling, as his only consolation for this teenager runaway victim of some sort of domestic abuse is to let her know that he would rue killing her.  Of course, while she sees what she has been doing as surviving, Frank Castle may only see it as stealing.  This is the black and white viewpoint that makes Punisher so fascinating to me, even if he is the most unlikely character to get a Christmas special this side of Anton Lavey.

Also, somehow, the head mook just makes me laugh so much as he blows away his own mall with weapons he and his men do not understand, planning to recoup his loss thanks to insurance.  I mean, I am sure I am not spoiling anything by letting you know that does not happen, as there is a Punisher:  Holiday Special #2, but no The Mook Who Killed Punisher Holiday Special.  I also love how these hardcore security guards also do not seem to understand most of his armory, which seems basic to me.  They’re grenades, guys.  You’re welcome.

Of course, the seminal moment of the book happens as Punisher is running low on weapons, ammo, and in addition to his munitions shortfall issues, he has been wounded again.  This forces improvisation that leads to what is arguably the greatest moment in both Punisher and Christmas history.

309 The Punisher - Holiday Special #1 - Page 18
When you see the reindeer appearing on the horizon in the dark, does it remind you of that meme where the deer is looking in the window with the macros “SOON” across it? Oh you don’t know that? Never mind.

Yes, Punisher killed someone with a toy reindeer.  That canon, folks.

Punisher sends the young runaway to the car he crashed earlier as he attempts to deal with the other mooks.  Believe it or not, she gets captured as Frank Castle deals with a henchman whose reputation he knows.  Of course, Castle is still in improvisation mode, so we see a use for hardware that I am sure is not approved by Home Depot.

309 The Punisher - Holiday Special #1 - Page 22

309 The Punisher - Holiday Special #1 - Page 24
While Home Depot may not approve of use of a a saw in such a manner, I must say that S-Mart from Evil Dead most certainly does.

Punisher also manages to distract these mooks with one of the greatest and oldest tricks in the book, as these hardcore henchmen just seem to falter left and right in the wake of Punisher’s unyielding onslaught.  Maybe it is because they are dressed as mall security guards, as such an unimposing position would surely cause one to lose one’s edge.  Or maybe Punisher is just so bad ass that he can use trees as hang gliders.

309 The Punisher - Holiday Special #1 - Page 25
Best use of a dummy since Mannequin 2: On the Move.
309 The Punisher - Holiday Special #1 - Page 26
Check out that one mook/mall cop who went GANGSTA by turning that hat around. You’re cool, bro.

That leaves Punisher, the runaway, and the head mook in the mall, and as I spoiled for you earlier, one of these three doesn’t make it out alive.  You can guess which one it is.  As far as the young runaway, she returns home, just as Pat Benatar did in her “Love is a Battlefield” video, as both of these stalwart runaways valiantly battled evil, although Pat Benatar never got to team up with Punisher, although that is a team-up I would read.  I’d especially be down for that team-up if they fought Nazis like Pat Benatar did in “Shadows of the Night”.  Man, for a 90’s comic book blog, I sure have talked about 80’s videos a lot in this paragraph.

Also, to make sure that all is well that ends well, Little Tony gets a present after all. Santa Claus ain’t the one that brings it, though.

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Hey, you got a present here too!  I’d like to think it is slightly better than Little Tony’s, although that’s really up to you!  Be here Monday for The Golden Age #4!  Merry Christmas, everybody!

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5 thoughts on “It’s the Most Punishing Time of the Year!-Punisher Holiday Special #1”

  1. Another great, entertaining write-up, Dean! And you came up with a fantastic title for this piece.

    “This is the black and white viewpoint that makes Punisher so fascinating to me, even if he is the most unlikely character to get a Christmas special this side of Anton Lavey.”

    Oh, man, I totally laughed out loud at that line 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed the ride through flashback territory. Just to clear up a bone of contention though, the hippie that Frank shakes down on the roof was based on an old friend of mine from college, and, yes, he really looked like that. Happy holidays and, drive fast….H

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for stopping by! Glad we could help you enjoy some flashback time! I love that hippie dude. Hope I wasn’t too snarky! Does your pal still look like that?

    Like

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