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Punisher Book Club - The Creep/The Bully

 
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2016 12:09 pm    Post subject: Punisher Book Club - The Creep/The Bully Reply with quote

Wait, what?

In honor of the season two of Daredevil on Netflix, I decided to go with the second crossover between the two (since we already did Child's Play). This is a true crossover (hence the title), starting in a Punisher book (written by Mike Baron, drawn by Whilce Portacio) and then continued in Ann Nocenti's run with John Romita Jr. I've read the second half, but the first half is new to me. I figured it would be fun to read. Presenting:

The Punisher Vol. 2 #10 - The Creep



Quote:
The Punisher and Daredevil may be tracking the same madman, but their different approaches in handling a murderer make them enemies in combat! Justice is dished out to the Punisher- will Frank Castle let DD have the final say?


Best I can tell, it's not available on Marvel Unlimited, but it's on Comixology.

Due 3/26
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Obviously, this is a Punisher story, so I have to try and judge it based on that. IIRC, this is based on a true story of someone tainting Tylenol back in the 80s. This story is called Creep and the creep poisoning people is shown as very unsympathetic. It's very much a Punisher way of thinking.

The highlight is the debate between the two. It's nothing new, but it sums up their sides. The Netflix show seems to have the same debate. I think it's interesting that this issue is from Frank Castle's perspective. Matt shows up and he has his speech, but there's no insight. It's just a guy doing a bad thing and the Punisher stops him (or tries to) and he ultimately isn't thanked for it due to his brutal methods.

A very fast read. In retrospect, I should have done both parts at once. I'll give this one Three and a Half Stars.
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't imagine following a Punisher series. He's just such a cynical and negative character. The last line of this comic is, "When you get right down to it, most people are creeps." How can a Punisher fan avoid depression, when that's the line your left to dwell on for one month?

I have never heard of this writer, Mike Baron, but I have heard of the artist Whilce Portacio. He's one of the big artists of the time who defected from Marvel to found Image. As art from the late eighties goes, this is pretty good. At times it reminds me of Frank Miller's early 80s work, but Portacio is a bit more detailed. I haven't seen much of his work, and am not aware of what he's done since he worked with Jason Aaron on the Hulk.

Mike's right, the fight with Daredevil is obviously intended as this issue's climax, although I think Portacio could have done a better job getting the action to flow more smoothly from panel to panel. I don't like how expressionless Daredevil's face is in most panels during the fight, and some of the thrown punches are a big awkward. Otherwise, I guess I can see why Portacio was a big deal.

But for me, the Punisher is a character I just don't enjoy. I can't relate to him, and while I sympathize that his family was brutally murdered, that doesn't justify his view or his methods. I also found his initial call to the Jehovah's witnesses inexpicable at first. It is a real leap to make.

I thought Cindy was an interesting character. She seems like a good person, but she's infatuated with a irredeemable jerk.

It's a set-up for an issue of Daredevil I haven't read in years. I give this one a three out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, the biggest redeeming quality of this is I know there's a Daredevil story to follow. I'm curious if hardcore Punisher fans would like this. Even if they do, it's not the most interesting story, but it's very much Punisher's mindset so I wonder if it's preaching to the choir (I don't actually know who Punisher fans generally are, to be honest).
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Darkdevil
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Joined: 04 Apr 2009
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For me, Punisher is a character and title that I can only read in spurts. Given his methods and philosophy, it's easy for him to fall into a rut and thus become monotonous to some degree excepting for whatever level of violence is on display during any given story arc.


Mike Murdock wrote:
Obviously, this is a Punisher story, so I have to try and judge it based on that. IIRC, this is based on a true story of someone tainting Tylenol back in the 80s.


I remember that, Tylenol laced with cyanide I believe. (What's scary, to my knowledge, they never caught who did it to this day). This was a straightforward story at least from the Punisher's point of view. I liked his comments over DD's televised plea for the villain to turn himself into the police.

Given this is a comic though, it's quite amazing how quickly Frank found this guy (from the unlikeliest of sources) though I can't recall, was Alfred a former employee of that corporation or not? Cindy was a nice addition and it was interesting to see her come to Alfred's defense and attack Frank.

I don't think anything really significant was added to the overall DD/Punisher moral debate here though. Portacio does a decent job though the fight scenes could have had a better flow to them.

Overall, a decent issue and story, three stars.
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The Overlord
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I'm going to defend the Punisher.

1. First I don't think a protagonist needs to be completely sympathetic to be compelling, shows like Dexter and Breaking bad prove that. The Punisher title can be a good character study the borderline psychopath that is the Punisher (I say borderline, because he does care about some other people, he is not a pure evil monster like Bullseye.)

2. I don't think the 616 Punisher stories are the best Punisher stories, I think the Punisher Max ones are. Just like Daredevil was a rather directionless character before Miler, Punisher was directionless before Garth Ennis starting writing him, I feel like the Punisher Max stories can better balance Frank's savagery with his humanity (there was a story showed Frank risking his life to protect a little Russian girl who was a carrier for a dangerous disease). I also feel like the Punisher Max stories make a better case for Punisher, even though what he does is wrong on a moral and ethical level. The criminals he fights in that series are so awful, many would cheer for him on a gut level. That series featured a criminal who murdered his own family and tricked a rival gangster into eating his own son, another story featured a group criminals who ran a forced prostitution ring. There is no redeeming those guys, they make 616 Fisk (Punisher Max Fisk is another pure evil scum bag) look sympathetic in comparison. Its hard to judge a character, if you have never read his best stories.

Already that is the end of my defence, so I will review the issue:

Its an okay issue, it really comes off as a sub par Punisher story, especially compared to Punisher Max stories. It was kinda fun to see Punisher use disguises and detective work to find the guy who is poisoning the aspirin supply. The Punisher trying to kill this guy and his neighbours trying to defend is trying to help him, is kinda interesting, it makes sense. Daredevil fights with DD and they have the same old debate they always have (this debate is really getting boring at this point). I never read this issue before, but I did read the DD issue accompanying it because it was part of the DD trade that dealt with Typhoid Mary. That is kinda of a cool gimmick to have two different sides of the same story in different titles.

Anyway I am going to give this issue 2 and a half stars, its pretty sub par as a Punisher story and frankly I find a lot of the pre Ennis Punisher a bit of a slog, its okay, but its not even close to the best Punisher stories out there, this would be kinda like judging DD on a rather sub par Silver Age story, rather the the best DD stories written.

Sorry I didn't review this story sooner, but I have been Europe for most this week.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No problem, I'm glad people finally got a chance to read it:

Daredevil Vol. 1 #257



Quote:
The Punisher guest-stars! Vigilantism takes two extremes, as Daredevil tries to prevent Punisher from enacting his “eye for an eye” method. But no one stands in Frank Castle’s way, especially the Man Without Fear!


Due 4/2
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 28, 2016 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not surprised that I enjoy the Daredevil issue more. I'm surprised by how much more I enjoy it.

After all, Ann Nocenti is not my favourite writer, although it's becoming apparent that she was doing her best work around this time. (I don't think she'll ever top her Typhoid mini-series with art by John Van Fleet) John Romita Jr. isn't my favourite artist. (I don't think he ever topped his work in Man Without Fear.) But the thing I think makes this period of Daredevil special is that Nocenti always came to work with a point of view, and those are the best writers. As competent as the Punisher issue was, it didn't feel like Baron or Portacio had a lot invested in the issue.

Honestly, I don't really think Nocenti cared too much about crossover story with the Punisher. It seems she did it because editorial told her to. But she does make use of it as a springboard to explore a number of side-plots.

She doesn't seem sympathetic toward the Punisher at all. She did name this issue "The Bully," over Romita's splash page of Frank firing off rounds. By contrast, Daredevil is shown working within the system, and dealing with people openly and respectfully.

Romita's renderings of Alfred Coppersmith pumping iron are awkward. The shoulders and upper arms don't look thick enough when he's pressing the bar above his head. It looks amateurish, which is odd, because elsewhere Romita's art is among his best. I prefer Romita's version of the Daredevil Punisher fight much more than Portacio's. There is more flow from panel to panel, and the figures are more sleek. It seems Portacio was more focused on musculature than the flow of action.

I found the worker to whom Daredevil is talking at the Zumatrim plant very long-winded. I got Nocenti's message about machines taking jobs from people, but she dedicates so many panels to it. And this worker seems mighty sympathetic to a man who has poisoned countless people, just because he lost a job. Many people get downsized. It doesn't give them an excuse to kill people.

I enjoyed Alfred's internal monologue during the Daredevil and Punisher fight. It was improved without reading the standard argument between the two characters we got in the Punisher issue. And I like how Nocenti, by this point, successfully portrayed both heroes as bullies. Coppersmith's perspective is an interesting one from which to view this fight. Romita ends the scene with a gorgeous toss of the billy club.

I love the final page when Matt visits Alfred in the police station. He offers to represent him. Matt's belief that everyone can repent is inspiring, and he gets through to Alfred. It was such a far cry from the ending of the Punisher issue, which ended with the line, "When you get right down to it, most people are creeps." You feel good and hopeful after finishing this Daredevil issue, while the Punisher issue leaves you full of piss and bile.

But Nocenti rounds out this issue with scenes setting up Typhoid Mary's next attack. There is little doubt that Typhoid is the character with who Nocenti is most comfortable. Outside of Daredevil, Nocenti has had Typhoid do battle with Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man, and had her star in her own mini-series. She created this character, knows her inside and out, and knows how to explore timely topics through her. Nocenti's expert work with Typhoid in this issue (along with Romita's depiction of her) is a bonus treat.

This issue makes me think I was too generous with my review of the Punisher issue. I won't change my grade of it, but I'll give this one a four out of five.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 28, 2016 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is my first time reading this story from my Touch of Typhoid Epic Collection TPB (my previous Legends: Typhoid Mary TPB had it too, so I suppose I could have read it there. This also has The Creep, but I totally forgot and read it on Comixology).

The story starts off with a good look into the Punisher's head from Nocenti's point of view. Given her politics, I didn't expect it to be sympathetic, but she did a good job of making it honest. There's a hint of being unhinged (if anything, her narration of his thoughts reminds me of the serial killer from one of her first issues). But it also shows he's targeting people who kill children (either drug dealers or the person poisoning aspirin).

The contrast with Daredevil is next scene. He busted a crack den without killing anyone and he said that even the aspirin killer needs help. What I like is that Ann Nocenti provides a motive for his actions. She isn't justifying why he did what he did, but she's explaining it. She even had Alfred (who may be the most John Romita Jr. character ever drawn) say the same things (unlike with the Creep, that did exactly none of those things).

The biggest complaint about Nocenti (to me) is lack of subtlety. This issue is "the Bully." At first, the computer is a bully. Then Typhoid is bullying Mary (minor sideplot, to be honest, but it's still significant that Mary realizes her other personality). Then Daredevil and Punisher are bullies.

I like the fight here. Having it narrated by Alfred is a different perspective. It's cool having the benefit of the previous version of the fight, which was done far more conventionally, but this is a different take for a different superhero comic. From his perspective, both sides seem to be the same. Alfred is someone who has lost control of his life so even Daredevil trying to rescue him is no comfort. They're both trying to fight to be the one in command. As they both argue (read Punisher to see the argument stated), Alfred agrees with both sides. I think that shows how weak a person he is. Punisher says to kill him and he goes "makes sense."

At the end, Matt goes to represent Alfred. He's lost all faith in everything and believes what the Punisher is telling him. He doesn't want a lawyer. He thinks he'll be out in a month. And he doesn't see the point of anything. Matt tells him he's wrong. The justice system does work. He's not going to get away with murder. That being said, Matt offered him hope and a chance of redemption. In the end, he realizes that he can learn a trade while in prison and hopefully be paroled and be a better person after he serves his time.

There were two things I remembered about this issue from the last time I read it. The heavy-handed metaphors and the ending. I have to say, it holds together better than I thought. The dialogue and narration is solid. The ending is quite good. I'm going Four and a Half Stars.
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Darkdevil
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I enjoyed this issue, I found it confusing.

Unlike in the Punisher issue, Alfred does comes across as more sympathetic here. I don't know if that was by some editorial design or maybe due to Nocenti's politics. I think part of it is due to Alfred's crimes not being as highlighted or described as they were in the Punisher issue. Yes, Alfred poisoned people but we don't see the scale and distress of that crime as displayed by Baron.

Thus as he's narrating their fight scene, he elicits sympathy as he questions why these two titans are fighting over a nobody like him. Maybe that was part of Nocenti's plan in showcasing DD's side of this ongoing moral debate; in Punisher, you kinda want Alfred to get punished due to the heinousness of his crimes yet here, he's a misjudged fired employee whose lashed out in anger at any- and everyone.

I do like how Nocenti handled Frank, especially in the beginning. The opening shot of his firing upon the crack house den was stark but her phrasing was apt. Frank sees these thugs targeting unknown innocents yet as he blasting them down, he himself refers to them as 'unknowns' and 'whoever they are'. A very interesting dichotomy.

Romita's handling of their fight was much better here, a more natural graceful flow to it (then again, I've always loved his art so yes, I am biased).

The final scene with Matt seeing Alfred was nice. We see Matt's fervent belief in the inherent worthiness of the system. Yes, Alfred must pay for his crimes but that doesn't mean that's the end for Alfred personally.

As for the Typhoid scenes, very good. It's been too long since I've read these issues so I'll buy my own copy of the Touch of Typhoid Epic Collection to do so.

As for this issue, despite (or maybe because of) the ambiguity and moral questioning, I'll give this a solid four stars
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