I Am Punisher (Black)

When I mentioned a story where the Punisher becomes a black guy for a few issues last week, I was surprised to learn that there are quite a few people out there who aren’t familiar with it. I’m not sure why this came as a shock, given that I’m fully aware that not everyone spends their time studiously catching up on the early-90s adventures of Frank “The Tank” Castle, but with a story that boldly deals with the kinds of socio-political issues that this one does, I was sure it would have reached a wider audience.

So, anyone actually buying that premise? No? Okay then, best to just move on.

The story in question runs through Punisher v.2 #60-62, but it actually gets its start seven issues previous, in a story called “The Final Days.” Said days were, as you probably expect at this point, significantly less final than originally advertised, but it was the storyline that marked the departure of long-time writer Mike Baron from the series.

Essentially, what happens is this: After taking on the Kingpin, the Punisher is caught by the police and sent to prison for… well, for being the Punisher, really. Turns out that killing pretty much everybody he meets over the course of fifty issues is actually illegal. Go figure. One rigged trial later, and Frank’s locked up in Rikers, where he is promptly set upon by a gang of cons led by perennial antagonist Jigsaw, who finally gets his revenge by carving up Frank’s good looks like a Christmas goose.

Incidentally, in his last appearance, Jigsaw’s face was actually fixed by a villain called the Rev who may or may not have been Satan, and subsequently ripped apart again thanks to the Punisher’s judicious use of a cactus, marking the first time those particular plot elements would play out, but not nearly the last.

Anyway, thanks to some help from a convicted cannibal named Derek Pike, Frank’s able to spring himself from the hoosegow, and once a nine-fingered Microchip gets back from Thailand (long story), he’s able to secure the services of…



Melinda Brewer, brilliant plastic surgeon turned heroin-addicted prostitute.

I’ll pause here for a second while we all try to figure out that little character arc.

So after dealing with a few of the Kingpin’s henchmen, Frank and “Dr.” Melinda head to a chemical plant upstate where she explains her tragic origin and reveals that her skills actually do go beyond standing on the street corner in a purple mini-dress and cooking up that sweet, sweet horse without setting her entire tenement on fire:



See what they did there? Melanin, for those of you without access to Wikipedia, is the biopolymer primarily responsible for human skin color, which–in the Marvel Universe–also has magical face-mending properties. Thus, once the foreshadowing’s been laid down and Melinda’s forced to tearfully blow away a couple of bounty-happy thugs in the closest thing to an emotional moment you’re going to find in an issue of The Punisher from 1991, she sets down to operating.

Shockingly, despite the fact that she is both going through heroin withdrawl and operating in a filthy abandoned factory (both of which, I’m sure, Dr. Scott would advise against), the procedure goes off without a hitch and Frank gets put back together with one slight change:



Thus, wanted by the law, hunted by the Kingpin, and being, y’know, black, the Punisher decides it’s time for a little road trip, and hits the open road for a trip to Chicago in order to take the most appropriate course of action.

He starts hanging out with Luke Cage.



At the time, Luke was going through some difficulties of his own after the presumed death of Iron Fist, which was later explained in Namor of all places in a story involving both plant-men and the Super-Skrull. It was the first attempt at updating the character since his original appearance in the ’70s, and involved him ditching New York for Chicago, getting rid of his classic yellow shirt costume, and liberally borrowing lines from Flavor Flav.

No, really.


Time for Cage’s etiquette school, boyeees!


Thus, the Punisher heads to the Windy City and–after he is immediately pulled over and beaten by a gang of racist cops–teams up with Luke Cage to take on a gang of inner-city crack dealers, and, well, that’s pretty much it.

Other than the fact that he keeps things incognito by putting duct tape over the big skull on his body armor and drops the occasional one-liner that’s almost worthy of Commando, there’s not a whole lot worth mentioning about the story. Frank and Luke argue about whether it’s okay to shoot people in the face, Chicago’s inner city drug trade is busted, and eventually, Frank’s skin returns to its normal shade in a story called, I shit you not, Fade to White.

But not before Our Hero gets a chance to drop a little Hammer on ‘em.



The Week In Ink: July 11, 2007

And we’re back!

The more astute among you may have noticed that there was no update to the ISB last night, in flagrant violation of the immutable daily schedule I run around here. Sadly, it was out of my hands: A pretty hellacious storm rolled through town last night, taking out my power until about three in the morning and leaving me to enjoy the magic of South Carolina in July with no air conditioning.

This is, for the record, not as fun as it sounds. And incidentally? Hits were up today, even with no update. Why you gots to send me those mixed signals, baby?

Oh well, it doesn’t matter! After all, it’s Thursday night, and that can mean only one thing:



Yes, nothing quite says “well thought-out critical acumen” like a boot to the chops, so buckle up for another round of the Internet’s Most Violently Credible Comics Reviews!

Here’s what crashed headlong into my collection this week…



…and these are the snappiest judgements you’re likely to find!





Annihilation: Conquest – Wraith #1: So in case you haven’t heard it, there’s a rumor going around that the Big Secret of Wraith’s origin–set to be revealed in the next issue–is that he is actually ROM, and if that is true, it will come perilously close to displacing Nextwave #12 as the single best thing that Marvel has done this year. There are a few signs, of course: The Spaceknights show up in the Annihilation: Conquest Prologue as the first victims of the Phalanx, which would make for a nice motivation to have Galador’s favorite son join the big conflict. Also, if you squint and really, really hope that it’s true, the markings on Wraith’s poncho kinda look like they could be sort of be… You know… ROMish.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up in the very likely case that it’s not true, but even if this doesn’t turn out to be the long-awaited return of the greatest of the Spaceknights, it’s not like this book is exactly devoid of potential. I mean, really: When your worst-case scenario is an all-out action space adventure from the guy that wrote The Middleman, thats a pretty good place to be.


BPRD: Garden of Souls #5: I’ve mentioned my love of Hellboy before on numerous occasions, and almost every time, I talk about how the roots of my affection lie in the simple premise of a character who confronts the unknowable horrors of the supernatural and then clubs them into submission with a pistol or punches them out with his giant rock hand. It’s a beautiful concept, and Mike Mignola pulls it off in such a way that doesn’t reduce the threats of the monsters or make Hellboy seem like a clod. It’s just perfect.

And that, dear friends, is one of the many reasons that this issue, which includes a scene where Abe Sapien rips the arm off of an eldritch robotic horror and then uses it to beat the ever-living crap out of another eldritch robotic horror, struck me as flat-out awesome. Along with Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis have been producing top-notch comics with every single issue of the various BPRD mini-series, and Garden of Souls was certainly no exception: It’s the revelation of the final pieces of Abe’s origin set against a mad arcane plot with a suitably creepy new cast member thrown in to boot. It’s great stuff, and it’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from the team.


Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Spectacular: Like most Marvel comics readers who like a few laughs with my face-kicking, there was a time when I enjoyed the bejeezus out of some Deadpool. Two times, actually, if you’re counting the Joe Kelly and Gail Simone runs as two individual entities separated by a dismal chasm from which no chuckles could escape, but that’s beside the point. Sadly, I’m starting to feel like those times might be over: Despite a few genuninely funny bits that I’ve seen (mostly in the Civil War crossover, oddly enough), Fabian Nicieza’s Deadpool has never really struck me very well. I know how this is going to sound, given that his defining characteristics in the Joe Kelly years were holding a blind woman hostage under threats of death, heaping abuse on an alcoholic sidekick and uppercutting Kitty Pryde, but he just seems a lot less funny and a lot more meanspirited here.

But in case you’re thinking that means I didn’t like this one, DON’T! Putting the Deadpool stories completely aside, Nicieza and Dan Slott strike absolute gold with the plot of ISB Favorite Squirrel Girl going on a mission to find out what happened with Speedball after their first kiss, thus proving that someone besides me actually remembers I Heart Marvel: Masked Intentions. It’s fantastically entertaining stuff, and by the time it’s over, Slott and Nicieza take the utter nonsense that is Penance and knock out one of the best fixes since Agents of Atlas, bar none.


Fables #63: I generally don’t bother to review Fables every month, seeing as how there are only so many ways to talk about how good it is (which is similar to the problem I have with Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s DMZ), but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the current story-arc may actually be the best one of the series thus far. That’s not an easy bar to reach, either: For my money, the current title belongs to “Homelands,” which features Boy Blue fighting his way to the Big Reveal, but “The Good Prince” is almost nothing but big reveals and shocking returns, with a liberal dose of well-done foreshadowing thrown in for good measure. It’s truly excellent storytelling as usual from Bill Willingham, with the equally fantastic art (also as usual) from Mark Buckingham, and really: You don’t need me to tell you that. I just really like it.


Green Arrow: Year One #1: Before my interest in the title was brutally beaten and left for dead by a run where Judd Winick thought it would be a good idea to have him take on a bunch of monsters and then karate-fight Deathstroke with his samurai sword, I liked Green Arrow an awful lot. It’s one of those concepts that’s so simple that it takes an amazing amount of effort to get it wrong: He’s a modern-day Robin Hood, a spoiled rich kid with a social conscience that drives him to help out the less fortunate by shooting bad guys with pointy sticks. See? It’s genius, and while most of DC’s planned “Year One” titles didn’t really catch my fancy, the promise of something that would boil Oliver Queen back down to that simple concept was incredibly appealing.

Of course, it helps when the team behind it happens to be the same pair of guys that brought you Vertigo’s late, lamented Losers, which stood alongside books like Queen & Country as one of the most thrilling action comics to hit the stands in recent memory. It’s a tough legacy to live up to, but Andy Diggle and Jock make a pretty good go at it, sticking to a familiar story and casting Ollie as a complete–if mildly repentant–jackass, setting the stage for his big Road to Damascus moment later in the story. Even the seemingly small details, like his casual brush-off of drug rehabilitation, make for nice touches and go a long way towards fleshing out something that you usually see encapsulated in a sentence and a half. It’s good stuff, and if it keeps up, it’s going to make for a pretty enjoyable series when it’s all said and done. Which is to say, as long as Green Arrow gets to shoot people with pointy sticks. And maybe one with a boxing glove on the end.


Madman Atomic Comics #3: Under a lesser creator, a book where two characters essentially stand around discussing the plot with each other to catch up everyone who didn’t know what was going on already–presumably because they were still waiting for Madman Gargantua–would be one of the most unforgivably boring expository tricks a guy could pull. With this one, however, Mike Allred’s found a way to make it work: Doing every single panel in the style of a different artist as Frank Einstein wanders through his subconscious. And the list of artists he pays homage to is like a history of sequential art, from Winsor McKay and Jack Cole to Kirby and Ditko to Eric Powell and Darwyn Cooke to Art Adams and Dr. Seuss to the Kuberts and the Romitas and just about everyone you can think of in between. It’s absolutely flat-out amazing, and it speaks to Allred’s talent that he’s able to pull them all off so beautifully. It’s incredible, and even if you haven’t been picking up the series, you’re going to want to at least take a look at this one. And once you look at it, you’re going to want to look at it again and again, matching up panels to the phenomenally long list of names on the first page and marveling at how Allred pulled it off. Great, great stuff.


Nexus #99: And speaking of comics that I’m waiting for a little bit of backstory on, we have Nexus. It’s weird: I like Steve “The Dude” Rude’s art a heck of a lot, and given that he was the writer on Punisher for over five years, I’ve developed a pretty strong affinity for Mike Baron’s work as well. He did, after all, bring us both the saga of the best ninja training camp in Kansas story where the Punisher hangs out with Luke Cage after a pigment-altering surgery performed by a heroin-addict prostitute turns him black for a few months, so needless to say, I’m a fan. And yet, before about a month ago, I’d never actually read Nexus. At this point, though, I’ve only made it through the first of the Dark Horse archives, which means that I’m still separated from the current issue by a pretty huge margin, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to catch up. But what’s more, I’m not sure that it’ll even be worth it to try: What I’ve read just doesn’t seem to grab me, and for next month’s big hundredth issue, there’s going to be a recap anyway, which is really what I’m holding out for. I’m hoping that something in there hits me just right, but if it doesn’t, there’s no big loss. After all, I’ll always have that Mister Miracle Special and a story where Frank Castle fights a dog that is also a ninja, so rest easy, Baron and Rude: You guys have given me enough.


Punisher War Journal #9: There are a few things in this life that I will never, ever get tired of, and Frank Castle brutally murdering Nazis is one of them. Needless to say, Matt Fraction and Ariel Olivetti continue to give me pretty much exactly what I want from the Punisher, but rather than falling into the predictable (and enjoyable) cycle that marks Garth Ennis’s run of late, they continue to surprise me as well. For instance, the last thing I was expecting out of a Punisher story was for Frank to be hit by H-Rays, and the subsequent question of what happens when you take a guy that is completely consumed by a slow, single-minded hatred… and make him hate more. The answer, as you probably know by know, is something very bad, and it’s something that I certainly didn’t see coming from this one, leading to a fight that just keeps getting more and more personal. As always, it’s a great read, and in case you haven’t been paying attention for the past year, it’s one of the best books Marvel’s putting out, hands down.


Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #20: With this issue, the ISB bids a fond farewell to writer Sean McKeever, whose departure from this book (and Marvel Comics) made for much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst a group of fans significantly older and more male than the actual target audience for the comic. Make no mistake: I love this comic, and McKeever’s scripts–along with the beautiful art of Takeshi Miyazawa, who provides the best cover of the series for this issue, David Hahn, and colorist Christina Strain–have made it easily the best ongoing Spider-Man title on the stands, and seeing him go is just breaking my heart. But it’s in a good way: For his swan song here, McKeever manages to deal with Peter Parker’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to the ladies–what with the fact that he’s torn between Gwen Stacy, Firestar, and our title heroine–in a way that actually makes him sympathetic. It’s beautiful character work, and given how McKeever’s worked with the past 28 issues of the Mary Jane titles, it’s a perfect end to his run.

As for the book’s future, well, I’ll say this: Terry Moore was really very nice when I met him at a con a few years ago, and he even did a sketch of Black Canary that I like an awful lot, but I’ve never really enjoyed his comics, and I’m pretty sure that’s going to remain the status quo for the forseeable future.


Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen #1: You know, I was actually struggling with how I was going to treat this book when it came time to review it, wondering whether I should do it “in character” so to speak, treating it as a serious work from a conservative pundit, or just review it as a humor title, or even if I should compare it to my own foray into the world of fiction, The Chronicles of Solomon Stone.

But then I saw this panel…



…and realized that was probably all anyone needed to see.





Clubbing: Well, it had to happen sooner or later, but with Clubbing, the Minx line has made its first major misstep. And it’s a sharp drop, too, given that their last offering, Mike Carey and Sonny Liew’s Re-Gifters set the bar so high by being one of the most entertaining graphic novels of the year, and while I didn’t really expect Clubbing to live up, I didn’t expect it to fall quite so flat, either.

The plot is thus: The girl on the cover there is Charlotte Brook. See, she’s from West London, born and raised, and at the goth clubs is where she spends most of her days. Coolin’ out, maxin’ relaxin’ all cool, or stealing some Photoshop from the school, but there’s this one time that she’s up to no good. She starts making trouble in the neighborhood. She gets caught by some cops and her mom gets scared, and says you’re moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air.

No, wait. She moves in with her Grandparents in Meadowdale. Sorry, got confused for a second.

Anyway, the problems here are many and varied, starting with the fact that, well, that’s a pretty terrible cover. I’m not sure what the folks at DC thought they were going to accomplish by mixing photography and comic art here, but it doesn’t work, and the perspective is just wrong enough that Charlotte looks to be twelve feet tall and about as natural in her setting as Roger Rabbit. And once you get inside the comic, they just keep stacking up from there.

For one thing, I’m really not sure if Josh Howard’s the right guy to be drawing it. Don’t get me wrong, I actually do like the man’s art, but that’s just the thing: I like it, and I like it because I enjoy pinup-style drawings of angular women in what essentially amounts to fetish gear. Thus, Charlotte changes into a new and revealing outfit in almost every scene, with mini-skirts getting shorter, heels getting higher, and garter belts more visible along the way, which, for a book aimed at young girls, seems awfully exploitative. And then there’s the problem of Charlotte herself: She doesn’t come off as particularly brave, smart, or concerned with anything but herself, leaving me with the problem of a pretty unrelatable protagonist. Admittedly, it’s not designed to relate to me, but I didn’t have much trouble finding something to like about Main Jane and Dixie, either.

And hey, did you know this thing was a murder mystery with a supernatural element to it? No? Yeah, me either, and I’m relatively certain that I pay closer attention to the solicitations than your average joe. There’s one mention of the murder on the back cover copy, and none whatsoever of the supernatural element, which is, y’know, kind of a huge selling point that they might want to draw attention to. Or maybe they skipped it because it’s not introduced until page 108, when the book takes a sharp left turn into the realm of the paranormal for 38 pages. It just would’ve been nice to know, but even with fair warning, it’s still pretty poorly constructed, with a telegraphed ending and no discernable character growth for our alleged heroine.

Oh, and they also misspell Bertie Wooster’s name in the glossary, identifying him as Bernie Wooster. I mean really!






Dinosaurs! Fire! Spacemen! Kirby! A note in the letter column that assures you that the subject matter is being presented with only the strictest attempts at historical accuracy! DON’T ASK! JUST BUY IT!



And that’s the week! As always, if you have any questions about something I read, comments on something I ought to read, or just want to join me in celebration of the fact that we got two new oversized Jack Kirby hardcovers and two oversized hardcovers featuring Devil Dinosaur this week–a feat that I can almost assure you will never be repeated ever–feel free to leave a comment.

As for me, I’ll be over here trying to figure out how to repackage a giant red Tyrannosaurus and his filthy naked ape-man companion into a form more suited for younger female readers.

Maybe if I gave them flowers?

Thanos! The Aftermath

Thanos was arraigned in Superior Court, in and for the City of New York.

In a moment, the results of that trial.



Thanos was found guilty on one count of disturbing the peace and one count of simple assault, and was sentenced to forty hours of community service and a stern talking-to from Mar-Vell.



BONUS FEATURE: Thanos Has A Rap Sheet


Courtesy of The Smoking Cube:


(Click for a legible image)


Thanos! The Ultimate Nihilist!

Your Spidey Super Stories Moment of Joy for this week:




But alas…


(Click for a larger, somehow more awesome image)


Here’s something you might not know about Thanos: Sometimes, he rolls around in a helicopter with his own name painted on the side.


All panels from Spidey Super Stories #39, which concludes with Thanos being taken into custody by two uniformed policemen in what is the most beautiful denoument ever written.

The Annotated Anita Blake: Vampire Victim

As frequent readers of the ISB may recall from my discussion of it Friday night, last week saw the release of Marvel and Dabel Brothers’ first hardcover collection of their comic book adaptation of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures.

In addition to an actual, honest-to-God quote from yours truly on the dust jacket, the hardcover collects the first six issues of the series. I have, of course, already handled those with my highly dubious annotations, but there is the added attraction of a new nine-page story by Laurell K. Hamilton, Jonothon Green, and our old pal Brett Booth that raises its own particular brand of questions.

Thus, in keeping with my goal of providing the Internet’s most meanspirited comprehensive examinations of everyone’s favorite bowlegged enemy of the supernatural, that’s what’s on the chopping block for tonight’s entry into The Annotated Anita Blake. Grab your own copy and follow along!



1.1: The opening caption for this series states that “Once upon a time, you could kill a vampire on sight.”



As more astute readers will no doubt expect, however, the original caption, edited for length, was “Once upon a time, you could tear ass through a mini-mall firing wildly into a crowd of pedestrians and expect to be congratulated for your efforts by a pair of extremely gregarious, mildly suggestive police officers.” See also: 1.5.


1.4: Someone please, please tell me that Sausage on a Stick is a recurring motif in the Anita Blake universe.



Because seriously, if it is? My jokes about Jean-Claude just got a whole lot easier to make.


1.5: Scabbers and Crabman:



Together, they fight crime.


2.1: For those of you who weren’t able to piece it together from the 47 times it was mentioned over the course of the series thus far, this scene contains an explanation of Addison v. Clarke, the landmark Supreme Court case that caused the soulless undead to be recognized as citizens under US law. One can only assume that the ruling was delivered with the same amont of dignity and respect as the “Bong Hits For Jesus” case.


2.3: LOST: One Vampire Hunter. Answers to “Spot.”



Last seen being led off by Officer Cary Elwes, SLPD.


3.6: So, how dumb are the cops in the grim and terrible world of Anita Blake?



So dumb that Anita has to inform them that Vampires like the taste of blood. Wow. Just… wow.


4.7: And here we have Anita, whose fashion sense is so acute that she is only seen wearing articles of clothing featuring vampire penguins and allegedly “clever” sayings, sporting a leather jacket that is at least 40% fringe:



Add that to her swirling, impenetrable mass of hair, and I’m pretty sure that Anita’s a full-time zombie re-animator, part-time vampire hunter, and long-time guitarist for Guns ‘n’ Roses.


5.1-2: These panels contain the first mention in the comics of the Regional Preturnatural Team, which is occasionally referred to by the police as “RIP” despite the fact that acronyms don’t actually work that way. I mean really, you can’t just add and subtract letters at random to make it sound cooler, and if you do, you probably shouldn’t draw attention to it by making it the punchline to what I can only assume was supposed to be a joke.


6.2-6: Yeah, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in this sequence.



Hell, I’m not even sure if that second panel’s right-side up.


7.2: This is the first appearance of Dolph, who is not to be confused with Soviet pugilist Dolph Lundgren, whose brutal in-ring murder of Apollo Creed shocked a nation into action in 1985. Rather, Dolph and his partner Zerbrowski seem like the Riggs and Murtaugh of the supernatural set, with one notable exception:



Dolph is roughly nine feet tall. Also, considering that he brings in the perp responsible for the murder that Anita’s been trying to solve within three panels of his existence, his main plot function seems to be pointing out how ineffective and completely unnecessary the actual heroine of the story really is. That’s, uh, probably not such a good idea.

Just sayin’.





This page would’ve been perfect if everybody jumped up for a high five right before the credits started to roll.