Tag Archives: 90s Marvel

SBTU Presents VS: War Machine vs. Cable



Hello, Legions!

Welcome to another fabulous edition of not just The Unspoken Decade, but that nifty blog crossover epic we call “Super Blog Team-Up!”  This go-round we at SBTU have decided to utterly enthrall you with some of the most violent and spectacular clashes of all time, as we present VS!

Here where it’s always 1996, we bring you two of Marvel’s heaviest hitters when it comes to firepower.  One is James Rhodes, better known as the operator of he most offensively-powerful armor this side of a Hulkbuster, War Machine!  The other is the son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, sent to a far future to cure his techno-virus, he has now returned to the present day as the telekinteic cyborg warrior known as Cable!

Personally, I have always wanted a Punisher/War Machine/Cable team-up.  They could call it “big guns, bigger attitudes”.  It writes itself!  WHERE ARE YOU, MARVEL?  GET THIS DONE.

The fight between Cable and War Machine takes place over the first few issues of War Machine’s first solo title. Written by Len Kaminski and Scott Benson, penciled by Gabriel Gecko, and inked by Pam Eklund, War Machine #1 hits our reality in April of 1994 (according to the copyright indicia) as an attempt to sort of stretch the parameters of the super hero game.  The first issue has James Rhodes getting caught up in an international incident that ties the hands of most of the other heroes.  It also sports a die-cut foil cover that is sort of hard to display on the internet.

War Machine #1 - Page 2
You decide which is deadlier;  THE ARMOR OR THE ATTITUDE!

War Machine’s armor is probably my favorite Iron Man armor ever.  I mean, just look at it.  Right there on that cover, you can see two guns on his wrist, a giant cannon on his shoulder, and what appears to be a missile battery on his other shoulder.  Beautiful.  Also, you just know that his chest circle fires SOMETHING AWESOME.

In real life, I tend to be a defense first guy (as a fan of the 2015 WORLD CHAMPION Kansas City Royals, how can ya blame me?).  In my genre fiction, give me the guy who has little protection who comes out with every gun he has firing as he simply overpowers his enemy with a fierce barrage from his armada!  That’s War Machine in a nutshell, although I am underselling the brilliant strategic mind of one James Rhodes as well.

The selling point of these early issues of War Machine is that James Rhodes isn’t gonna sit idly by as the technicalities of the world prevent him from taking the fight right to the bad guys.  After he makes a connection with a famous international diplomat, Vincent Cetewayo, who is looking to start a corporation known as “WorldWatch” that would help deal with international crises before they develop, James is intrigued.  He refuses Cetewayo’s offer at first, but after reading his book, James seems to be coming around on the idea.  Of course, then said international diplomat is kidnapped by the regime he once fled, Imaya.  Due to the fact that this African nation is full-fledged member of the United Nations, many heroes are paralyzed by international law as it prevents them from acting…

War Machine #1 - Page 20
Nick Fury’s fingerless gloves will be available at a K-Mart by you soon.

The angry phone call Rhodes is on doesn’t seem to get Fury on the line, as Rhodes quickly shows up at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ with harsh words for Nick Fury.

War Machine #1 - Page 21
As a matter of fact, what is Punisher’s GPA?

C’mon War Machine, how could you possibly figure that Fury wouldn’t know who you were and what you were up to?  It’s his game!

War Machine #1 - Page 22

It’s insanely hard not to side with War Machine here.  It isn’t like Fury doesn’t go off half-cocked when he feels like it, the UN and S.H.I.E.L.D. be damned.  Now that War Machine needs some help,  though, Fury is acting like these rules are suddenly sacrosanct.  That’s government bureaucrat types for ya, amirite?  Also, ain’t it against international law to, y’ know, just kidnap a guy off a hijacked airline?  Oh, UN, you’re so delightfully unwieldy.

After seeing that he’ll get no help from Fury in regard to this, War Machine says the line that seemingly has to be said in nearly every action flick and story:

War Machine #1 - Page 24
My Mom said the same thing, but then she made me do whatever she was talking about.

War Machine plows into Imaya, taking out soldiers and warplanes left and right.  He’s doing very well against these instruments of war, which might be ironic because he is a War Machine.  Or is it just meta?  I dunno, Alanis Morissette forever ruined all of our understandings of ironic.  (Also, if you think that joke is too old, you’re the one reading a 90’s comics website, pal.)

While War Machine’s attack may make for impressive viewing, X-Force’s leader Cable doesn’t like it.

War Machine #1 - Page 26
Despite being a super computer that allows Cable to teleport places, the computer is somehow incapable of telling Cable about this “Dragonfly” ship once he leaves.  If only they could text in the 90’s.

So it appears Cable has taken umbrage with War Machine going solo in a War Zone.  Apparently, Cable is the only guy allowed to do what he wants with big guns, a gleam in his eye, and a devil-may-care attitude.  When it isn’t him, Cable is super concerned with geopolitical events and how a solitary man with an advanced suit of armor trying to rescue a man destined to be tortured and killed could upset the entire balance of power in Africa!

War Machine #1 - Page 34
Cable’s entire history as a character, whether with the Wild Six Pack and X-Force has been nothing but Lone-Wolf Hot-Dog Stunts.  Also, I am pretty sure lonewolf and hot dog don’t have hyphens.

Now, before we can get to laser fights, Cable and War Machine have to try and win the debate.  I’ll spare you my opinion of who is right, but I’d love to know yours in the comment.  (Here’s a hint as to whose side I am on; it’s War Machines’s.)

War Machine #1 - Page 35
I don’t necessarily think Cable is wrong, (although barring some development in X-Force or his solo book of which I am unaware, it is odd to see him as the voice of so-called reason and restraint here), but to sit around talking when any number of heroes could save a man who is definitely going to be tortured and killed is just wrong in my eyes.

This exchange of philosophy does nothing to change the mind of either Cable or War Machine, and so we get Cable and War Machine throwing down!  We also get Cable spouting a line that’d lead one to believe he was trying out for a Viagra commercial.

War Machine #1 - Page 36

Cable draws first blood, knocking War Machine down and into some boulders.  War Machine doesn’t take this lying down, however, and quickly takes over on offense.  He separates Cable from his firearm, which leads to the most ineffective strategy Cable has ever employed against an opponent.

War Machine #1 - Page 38
At least the kick was with Cable’s cyborg leg, but it seems to me like a master strategist like Cable would have done a smidge better than punching War Machine in the head with his normal arm.  I’m gonna give him an out and say it was telekinetically aided. See how nice I can be, folks?

The back and forth is fairly evenly matched, but just when it appears that Round 2 is about to start, a new competitor enters the ring and it becomes a triple threat match!

War Machine #1 - Page 41

War Machine #1 - Page 42


That’s where War Machine #1 leaves off, and Page #1 of issue #2 may be my favorite page by Gecko in either issue. But first, the cover to War Machine #2!

War Machine #2 - Page 1
You probably could have mentioned that Deathlok is guest-starring too.
War Machine #2 - Page 2
War Machine busts into a country, bullets flying, and now he wants to talk, haha!

Not only is this a great page artwise to me, I love the succinctness in getting all three of the players across.  With just three panels, you know who everyone is, what their motivation is, and how they are feeling about the situation.  One can even reasonably assume that Deathlok is housing two personalities based on what we see here, which he is.

What we really need, though, is a two-page splash showing us just how badass all these guys look together.

War Machine #2 - Page 3
Cable’s gun is the best thing about the 90’s.  I love it.

Basically, we get the same conversation that Cable and War Machine have been having, but now Deathlok is thrown in, and he is on War Machine’s side.  This sits none too well with Cable, who decides to use that awesome gun of his (for real, I could talk for hours about Cable’s guns.  Ask Emily.) to solve a problem.  That problem’s name is Deathlok!

War Machine #2 - Page 4
If the computer part of Deathlok was really that smart, then he probably would have armed defensive systems before Deathlok got shot.

War Machine tries to play peacemaker, but all that does is rile Deathlok up in his direction.

War Machine #2 - Page 6
War Machine pines for the days of Gardner Fox’s Justice League of America.

War Machine finally uses his massive firepower to overcome the both of them, as he attempts to talk some sense into these guys.  It’s sorta funny how all of a sudden after breaching international borders and shooting down Imayan warplanes in Imayan airspace that War Machine now fancies himself the voice of reason.  Of course, seeing as he is the only 100% human guy here, maybe he’s the only one we can trust.  One way or another, War Machine incapacitates them both, and then he gets to deliver a lecture because to the victor go the soliloquies.

War Machine #2 - Page 7
Deathlok is still holding a grudge because Cable shot him in the back?  Sheesh!  It’s been 30 seconds, dude.  GET ON WITH YOUR LIFE!

For those of you placed your wager on “the three guys yap until Imayan ground forces show up,” head to the window and collect.  You have to wonder what sort of resistance they could possibly put up to these three, seeing as how War Machine just single-handedly thrashed their entire goddamn air force.  I do suppose that being in the military in a despotic dictatorship probably just has you going out in your tank even after a solitary armored figure has taken out all your air support.  Your choice is get killed by War Machine or get killed by your superior in the ranks.

Cable, though, can teleport, so he has lots of choices, including the choice to allow Deathlok and War Machine to reap what they have sown without him around.

War Machine #2 - Page 8
Deathlok is now mad at Cable for not taking part in a war he never wanted to happen. What?  That makes no sense. Unless Deathlok is jealous. Something tells me that Deathlok’s envy circuit is on OVERLOAD!

And that’s the end of the Cable vs. War Machine showdown.  It’s a rather typical Marvel hero vs. hero fight, in that there is no clear winner, although it’s a little less like a typical Marvel hero fight because Cable and War Machine are at odds from the start and there is no misunderstanding between them before they pal up and head after the baddies!  I suppose Deathlok is the one who handles that role with ol’ Rhodey here.

The rest of the early War Machine story arc is good.  You get to see War Machine take on a nation’s entire armed forces as he teams with Imayan freedom fighters to liberate their country.  Cable plays a small role by evacuating Cetewayo to the camp of said freedom fighters.  If he had just done that to start, there’d have been no fight!  But then again, I wouldn’t have this article, either.  Hmmm.

For real, though, scope out the rest of this early War Machine arc if for no other reason than to just see this image explained:

War Machine #3 - Page 24

Now that you have had a nice fight here, maybe you should go take a gander at the other folks playing along with Super Blog Team Up!  Check out the links below:

Coffee & Comics Blog

Bronze Age Babies w/ Tales of Suspense #58!

Between the Pages w/ some Star Wars action!

Crapbox Son of Cthulhu 

Chris is on Infinite Earths -Guy Gardner vs. Blue Beetle

Longbox Graveyard features Human Torch vs. Sub-Mariner!

Superhero Satellite -Batman vs. Green Lantern

The Retroist-Joker vs. Sherlock Holmes

In My Not So Humble Opinion-Captain America vs. Wolverine

New Beginnings at the End of All Things: Man-Thing Vol. 3 by Emily Scott

Greetings, Legions of the Unspoken! Emily Scott here to be your guide through the weirdness that is Man-Thing. And it is weird. Look at that thing up there. It looks like the yip yip aliens from Sesame Street and the Jolly Green Giant had a demonic love child. And that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface, nor is Man-Thing even the weirdest looking character in the comic. Some characters even look strange relative to their usual strange selves, like Doctor Strange here, looking like an alien vampire:

The Google Image search for “alien vampire” is disappointingly mundane.

As someone who did not grow up reading many comics, I had only really ever heard of Man-Thing peripherally as a cult figure and usually just to differentiate him from Swamp Thing, who would debut a few months after Man-Thing in 1971.  And while I will be conducting a search of this article when I’m finished to make sure I never typed Swamp Thing by accident, the characters’ similarities don’t much extend beyond the gist of their origin stories (scientist working on some super special formula ends up fused with a swamp).

When you sum it up, it does sound pretty darn specifically similar, but the idea of the muck monster has been expanded in many directions, as further evidenced by the fact that the same guy can do very different things with characters who bear more than a passing resemblance to each other. Steve Gerber, who created Man-Thing’s pal Howard the Duck (yes, pals, really) and wrote a beloved and definitive 39-issue Man-Thing run, also created the Ultraverse’s Sludge, a character who shares a thing or two with Man-Thing (a man-thing or two?), including a destructive touch and a less than pleasant odor, but Gerber takes that story to such a different place that drawing too many comparisons is unfair. (A story you can hear all about on the podcast Dean Compton and I did on Sludge!)

The biggest difference between Man-Thing and characters like Swamp Thing or Sludge is that Man-Thing isn’t really a character at all. He is basically non-sentient, and other characters often think immediately upon meeting him that there’s not a whole lot going on upstairs. He’s almost completely reactionary, so the characters surrounding him must by needs drive the action. At the start of our tale (Man-Thing Volume 3, which ran from December 1997 to July 1998), however, Man-Thing does something unexpected: he leaves the swamp due to an urge within himself. He is then promptly hit by a car.

“Let’s get out of here before he IDs us!”

And what is it that makes this walking bag of weird act of its own volition? An echo, a psychic reverberation from the end point of all things, the nexus of oblivion, a place for which this creature serves as a guardian. It looks like this:

The terminus of reality always seems to have two things in it: clocks and checkerboards.

J. M. Dematteis does some great writing on this book, but Liam Sharp frequently steals the show with his art, which often resemble what I assume an acid trip would look like if I had a better imagination. This comic often delves into some cosmic, mystical stuff, so a lot is asked of Sharp, but he delivers every time with images that are beautiful and grotesque, mesmerizingly abstract and all too real. At times when I didn’t know what exactly was going on, I was more than happy to stare at Sharp’s work till I figured it out.

And there are definitely times when I was not sure what was going on. A lot of the sentences in the notes I was taking while reading end in question marks instead of periods. For instance: “So and so happened?” as opposed to “so and so happened.” Answers were often forthcoming, but for all the things that happen(?) in this comic, it usually seems more interested in why characters do rather than what they do. While the specifics of the plot aren’t paramount (and become somewhat moot as the story progresses, as it never got its planned, published ending), some groundwork is, of course, necessary.

One thing Man-Thing’s wife (or should I say the wife of Ted Sallis, the man Man-Thing used to be) does a lot of is punish herself. Having lived for years under the burden of the guilt of betraying her husband and a face scarred beyond recognition by Man-Thing (whom she doesn’t yet know used to be her husband) Ellen Brandt exists in what appears to be a constant state of turmoil, unable to find a moment’s peace and receptive to the idea of letting oblivion consume her. No small wonder, then, when she puts herself in the path of bullets intended for Man-Thing, who has inevitably attracted an angry mob as he shambled through town.

Talk about a bullet with butterfly wings. (Yes, I included this page just so I could make that reference.)

The magic comes courtesy of Stephen Strange, who has foreseen that Man-Thing has a critical part to play in the repair of the crack running through all realities. Strange takes them back to his sanctuary and then into what Ellen assumes is the very soul of the Man-Thing, a putrid and oppressive place. There she sees her past with Ted play out, all the way from her attempting to work through her father issues by marrying Ted through her disenchantment due to his neglecting her for work to her eventual betrayal, when she joins those attempting to steal the Super-Soldier Serum he is working to replicate. When she relives Man-Thing scarring her face and realizes that this creature used to be her husband, it becomes overwhelming, and when she must make the decision not to surrender to oblivion, she finally understands that it’s not the muck and grime and desolation of Man-Thing’s soul she is trapped in – it is her own.

Info dumps are never easy to do without feeling clunky, but this issue goes about it cleverly by giving us a pretty thorough outline of Man-Thing’s origins, which would have obviously been helpful to a new reader in 1997 who didn’t have access to Wikipedia, while at the same time using that story to tell us things in the present about Ellen, who for all intents and purposes is the main character Man-Thing could never really be. Something Dematteis does very well in general is make the comic accessible, even when fairly esoteric things are being discussed. So when Ellen accepts that it is her fate to help Man-Thing collect the fragmented shards of the nexus, we might not know exactly what that entails or why it’s happening, but we damn sure understand why she’s doing it.

I think 90s comic book artists must have been contractually obligated to include at least one page of art with writing you can only half read over it.

The first stop on their quest is the Roswell Sanitarium in Massachusetts, former residence of Ellen and current residence of Mr. Eric Payne, formerly known as Devil-Slayer. You can probably guess from his name that the guy didn’t sell insurance or anything before he was institutionalized. Having lost his wife and his cosmic cloak through his own actions, Payne has surrendered to his own personal demons, both figuratively and then literally when a mysterious figure known as Mr. Termineus shows up in a Santa suit to deliver them personally. (Did I mention this is a Christmas issue, since it wasn’t already odd enough?)

Termineus, who is humanoid except for the fact that he has a censor bar for a mouth, also delivers a Christmas gift to Ellen, a staff that allows her to journey to the places the nexus fragments have been scattered. On the one hand, his actions certainly aid Ellen and Man-Thing in the moment, but on the other, they cause the nexus fragment inside Payne  to amplify his pain, drawing the reality around him into it and oblivion. Further obscuring his true motives, Termineus has been visiting Job, the child of the couple who hit Man-Thing with their car when he first came out of the swamp. (We’ll later discover this child is actually Ellen and Ted’s, born after Ted’s transformation and put up for adoption. This probably seems an odd piece of information to mention as an aside, but the payoff of this storyline happens after the eight-issue run.)

He dresses like the trumpet player in a ska band; he obviously can’t be trusted.

The expression “Whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch!” comes into play in a big way when Payne starts to rip Man-Thing apart, and Man-Thing’s not having it. Man-Thing burns the living hell out of Payne, both sort of literally and figuratively, restoring his sanity and extracting the fragment. Termineus tries to take it for himself, but Sorrow, the enigmatic lady seen cradling Payne up there, has her Glenda the Good Witch moment and turns it into a gem on a necklace only Ellen can wear. Then we all hear the quest completion video game music, and it’s off to the races for the next fragment!

That fragment is found in a delightful place, that being the insides of one Howard the Duck. Howard is brought to the swamp by a creature who promptly cuts Man-Thing to ribbons. That creature turns out to be a man going by the name Mahapralaya, who has a cult devoted to entropy. They have heard about the crack in the nexus from Termineus and believe they can speed up the destruction of the universe by destroying the nexus’ protector. If that doesn’t work, they can always cut out the fragment inside Howard and destroy it, preventing it from ever being repaired.  Man-Thing’s solution, once he re-forms, is also delightful.

Seeing Howard the Duck vomit up Man-Thing isn’t even close to the most disturbing visual I have of Howard the Duck. Not. Even. Close.

The last fragment recovered in this run is one that belongs to both land and sea, and as such can only be accessed by one person….Namor the Submariner. (Whatever else someone might think of this comic, they’d have to appreciate the strange bedfellows this comic creates. Though now that I think about it, ducks also belong to both land and water, so maybe it’s not quite as strange as it seems on the surface…and now I’ve arrived at the terminus of all types of analytical writing: the overthink, where you get so in the habit of looking for connections that you start seeing them everywhere.)


No jokey captions, just some really lovely art.

Namor follows Man-Thing (excuse me, Mer-Thing) down to the bottom of the oceans, to the lost former crown jewel of Atlantis, the City of the Golden Gate, where Ellen awaits with Evenor, its guardian, to tell them they can’t take the fragment because it’s embedded in the shroud of the goddess Cleito, and to disturb it would be desecration. Namor decides he wants no part in any desecration. They all end up back in time, when the City of the Golden Gate was still a utopia, and get the gem from Cleito herself. (This is a part of my notes when I used a lot of question marks, so you’ll excuse me if I’m vague on the specifics.)

I mean, you tell me.

They witness the beginning of the end of the city, and that’s about where we run out of story. The tale was continued in Strange Tales Vol. 4, but the third and fourth issue were never published. From what I can tell from various wikis, the story was summed up in a Spider-Man book and came to a rather satisfying end where you learn the fate of the Sallises and the nexus, as well as some answers to the identity and motives of characters like Sorrow and Mr. Termineus. I would feel weird summarizing a summary of something I haven’t actually read, so I’ll leave that link for the curious.

So what does it all mean? I really can’t say. Not because I don’t have my own ideas about the comic’s ideas but because they feel personal and specific to me. As I mentioned, when you read something with the intent of writing about it, you start looking for the meaning in everything, trying to hear as much as you can of what it’s trying to tell you, but the more answers I asked for, the more questions I was asked. So much of this story deals with personal demons, with the thin line between reality and invention, with having to exist inside your own head or not at all, that I’m not sure I could tell someone else what they would get out of it. I don’t know that the comic has anything especially profound to say, but the ability to make a reader ask his or herself questions that lead to profound personal truths might be the bigger compliment to bestow on a work of art.

And a work of art it certainly is. Of light and shadow. Of order and chaos. Of endings and beginnings. Of redemption and fear. There’s a saying (that I couldn’t find the origin of to save my life) that all fear is the fear of death, and another thing this comic did especially well was examine if, for many of these characters, there is truth to that notion, from the entropy cult preferring sweet oblivion to mere death to Namor deciding the end of all things was preferable to the violation of his own sacred beliefs to Ellen, having to face life beyond that fear once it’s all been burned away. And what can happen when your fear is burned away and you can embrace your fate and allow yourself a chance at redemption?

Oh. : /

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Man-Thing! If no fragments of reality set up shop in your psyche before next week (or even if they do), be sure to come for another exciting round of Super Blog Team-Up! Dean Compton will be back to bring you War Machine Vs. Cable, and I know you don’t want to hurry yourself toward oblivion before you read that!

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.)

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.

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 05
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.

The Punisher 2099 #001 - 08
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.)

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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…

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.

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.

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:


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!

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Wow, the dad from Modern Family has really beefed up.