Category Archives: 2099

Six Weeks of Punishment: Punisher 2099 by Emily Scott

Greetings, Legions of the Unspoken, and welcome to Week Three of Six Weeks of Punishment, leading up to the premiere of the Punisher on Netflix’s Daredevil! (You’d think with how much shilling we’re doing for Netflix that they were paying us. Or at least giving me a free subscription. But honestly, my subscription is the $8 a month I mind parting with the least because of how much use I get out of it. And no, Netflix didn’t ask me to say that either.)

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Pepsi and Punisher 2099: It’s the Choice of a New Generation.

No, the fact of the matter is that we’re just stoked for the possibility of the Punisher being done really well on the screen, and if you knew, even slightly, this very site’s fine proprietor, Dean Compton, you’d know he needs no excuse to talk about his favorite scourge to mooks everywhere, Mr. Frank Castle. We’ve had a great time so far looking at Punisher vs. Nick Fury and Punisher vs. Batman, but today I will be looking at Punisher vs. not just any ol’ crime and corruption, but future crime and corruption in Punisher 2099.

Beginning in February of 1993, the title ran for 34 issues, which were mostly written by Pat Mills and Tony Skinner, with later issues penned by Chuck Dixon. Though it’s an American comic, the British influence of its authors and their work on comics like Judge Dredd is evident in its particular tone of satire and brand of dystopia. Many elements of this world, like the influence and power of the sinister corporation Alchemax, which owns the Public Eye Police Force, will nonetheless be familiar to anyone who has glimpsed into the sci-fi future. Or at the news. (I almost said “at a newspaper” until I remembered we’re enough into the future to not really have those anymore.)

Punisher 2099 was one of four initial titles in the Marvel 2099 imprint, which later expanded to include titles like  the X-Men and the Hulk. (This very site was christened with an article on the only new character of those initial four, Ravage 2099.) I will let five seconds on Wikipedia explain, if you’re really interested, which continuity is what and which world’s future the world of Marvel 2099 is because it’s convoluted and not especially pertinent to our topic at the moment. What is pertinent, what is most pertinent, is that Punisher 2099 is AWESOME.

Seriously, of all the comics I have read for this site, this is the one I had the hardest time picking a stopping point so that I could actually, you know, write the article. From the first cover, I was sold:

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 00
One-third of the Legion of Doom, Road Warrior Punisher! *entrance music*

Is it over the top? Yes. Is this comic full of ludicrous and head-shaking things? Of course. Does it sometimes teeter on the edge of self-satire? It had better. Does its greatness lie in no small part in its extremeness? Well I certainly think so. This comic is ridiculously fun and cool, and there’s no point in trying to justify it or gussy it in with any kind of analytic or pseudo-intellectual nonsense. That’s not to say it doesn’t have depth or that you can’t take some of the same messages about authority or society away that you can with, say, a movie like Dark City (we use 90s references here, people), but that’s just not where my mind focuses when reading this. The fact that there are frequent examples of legitimate social commentary is icing on the cake. A very large and flamboyant cake with, like, sparklers and moving parts and a megaphone announcing it’s time for cake.

The particular trappings of this particular vision of the future are just so great that I had to make myself start taking notes that were more than just, “That’s awesome,” over and over again. I know I’m gushing, but I don’t have anything in particular to criticize about this comic. I’m sure if you felt like rolling your eyes at some of it, you could, but if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into when you look at that cover, that’s really on you because it’s very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get scenario in an incredibly unsubtle way.

I also had to stop myself from including just about every page because the art (penciled by Tom Morgan, inked by Jim Palmiotti, and colored by Ian Laughlin), is no less top notch. I read the entire thing from page one with a huge grin. Seriously, from page one:

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 01
Need some ice for that burn, Mr. Sanchez? We’ll send it….this Friday.

Already, what’s not to like? If that weren’t great enough, this is page two:

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 02
There is nothing I could say in this caption that is possibly greater than “‘Mean Mule’ Turbo Kick-Boots.”

The Street Surgeons, despite being sort of horrifying for most people who aren’t the Punisher, put up about as much of a fight as you’d expect, and we quickly learn a couple things about our future crime fighter. First, despite his high tech arsenal of Plasto-Armor and ‘Mean Mule’ Turbo Kick-Boots (any excuse to say it), he still uses regular bullets to put holes in people. Second, no matter the incarnation, the Punisher doesn’t have that name for nothing.

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I know I can’t be the only one who would love that manual, complete with helpful Ikea-style illustrations, to be supplemental material to this comic.

The Public Eye Police Force is peeved at the Punisher, not because he is, you know, murdering people or anything, but because he is giving away freebies, and “Special Operations” Agent Jake Gallows is called in to investigate the menace. As you might be able to guess from that incredibly subtle name or the fact that a cop being brought in to investigate himself feels like a common trope (even though I can’t think of an example off the top of my head), Jake Gallows won’t have any harder a time investigating the Punisher than Peter Parker would getting a picture of Spider-Man.

The Punisher may no longer be Frank Castle, but if there is one thing these two men have in common, other than a hatred of criminals and disturbingly large pectorals, it’s their need to display a skull somewhere on their person as much as humanly possible.

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Road Warrior Punisher’s greatest opponent, Future Goldust.

The skull comes courtesy of a face scrambler, and as amazing as it is, it still manages to be the second coolest bit of technology on this page, after the geri-toxin Future Goldust receives as a sentence, apparently without trial, for straight up murdering 15 people. Or maybe it’s for being a techno-shaman, which sounds like everything awful about ravers and hippies all rolled into one person. Regardless, this isn’t the only way crime is sentenced differently in the world of Marvel 2099 than in our own. For instance, Kron Stone, the guy who kills this Punisher’s family, is charged 2.2 mega dollars for the crime, an amount he claims is less than the cost of his suit. I mean, where do these writers come up with this stuff? What a ludicrous idea, a world where rich criminals don’t really get punished! Good thing it’s just a comic book. *uncomfortable laughter*

Stone, the son of a bigwig at Alchemax, isn’t just any old rich criminal daddy’s boy, though. That would be far too mundane for Punisher 2099. No, Stone, is certifiable, killing happy families, believing them to be liars, because there can be no such thing as a happy family. After taking out Gallows’ mother, brother, and sister-in-law with what appears to be an insta-cancer gun, Stone refuses to kill Gallows himself because he is no longer a family and therefore of no consequence to him. (You’d think you maybe wouldn’t save for last the only member of this family who already looks like a criminal killing vigilante, but I might be looking for logical decisions in the wrong place.)

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 17
We get it; you’re a psychology major. You have it all figured out. *eye roll*

After the sentencing, Gallows returns home to the massive arsenal he has assembled, the most important item of which, even more than that sweet jet pack, is the diary of Frank Castle. It charges whoever finds it to carry on his work, so lucky for him it ended up in the hands of someone else who also just happened to have his entire family murdered in front of him, amirite? Actually, what I find most interesting about Gallows’s connection to Castle is that Castle’s “work” seemingly spoke to him before his family was murdered, with that event acting as the final catalyst to turn him into another incarnation of the Punisher. Castle and Gallows are very similar, one might argue too similar, but their biggest similarity appears to be that their great personal tragedies only unlocked a dormant black and white sense of justice within them both rather than causing it.

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At least Castle died doing what he loved.

After saying goodbye to his family with a Viking funeral officiated by a pretty good Thor cosplayer at the coolest looking church ever…

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ComicCon in 2099 must be insane.

…Gallows tracks down Stone at an amusement park, where the latter is attempting to kill a ride’s worth of children because in his mind, it’s better for them than sending them home to their parents. The children are floating in a No-Grav Ring, and a fight over the controls leaves one child outside of the ring’s safety. Of course, this chain of circumstances leads to the classic hero conundrum whether to save the innocent or go after the bad guy, but Stone and Gallows discuss whether he has time to save him for so long it seems like the kid would have splatted to the ground already no matter how much gravity there is. In the end Gallows makes the catch, of course, but Stone makes his getaway in the most obnoxious manner possible.

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It’s guys like this who kinda make you get where a guy like the Punisher is coming from.

Gallows is even more resolved to take down Stone and everyone else who believes they are above punishment, a couple of whom we are briefly introduced to. Their names, along with the names of some of their crimes, are enough to make me excited for future issues. We meet the Fearmaster of Alchemax, who tells Under-Capo Multi Fractor of the Cyber Nostra that they will have to increase revenue by 20%, which means they will have to expand into total reality drugs and holo-porn clubs. (Does any part of that sentence not make you want to read more?) This comes directly after the Fearmaster telling Police Commissioner Bennelli that he expects a 20% decrease in crime in return for their sponsorship. Seems like the Punisher will have no trouble keeping himself busy, but the upside is it will constantly sound badass as hell to explain.

Of course, now that his family is gone, there isn’t anyone to explain much of anything to, except his Microchip analog, Matt Axel, who helps Gallows fill his empty home by building him a huge, terrifying torture prison. I suppose this is a good sort of friend to have if you plan on being an unstoppable vigilante and a bad sort of friend to have if you are literally anyone else. Even the unstoppable vigilante might think twice about angering the guy who gifts invisible, armed 800 mph motorcycles.

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You’re not happy about it? “Listen, I’ll make you an unstoppable killing machine and build you your own black site, but even I have limits.”

Now that he’s fully tricked out, Gallows is ready to take on Stone, who, when cornered, gives us a sob story that I think is best heard from the source:

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That story encapsulates everything that is great about this comic. On the one hand, it’s not outlandish to think that we will one day, not long in the future, live in a world where children do get abused by their robot nannies, and it says plenty of things about society and people that are worth reflecting on. On the other – yo, that story is HILARIOUS. It’s so over the top in the best way that I’m all the more on board with the Punisher doing something I wouldn’t especially be ok with if it were really happening. Oftentimes art set in a dytopian future, no matter how entertaining, can be depressing, not because it warns us about what’s to come but because it reminds us of the way things already are. While reading Punisher 2099, it was more, “Well, yeah, corporations control everything and police are corrupt and, sure, the rich can basically do whatever they want, but damn, if I could do some total reality drugs and go on the No-Grav Ring, maybe I wouldn’t mind so much! Everything and everyone is amazing!”

I can’t tell if that means I’m taking the comic too seriously or not seriously enough, but it’s irrelevant. I loved it, and I hope you do too because I fully intend to look at more of this insanity in the future! To entice you further, I’ll leave you with the cover of the third issue, which previews what I can only imagine is the equipment so scary even Matt Axel sort of put his foot down. I also hope you haven’t had enough punishment because we still have three weeks to go, continuing later this week with Dean Compton taking a look at Marvel Super Action #1 over at the fabulous Longbox Graveyard!

The Punisher 2099 #003 - 00
Wow, the dad from Modern Family has really beefed up.

 

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You Can’t Go Home Again to the House of Ideas-Ravage 2099

     When I was a young man just entering into the world of superheroes in a heavy manner, I soaked up as much information as I could about them as quickly as possible.  That is just how I am when it comes to the various passions that dominate my life.  I can’t just be a Kansas Jayhawks Men’s Basketball fan; I must learn all about how James Naismith (the creator of the game of basketball) was their coach and how they’ve dominated through the years.  I don’t just like the Kansas City Royals; I have learned all about their glory days under the leadership of George Brett and the depth to which they have plummeted over the last 12 years.  (Winning season last year though-WATCH OUT!)  I am not just an anarchist; I have pored over tomes by Alexander Berkman, Noam Chomsky, Voltairne De Cleyre, Colin Ward, and the like.  I also like telling everyone around me about this information, hence this blog.

      So 7th grade me, being much more boisterous and devoid of tact than I am these days, could not stop blabbing on and on about how THE STAN LEE was returning to Marvel Comics on a brand new creation of his, Ravage 2099!

Ravage #1 (2099) - Page 1

(Foil Covers of the 90’s were HOT COLLECTOR’S ITEMS!  I bet every person reading this blog is a retired billionaire from selling their collection of foil covers!)

 

Marvel 2099 was a fantastic concept to me at the time, and to be honest, I am still enamored of the concept to this day.  The idea of presenting a dystopian future Marvel Universe dominated by technocrats and a surveillance state completely permeated by a fascist security force fascinates me.  Am I describing the 2099 universe or the goings on in our country and world today?  Here’s a hint; it’s both, with Marvel 2099 being at least slightly more fun and decidedly less open to eroding your civil liberties.

All kidding aside, I was totally all in with the 2099 line.  They gave us Spider-Man 2099, which holds up to this day and will be covered sometime here in the future.  Punisher 2099 was a must for me, seeing as how Punisher was, is, and always be my favorite character.  That title is batshit crazy in the best possible way, and I can’t wait to share my love of it with everyone.  Of course, savvy readers know that Chris Sims at Comics Alliance has already delved deeply into the decidedly brain-bending adventures of Jake Gallows, but we’ll go look on him again.  Doom 2099 was also released with the first wave of 2099 titles, and I would not care for it for its few issues, but it wound up being one of the best uses of a villain as a title character in superhero history.  Of course, seeing as how most super-villain titles are about as enjoyable as the restroom at the Greyhound Station in Saint Louis I am unsure how high that praise is.

What excited me most about the 2099 line though was the fact that STAN LEE himself would be the awesome author!  The Wonderful Wordsmith!  The Scintillating Scribe of Script!!!

But he was actually just the WRONG WRITER!

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(Not the first or most wrong thing Stan Lee has ever done though.)

     Seriously, I could not possibly convey to you how completely overcome by the level of excitement I had for me getting to read Stan Lee original work!  Finally, I would share that same sense of wonder and amazement that young men my age had gotten to feel in 1963 as they sauntered to the spinner rack at their local drug store to pick up the characters Stan Lee co-created like Fantastic Four! Spider-Man!  The X-Men!  I think part of me then thought that Stan Lee deserved his face not just on Mount Rushmore, but that someone should take a laser like Chippendale Chairface had in The Tick and carve Stan Lee’s visage into the moon.

                Remember me prattling on during the first paragraph of my blog about things you don’t care about but I care passionately about that I am trying not to bring up again here?  (ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!  Win the Tournament Guys!)  Now picture me as a 7th grader who just learned that not only is Stan Lee STAN F’N LEE WHO INVENTED EVERYTHING IN MARVEL* but now he was INVENTING MORE MARVEL!  I told my friends, my teachers, many parents, and our postman had to tolerate a 17-mninute soliloquy about how this was the greatest return since Jesus, and I would maintain even that would be better if Stan Lee were writing the dialogue for the Son of Man.

Rather than a long-haired messiah on the Sea of Galilee, Stan instead was scripting the adventures of a long-haired yuppie who believes so faithfully in the system that he makes Superman look like The Unabomber.

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(The first true sign of a male super-hero:  Ignoring her when the woman in his life is right and trying to warn him.)

 

                As hard as this is going to be to swallow, Ravage was wrong, guys!  Alchemax is chock full of bad guys!  Even more shocking, his taking of the young man whose father was a “polluter” to the head of Alchemax only leads to Ravage being persecuted. Ravage confronts the Director-General, Andlethorpe Henton, who assures him that everything is on the up and up, no matter what the guy with the future hair and future shades says.  Henton and the other Alchemax directors order him killed because he is “far less naïve than we thought”.  So Henton puts through a call to a place called Hellrock to get a Mutroid to frame and kill Ravage!  This all happens on 2 pages, and if you think that my paragraph about this seems forced and rushed, you should read the pages.

I sort of don’t blame Henton, the future’s most evil fat man, for being so upset about being interrupted by Ravage and Future-Shades, as he was about to spend some quality time with Virtual Reality Pixie SexBots.  No really.

Ravage #1 (2099) - Page 8

(Henton kills anyone who hears anything he does not want them to, just like the CEOs we know and love now.)

     Henton spends all of his time sexing it up with Virtual Reality Pixie SexBots, Non- Virtual Reality, Non-Pixie, Not-Bot Sex Workers, and KILLING PEOPLE WITH THE DEVICE IN HIS JACKET.  He kills his aide in the next panel which pushes him out the window.  He later kills a whore who also hears too much.  For real, this guy just likes killing people; otherwise, perhaps he’d have one of these “I AM EVIL WITH EVIL PLANS” conversations out of earshot of people.  I mean, come on.  Perhaps his zapper gadget costs a lot, and he wants to get his money’s worth out of it.  Inflation has to be like 20930209382% by 2099.  Inflation is funny to think about.  In 2099, people’s grandparents will be like ours, except they will be talking about when hologram laser photon spaceships only cost a billion dollars.

But I digress!  Ravage and his story await us!  After this conversation, Henton calls the other Alchemax directors, and despite this being 2099 in the future of the Marvel Universe where it is basically always the future anyhow, he needs a secretary to punch this call through to the other directors.  The nature of this call is about killing and framing Ravage, so Henton naturally uses Ravage’s secretary who already knows that Alchemax is up to no good to put this call through for him.  She listens in on the call and learns that they are calling a place called Hellrock to get a Mutroid to frame and kill Ravage.

Why didn’t the dude just blast him out of his office window like he did his underling just for hearing of this plan?  Well, then he couldn’t have sent this awesome Mutroid Leper guy after Ravage, who as he is being attacked, framed, and warned by his secretary (who is also Ravage’s girlfriend, as we just now find out on the page below), still does not understand what is happening.

Ravage #1 (2099) - Page 14

(I love the guy on page one in glasses yelling about the Mutroid.  He seems like a proper gent from ‘Ol Blighty 2099.)

                Ravage is now just starting to get it, but in order to really understand that he is in trouble, maybe he should be injured and/or disfigured.

Ravage #1 (2099) - Page 16

(I suppose if an eye was not too high of a price for Odin to pay for wisdom, it is not too high for Ravage.)

     After getting shot in the Goddamn eye, Ravage has finally figured it out.  Seriously, the guy goes from hardcore true believer to Rebel 2099 in about 4 panels.   Now he is the best fighter ever who trained all of these guys and so he proceeds to beat them all up.  I do enjoy the way he pushes the guy into the Mutroid Leper though.  Sweet.

We then see Henton getting a massage as he watches this melee on monitors.  At the end, he blows up the office and kills his prostitute masseuse, who first has to mention how smart he is.

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(Her hair style looks like one I would see on another 90’s staple, USA Up All Night.)

                That’s it for the prostitute.  Are her earrings pants?  I really have no clue.  2099 fashion has a lot in common with today’s fashion, in that whatever essence it is supposed to capture eludes me.  Anyhow, Ravage is now fully aware that Alchemax is trying to kill him, so he has Tiana hole up at Dack’s place.  Dack is the kid with the future hair, future shades, and what I presume is supposed to be some sort of future/hip-hop name.  What it definitively is is awful, and it is a testament to the idea that old white men like Stan Lee should not try to concoct what they perceive to be cool street names.

Ravage is now off to garner some weapons, and he has changed from Michael Douglas in Wall Street to Mad Max in the span of a page and a half.   To prove his toughness, he has changed his ENTIRE MANNER OF SPEECH to prove that he is a tough guy.  This mostly consists of him now never using a G at the end of a gerund and making sure to have as many apostrophes in lieu of vowels as possible and only referring to himself by his last name only.

Ravage #1 (2099) - Page 20

(What if he made that same threat but his last name was Oglethorpe?  Would you take it more or less seriously?  Jury’s Out.)

                This guy just beat up all the guards in his department, so I am unsure why he does not just find some guns or some future laser photon killing machine like Henton has.  Instead he equips himself with a vest, a sprocket, a lead pipe, and a chain.  He also has a shield, and it does nothing to help him sound or look more formidable.

Ravage #1 (2099) - Page 22

(Just 5 pages ago, he made that plastic junk that he is bitching about now.)

                The last page introduces our villain DETHSTRYK!  Yes, that is how that is spelled.  When I bought this when I was young, I was convinced that since the cameo of Dethstryk would make this issue worth a bundle.  Yeah, I was wrong about lots of stuff when I was young.

All in all, this is pretty awful and it is probably justifies the hate that people in the 90’s Hate Squad carry for The Unspoken Decade.  I do feel like Stan Lee was trying really hard here, but the times had just changed.  What he thought would be cutting edge just seemed hackneyed and played out.  I think he thought the dialogue was cutting edge, and that Ravage would come across as a super bad ass, but instead, he seems like a weekend warrior.

This was Stan’s last big splash with Marvel and even at my age, I knew this wasn’t cutting it.  I kept up with the title, but only because I shoplifted it.  What can I say?  I was EXTREME because it was the 90’s!  Kids, don’t steal.  We will come back to Ravage to see him get the Fantasticar in the future here at The Unspoken Decade.

Also, don’t let the fact that this is awful fool you into believing that I am not fond of this.  While it certainly isn’t his best work, this was still a Stan Lee comic that I got to read hot off the stands as a teenager, which made me feel connected to comics history somehow, as though those young men who grabbed Fantastic Four off the spinner racks with dreams in their eyes and dimes no longer in their pocket and I were walking the same path and were intertwined despite our differences in age and eras.  Also, I maintain that the 90’s, maybe the early 2000’s, were the last era where even the bad superhero comics were at least fun, and while I would not say that Ravage 2099#1 is good even under the duress of a Hulk having me in a headlock, no bribe would be needed to get an admission from that this is fun.

Hope you have enjoyed this first foray into The Unspoken Decade.  Be here in a week when we see how the other half of Marvel’s most famous duo, Jack Kirby, fared with one of his works at Topps Comics!  (Here’s a hint; it’s better than this.)