Thursday, January 31, 2013

Punisher-Batman





Comic book anti-heroes were all the rage in the 1990s for jackanapes who couldn't get enough Wolverine and such.

Naturally, when in 1994 Marvel and DC Comics undertook once more one of their famous character crossovers, they went for a pairing of the two baddest bad boys around: Batman and The Punisher.  I found my copy of Punisher/Batman over the weekend and decided to blog about it.

The crossover was written by Chuck Dixon, probably one of the best writers in the industry when it comes to action and what I call "street level" characters.  By that I mean superheroes who have no "powers" per se, but are honed to nigh perfection physically and maybe even have a few trick gadgets up their sleeves.  I mean, you're not usually going to find guys like these fighting Galactus.  As I said, Dixon excels at writing these types of characters, especially Batman, so it's no surprise that this crossover turned out quite well.

For a storyline, we see The Punisher trail Jigsaw, one of his dire enemies, to Gotham City.  There, Jigsaw makes his bid to takeover that city's underworld of organized crime.  For an assist with this, he enlists...of all people...The Joker.  So the bodies mount as full-on mob war rages.  This total grows exponentially when The Punisher shows up and starts spraying bullets.  Inevitably, this draws the attention of Batman.

What unfolds is a classic trope of "we hate each other at first but must learn to work together." However, Dixon does an admirable job of playing off the differences between the two characters.  One glaring item of compare/contrast is taking lives.  Batman will not kill.  Period.  That's one line he will not cross.  The Punisher?  Well, that line is somewhere a thousand miles back in his rearview mirror.  Amidst all the bang bang of the big guns and the melee of fists, there is actually a revealing character study going on within the text.  In fact, it's quite a moment when The Punisher has The Joker caught, points a gun at him, and Joker gasps "you're really going to do it, aren't you?"

More than that, we see a brilliant bit of interaction between each character's sidekick, wholly done through computers.  The Punisher has a buddy named Microchip who handles all things technical while Punisher caps the asses.  Micro attempts to hack into mob family's computer system and (virtually) meets Robin, quite a hacker in his own right.  While their bosses fight one another with their brawn, Robin and Microchip engage one another in a battle of intelligence and strategy.

In terms of art, I'm really not a fan of John Romita, Jr.  His renditions of people are often so blocky or ropey, that I think I'm looking at Lego men.  This does not, however, sufficiently distract from the story that Chuck Dixon has written.  I recommend this comic to anyone who enjoys these characters and especially wants to explore their true differences.

Funny.  I wrote a term paper on a compare/contrast of Punisher and Batman in high school.  Could Chuck Dixon have somehow....

Nahhhhh.

  
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