Channel Awesome
The Punisher #60

At4w punisher 60-1024x453.jpg

May 25, 2015
So we've got this guy who shoots guns and kills criminals. What weird crap can we throw at him this week?

Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. As I mentioned back in the crossover with Nash and Film Brain, the Punisher is an odd fit for the Marvel Universe.

(Cut to a shot of Hawkeye)

Linkara (v/o): Mostly because he doesn't try to fit in alongside the Marvel Universe. See, you've got a character like Hawkeye, who has one major trait between the comics and cinematic universe: he's a regular, if talented, guy standing alongside gods and legends, which can be a bit overwhelming, but lead to character development.

(Cut to a shot of the Punisher)

Linkara (v/o): Buuut then there's the Punisher. While you will see him interacting with the Marvel Universe at large, the majority of his most heralded stories are the oness about him just taking on regular crime. And killing people.

(Cut to shots of "The Punisher: Silent Night #1")

Linkara (v/o): But again, that's the thing. He's just a guy with a skull T-shirt and lots of guns. At least Batman has a bottomless supply of wealth and a lifetime of training. The Punisher is just a dude who got pissed off that his family was caught in the crossfire of a mob shootout. And don't get me wrong; he's a veteran, too, so he does have training and expertise, but it's just so bizarre that in the same world with aliens and robots and alien robots, there's also a dude whose major defining characteristic and gimmick is his cool shirt.

Linkara: It's actually why it's so bizarre that (gestures toward Punisher DVD on shelf behind him) the Dolph Lundgren Punisher movie wasn't better. He really did fit the mold of an '80s action movie character more than he did, say, the X-Men or the Avengers.

Linkara (v/o): But hey, it's important to have a diversity of character types and motivations, so the Punisher remains where he is... except for when he joins the Thunderbolts.

Linkara: Yeah, that's the other thing about the Punisher: despite being such a straightforward concept, the writers occasionally like to do... (makes motions with his hands as he tries to think of the right words) strange things to him.

Linkara (v/o): Most recently, that was, join a team. But in the past, there was the time when he became an avenging angel. In the more recent past, there was when he was turned into a Frankenstein monster. But in the slightly farther past of the early '90s...

(Cut to a closeup of the cover of today's comic)

Linkara (v/o): ...there was today's tale, and I wish I really had an explanation for why this story exists, but it does, and it's one of those ones that's been requested a lot.

Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "The Punisher #60" and... well... if you've never heard of this one before... (becomes uncomfortable) you're in for... something.

(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has the Punisher movie theme playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover, emphasizing the title "The Punisher")

Linkara (v/o): We're gonna do things a little differently this time and talk about the cover a little later, if only because it spoils the big surprise.

(The comic opens to the first page)

Linkara (v/o): We open with a recap of then-recent events for "The Punisher".

Punisher: (narrating) Previously... Punisher's war journal...

Linkara: (as Frank Castle) I've decided that my journal needs to recap information I've already written in it.

Linkara (v/o): Why does Frank have a war journal, anyway?

Linkara: (as Punisher) Punisher War Journal: The Kingpin talked to me again. OMG, I hope he likes me!

Linkara (v/o): Basically, the Punisher's assistant, named Microchip – because every vigilante needs a confidante, and the Punisher was actually a trailblazer by having his confidante be a computer and electronics expert; that would become the norm for superheroes in modern times – was kidnapped by the Kingpin. He forced the Punisher to take out a rival gang, but Kingpin set him up so that the cops would arrest him right afterwards.

Punisher: (narrating) He got to my public defender and the judge.

Linkara: You know, Frank Castle is guilty of hundreds of murders. I don't think the Kingpin really needed to do that much bribing to have him sent to prison.

Linkara (v/o): At Rikers Island, a bunch of villains ganged up on him and pretty much wrecked up his face. He then escaped from prison, and today, still wanted by the government, he survives as a soldier of fortune. (A-Team theme plays) If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and you can find him, perhaps you could hire...

(Cut to a shot of the A-Team title, but with a P instead of an A)

Linkara (v/o): ...the P-Team.

(Cut back to the comic)

Linkara (v/o): But no, he of course is now being hunted by both the police and criminals, thanks to a price put on his head by the Kingpin. Fortunately, he met up with Microchip again, who pointed him in the direction of a surgeon who could fix his face.

Punisher: (narrating) He didn't tell me Melinda Brewer was a junkie.

Linkara: (as Punisher) Gonna have to rethink Microchip's 401K plan, considering the surgeon he sent me to has been high as a kite for the last three days.

Punisher: (narrating) When she took the bandages off I was in for the shock of my life.

Linkara: (as Punisher) My God... I'm GORGEOUS!

Linkara (v/o): So, what did she really do? Well, here it is, everyone, the reason this comic is infamous. Somehow, her surgery... has turned Frank Castle into a black guy.

Linkara: (stunned) I... (stammering in disbelief) What am I supposed to say to this? It's so nonsensical, so... mind-boggling that this has happened! Remember, someone had... to think of this, then they had to (makes a writing motion) write it down, then they had to have it approved by an editor, and then they had a penciler, an inker and a colorist all come along and work on this... and nobody at some point stopped and went, "Wait, what?" (gestures toward comic) This is a real thing!

Linkara (v/o): For crying out loud, this was the plot of a James Bond movie! Wait, let me rephrase: This was the plot of a really BAD James Bond movie! This is stupefying!

(Cut back to the comic's cover, shown in full now)

Linkara (v/o): And yes, now we can get to the cover where we really have to stop for a second. In the background, we see the costumes of the Punisher and Luke Cage hanging against the wall, some bullet holes in them. You know, symbolism is nice... except then you move to the front of the cover and you see Luke Cage and Frank Castle up close. Look at this! If you flip Frank over and overlay him on top of Luke Cage, it's almost exactly the same!! What, did this artist think that all black people look the same?! Apparently, someone activated the mirror match on this fighting game! It doesn't help that there's so much shading on this cover so that any details that would have made them look different from them are completely overtaken by shadows! What the hell is this?!?

(Back to the comic again)

Linkara (v/o): So, going back to the story, how is this even possible? Well, it's not explained in this issue, but in the previous one, the surgeon explained that she's been experimenting with "tissue regeneration and melanin". On the off chance you don't know, melanin is a compound found in human skin, hair and eyes that determines color. In relation to skin, more melanin equals a darker skin color.

Linkara: And somehow, that was involved in how she repaired his face! (stammers) I don't know, maybe she, like, (makes a reaching motion with his hand) stuck her hand in a big barrel of melanin and just started (makes a rubbing motion on his face) rubbing it all over his face like sunscreen!

Linkara (v/o): Oh, and just a reminder, our surgeon here is also now a prostitute, according to the previous issue. So I guess when she left the medical profession, she stole a bunch of stuff and just happened to have all the right equipment on hand to do a complex surgery like this. And by the way, even if we bought that she was using melanin somehow to repair his face, why is his entire body now black?! Was she just trying to even it all out? And what's the Punisher's reaction to this? Nothing. He's barely fazed by it at all. Sure, he's got the surprised "What the hell?" to begin with, but after that... hmm, this is just Tuesday for him. He's got things to do. He takes a car and drops her off upstate. Also, isn't this a lovely shot? (...which is of the surgeon getting out and leaning in to the Punisher with her rear out in front of the reader) If this was a modern comic, we'd see her ass completely outlined in that dress and riding up. She left some Dexedrine for him in the car since he's obviously weak and tired after surgery, but the Punisher tosses that out.

Punisher: (thinking) So tired... But I'm not gonna take this $#@#% speed!

Linkara: (as Punisher) Please, I have a little class with the drugs I'm taking.

Linkara (v/o): He heads off to Chicago to try to get to an old safe house of his in the basement of a hotel. Unfortunately, by this point, he's been driving for nineteen hours and didn't take his Dexies, so the car starts swerving around, which attracts the attention of the police. He pulls over and... Wait, what the hell? Four police cars?! What the hell were they all doing out there?! Why do they need all of them for just one guy who was swerving around a bit? Oh, and of course, we soon discover that they are racist cops, too.

Punisher: (narrating) Sometimes my reflexes betray me. I had no patience for bigots when I was white. Now that I'm black I don't like it any better.

Linkara: (nonplussed) I really, really don't know what to say at this point. Spoilers: This condition is temporary, so I'm not sure if he's being serious with that remark or making light of why the racist cops pulled him over. And knowing that it's temporary, if he's serious, well... that's really... really kind of iffy.

Linkara (v/o): You know what I'm reminded of? Those social experiments where otherwise able-bodied people try to "be blind for a day" or "be in wheelchairs for a day". The idea is to raise awareness for those who have to live like that every day, but the problem is, why didn't you just take their word for it how they have to live their lives? Why do you need an objective lesson in order to believe them?

Linkara: (incredulously) And what is even the point of this story?! It's not like the Punisher was racist before! Even he admits that he has no patience for bigots, and you have to imagine that he was already well aware of abuse of power!

Linkara (v/o): So yeah, after they hit him in the side with a baton, he fights back, and they all start beating him.

Linkara: (listlessly, with his head on his hand) If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go be depressed for a while.

Linkara (v/o): However, rescue soon arrives for Frank, because the bigoted cops are also morons...

Linkara: A redundant statement, I admit, but accurate...

Linkara (v/o): ...they blocked off the exit, and who just happens to be driving by but Luke Cage... with a big oil smear on his forehead. Also, without his standard poofy yellow shirt and tiara, because this was the '90s and fun was not allowed. His big silver belt, though? (scoffs) Well, we gotta keep that.

Luke: (thinking) Buncha cop wannabees got my exit blocked...

Linkara: You know, I was gonna question the accuracy of that statement since they are technically cops, but I like the implication that dirty cops like that are only (makes "air quotes") "wannabes".

Linkara (v/o): And then Luke Cage does this (...which is punch one cop and kick another, both in the head), because why not throw in some questionable martial arts while we're at it? By Die Hard's crotch! He's got his leg up on one side. He's got his other leg spread out so that he's doing the splits in the air. He's punching a dude behind him. And apparently, he just noticed that the sun exists because he's staring straight up at it. A cop who was still beating Frank whacks his baton across his [Luke's] head... and it cracks. The baton, I mean. Cracks in half. Except, it really makes no sense, considering the beating he was getting earlier, sooo... I think the colorist accidentally gave Luke Cage Frank's clothes in these shots. That theory is backed up by these metal ankle cuffs in this shot. Aaand then Luke Cage tosses him off of the highway.

Linkara: So, if you'll recall, Luke Cage was in that anti-smoking PSA I reviewed years ago. The message I'm getting from all of this is: if you smoke, (clenches fist) I'm gonna toss your ass off a cliff!

Linkara (v/o): And since he's got superpowers, the cops finally open fire on him, but the bullets just bounce off of his arm.

Linkara: (singing while holding up his arms) Wonder Woman!

Linkara (v/o): After taking out the remaining officers, the two decide to snatch a cop car and hightail it out of there... leaving Luke's own car behind. Whoops. The two ditch the car in the South Side and walk the rest of the way. But then Cage spots something.

Drug dealer: ...some righteous crack, bro!

(Cut to a shot of the first issue of "Mr. T and the T-Force")

Mr. T: It's a crack baby... FOOL!

(Cut back to the comic)

Linkara (v/o): Luke smacks the dealer across the face and tells him he isn't allowed in his turf, but then meets up with a little girl whom he was sent to go find. Apparently, some kind of gang war is gonna be starting up soon. A bunch of drug dealers are holed up in a hotel, and Luke knows that a final battle is coming soon. However, Frank passes out from his injuries and his, you know, exhaustion, and sixteen hours later, he's awake again in Luke Cage's place.

Luke: What's your name, homie?

Frank: Frank... Frank Rook.

Linkara: Yeah, and my name is Lewis Affection Pig.

Linkara (v/o): Luke tells him he needs to get the hell out of here, but then Frank recognizes who Luke Cage is.

Frank: Yeah. You were wanted in New York. Only one cat I ever heard of could bounce bullets off his skin...

Linkara: (as Frank) Keyboard Cat!

Linkara (v/o): Frank decides to hire Cage for his help in getting to his safe house of supplies, claiming that he just knows where the Punisher hid everything. Not sure why he's trying to keep his identity secret. Maybe he's not certain if Cage will sell him out if the Kingpin comes a-knocking. Or just that he won't believe a story about a SURGEON CHANGING HIS SKIN COLOR! But if he knows Cage's reputation, why doesn't he know he can trust him? For crying out loud, Luke Cage once went to Latveria because Doctor Doom stiffed him out of a contract! Anyway, he explains that there's cash there, and Luke can keep the cash as long as he gets the guns, and he wants to keep the guns away from the gang war. Luke is reluctant since he didn't know him, but he agrees.

Luke: I'll help you to get this stash, but nobody dies.

Linkara: (as Luke) Unless we're tossing them off a highway, then let's go nuts.

Linkara (v/o): Two days later, the two arrive at the hotel, where a gang has already taken up residence.

Frank: (narrating) Neighborhood's really changed.

Luke: (narrating) Yeah, poverty and crack'll do that.

Linkara: Yep. (points to something) See that pothole in the street? Crack did that.

Linkara (v/o): When they try to enter the hotel, the gang intervenes. But this is Power Man and the Punisher we're talking about, so they knock some heads and go inside. The place of course looks like a crap heap.

Frank: Man, this used to be a fine hotel.

Linkara: Eh, I don't know, Frank. I tried to stay there once, and it didn't end well.

(Cut to a clip of Linkara's review of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, showing the hotel scene)

Linkara: (audio from review) I'M A GODDAMN VAMPIRE! I'M A VAMPIRE!!

(Back to the comic again)

Linkara (v/o): The two head over to the elevator, but more guys show up, this time in a combination of guns and a bat.

Frank: What were you saying about not killing anyone?

Luke: Nobody dies. Still holds, man.

Frank: Tell them.

Linkara: (as Frank, to Luke) Okay. (to the gang) Hey, guys, can we not kill anyone? (as a gang member, hesitantly) Well... okay, fair enough.

Frank: I got the guy with the bat.

Linkara: (as Luke) No way! You always get to date the hot ones! I want to date the hot one for once!

Linkara (v/o): And lots of kicking ensues, albeit with Frank picking up a gun and shooting a guy in the arm, much to Luke Cage's annoyance.

Frank: Chill out, Cage. I hit him where I pointed.

Linkara: (as Luke) You were aiming for his crotch! (as Frank, holding a gun) Yeah, I think this thing pulls to the right a bit.

Frank: Doesn't look like the elevator's coming.

Linkara: Ugh! Some asshole is doing an elevator party!

Linkara (v/o): They head down the stairs, finding a bunch of drugged-out people... and one who's apparently trying to use a machete on some other guy. Our heroes do nothing to stop it. Hmm...

Luke: El Rubens rule the South Side, man.

Linkara: (looking up in thought, stroking chin) I always knew those sandwiches were up to no good.

Luke: Sent the murder rate up 150% in the past six months, matching their crack sales.

Linkara: (as Luke) I can't compete against that kind of business strategy!

Linkara (v/o): They're confronted by a different guy with a machete.

Guy with machete: FARSHLNGRBSTFRKN.

Linkara: (stroking chin) Yes, I see, but that doesn't solve the problem in relation to small businesses.

Linkara (v/o): And then Luke Cage karate-chops the machete into three pieces.

Linkara: (smiling) Luke, are you sure you're not Mr. T?

Linkara (v/o): I just... It's rumored this was made to be a backdoor pilot to another Luke Cage series, and I really wish that series was made because Luke Cage karate-chopped a machete into three pieces! Anyway, after knocking the guy out, they finally locate the safe house, where the good Mr. Cage "I AM A MAN" punches through the wall to get to it. Unfortunately, once they're inside, they find that the safe with all the money in it has been cleared out.

Frank: You mean we took on a gang of crackheads for nothing?

Linkara: (as Luke) Ugh! You're always like this when we do things together!

Linkara (v/o): Cage is a bit pissed, but he admits that he likes how Frank handled himself in the fight. He explains how that little girl from earlier, Aisha, has a gang trying to take over since it's a "key location", whatever that means, and he's gonna clear them out. He wants Frank to act as his backup. And so, our comic ends with Frank emerging from the weapons cabinet.

Luke: I've gotta clear 'em out, without gettin' the people caught in it. And they're waitin' for my move.

Frank: But not mine. Let's rock.

Linkara: (as Frank, holding up an AirZone gun) We're gonna have the best Nerf war ever! (cocks the gun, then speaks normally as he picks up the comic) This comic sucks.

Linkara (v/o): Even ignoring the utter pointlessness and bizarreness of making Frank Castle's skin color change, it's just not very compelling, and the artwork is fairly subpar. Everyone's really beefy for no reason, most of the backgrounds are uninteresting, and there are coloring mistakes here and there, even beyond the fight scene where Frank and Cage switch outfits. Even the fight scenes feel a little off. There's a lot of expressive motion, I'll grant, but it's just quick moves showing our heroes kicking ass, and there isn't a lot of tension. Although, I will grant you that seeing Luke Cage literally karate-chopping a machete into three pieces is laughably awesome!

Linkara: Originally, this was going to be a three-part review, but due to some scheduling kerfuffles, next, we're going to condensing issues 61 and 62 into a single video. So I'll see you then and we'll find out how this dramatic new look for the Punisher... didn't last.


(End credits roll)

Was there ever any money in the safehouse? Because if there was, how did the gang get to it when Luke Cage had to get through a sealed-up wall to enter?

Yeah, I know that's an AirZone gun and not a NERF gun. It still counts.

(Stinger: The cover of the comic is shown)

Linkara (v/o): I love how both of their iconic outfits are hanging on the cover, as if to say, "Yeah, we could have them look like how they're supposed to, but instead, we're just going to give them something really, really boring to wear instead."