The Punisher #61-62
June 1, 2015
This comic truly has a message of peace: that all people can come together and say this thing is awful.
(Open on a black screen)
Linkara (v/o): Previously on Atop the Fourth Wall...
(Fade in on Linkara's review of "The Punisher #60")
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up the "Punisher #60" comic) "The Punisher #60" and, well...
(Cut to Calluna as she sits with her computer (with a sticker of Harley Quinn on it) on her lap. She pushes a button on it)
Calluna: And done! Yes, this is gonna be my best video yet!
(Suddenly, an alarm goes off)
Calluna: The hell?
(The next thing she knows, she gets punched in the cheek so hard that it knocks her down. Cut then to Michael Stutelberg as he dons sunglasses and arm sweatbands, plus taking some guns which he twirls around before cocking)
Stutelberg: It ends tonight.
(Cut back to Calluna as she gets up, rubbing her cheek, and looks to see who punched her. It looks like a robot)
Robot: Your video has been flagged for copyrighted content.
Calluna: Oh, no! The Copyright Bot! My arch-nemesis!
(She holds up her fists to fight it. Then cut to Lotus Prince)
Lotus Prince: Greetings, Linkara. (holds up a stack of comic books) I came across some comic books that I would like you to take a look at. Would you care to go over them with me?
(Cut back to Calluna's fight with the Copyright Bot)
Copyright Bot: You've broken the rules for the last time. It's time to take care of you, just like we did your friend Film Brain!
(Cut to Film Brain, who is sitting in the corner, looking quite distraught)
Film Brain: (crying) Why, Content ID, why?!
(Cut to Brian Tenold, who wears sunglasses and aims a gun at the camera)
Tenold: I'm sorry to have to do this to you, Linkara, but I'm afraid you're not going anywhere until (holds up a Spider-Man comic) you sign my copy of "Amazing Spider-Man #361".
(Cut back to Calluna's fight with the Copyright Bot)
Calluna: (gasps) How dare you! I'm gonna file a dispute (grabs a sledgehammer) UPSIDE YOUR HEAD!
(She twirls the hammer around confidently, then, screaming, runs up at the Copyright Bot, who turns and runs off, Calluna giving chase. Cut to a doctor in an elevator)
Doctor: I can't believe there's no security in this entire hospital, and they thought I was real doctor!
(He cackles, but it's cut short as the elevator doors open and a man steps onto the elevator. He pushes a button to go to another floor. Cut to a man addressing the nation over a distorted screen)
Man: Both Galactus and Brainiac are en route to Earth with an estimated time of arrival of two hours.
(Cut back to the two men on the elevator. After a few minutes, light fills the room as the elevator door opens and the second man gets off. The fake doctor waits for the elevator to close, then resumes cackling. Cut to Ryan Molina, who sits on the bridge of Comicron 1, wearing Linkara's attire. He looks around in confusion)
Molina: Wait, what?
(Cut to a man in a kitchen wearing sunglasses and a red t-shirt reading "Nintendo Rehabilitation Clinic")
Man: Yo, what's up, Linkara and 90s Kid! It's your buddy (the following words pop up...) Totally Tubular Tim! (holds up a gold Mario Amiibo) And check this out, man! I got the gold Mario Amiibo! (stops suddenly as he looks up) Huh?
(He ducks down as Bowser's Clown Copter drops down and tries to crush him. Cut to black)
Linkara (v/o): And now, the conclusion.
(AT4W title theme plays, and the title card has "Black or White" by Michael Jackson playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the cover of "The Punisher #60")
Linkara (v/o): Last time on "Punisher #60"...
(Cut to a clip of Tropic Thunder)
Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.): I'm a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up two comics) "The Punisher #61" and "62" and see where they go with this thing.
(Cut to a closeup of the cover of "The Punisher #61")
Linkara (v/o): Our cover is fine... at first, wherein Luke Cage and the Punisher are being shot at and shooting back at some unseen attackers, aside from this guy, whom Luke Cage has decided to do the Cage mind-meld with. The problem is that we very clearly see bullets striking Cage on the face, but apparently no one is smart enough to shoot at the Punisher in the head. Hell, they even seem to come close a few times, but nobody can hit it! Are they as mystified by him changing his skin color as we are?
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open with a splash page where Frank is approaching some drug dealers and narrates to us about recent events.
Frank: (narrating) The man I was, my resources, my mission, are gone.
Linkara: (as Frank) I now run a deli on 38th Street. We're running a sale on tuna today. Try to get it later... (pulls a gun on the camera) and be punished!
Frank: (narrating) Everything's changed, especially my face.
Linkara: (as Frank) Turns out I was a Time Lord this whole time. And yet it's weird that (points to himself) I became a black guy before the Doctor ever did.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Frank approaches the drug dealers.
Frank: I'm looking to buy. Got that crack?
Linkara: (as drug dealer) Nah, we only deal in the hottest stuff. Want some China Cat?
Linkara (v/o): They tell him to clear off, but Frank insists, leading to him beating the snot out of the dealers when they try to pull guns and knives on him.
Linkara: (as Frank, making a punching motion) I... just... want... to... buy... some... crack!
Linkara (v/o): Frank narrates about how much it sucks that he's limited to using nonlethal force, pointing out how it's easy to be all "no killing" when you've got bulletproof skin. After he finally gets inside, he's beaten up by a single dude with a gun who just whales on him for a bit. It's that Ninja Law thing. You know, where an entire army is easy enough to take down the more guys you have, but a single guy is a friggin' immovable object? The guy who beat him up thinks he's a cop.
Frank: I'm no cop. No wires, no back-up. Just lookin' to do some business.
Linkara: (as Frank) I want to tell you about Mary Kay.
Linkara (v/o): They drag Frank upstairs to talk to their boss, revealed to be... MAXWELL LORD?!? Well, okay, wrong universe, but still, it's this used car salesman-looking guy named Mr. Rudy.
Mr. Rudy: Welcome, my brother, what c'we do you for?
(Cut to a clip of the Game Crazy training video)
Woman: That was crunk.
(Cut back to the comic)
Frank: Name's Rook. My people took down the Kingpin. Now we're gonna pop his market.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that. According to the opening narration, apparently, the setup job done by the Kingpin on the Punisher screwed him over, too... somehow. And since there was a hit out on him by the Kingpin last issue, I think we can presume it happened in some other book.
Linkara: Good to know that the primary antagonist for the previous story arc was defeated without any involvement by the Punisher himself! That's great storytelling.
Linkara (v/o): Mr. Rudy wants to test Rook's claims and hands him a crack pipe, telling him to light up.
Linkara: I feel like this episode should be a "PSA Hell", buuut (strokes chin) most PSAs don't usually involve as much stabbing and automatic weapons fire. Well, maybe they should.
Linkara (v/o): Fortunately, help arrives in the form of Luke Cage tossing a tear gas grenade at the gang out front, causing a distraction that allows Frank to attack one guy and use him as a human shield for some bullets. He then takes the body and leaps out a window with it, using it to cushion his fall on the roof of a car. Later, Luke Cage is once again pissed off about people dying, but instead of giving Frank over to the police or something, he just kinda wags his finger at him. How effective a crimefighter Luke Cage must be in that solo series he apparently did get alongside this book. But anyway, Luke Cage has a particular reason why he doesn't want people killed, aside from people he throws off highways anyway.
Luke: I'm hired to clean this building, but I ain't washing it in blood.
Linkara: (as Luke) Blood makes a terrible soap, man. You end up spending more time cleaning the blood than you do the dirt.
Luke: No more brothers dyin' for that stuff.
Frank: "Brother?" Why don't you wake up, Cage? This ain't about race.
Luke: F.B.I. shows most inner city crime's committed by blacks on blacks. Movies and T.V. still hype brothers as the street thug, the hood, the man to fear. You know that look in the eyes of strangers. That feeling...
Linkara: (as Frank, waving dismissively) Oh, please! As a white guy with a temporary skin color change due to a bizarre pseudoscience surgery involving melanin, I think I understand when something is or is not about race.
Luke: ...It ain't about race, no--it's about image, and knowin' who you are, when no one else does.
Linkara: (eyes look around in shifty confusion) Uh, (holds up index finger) one, image perception is a part of prejudice and racism, which is why you cited those statistics, Luke. (holds up two fingers) Two, those are completely opposite ideas. Is it about the image you convey to others, or is it about being true to yourself?
Luke: I know 'cause I was one of them-- a hood.
Linkara: (as Luke) And then Batman got pissed off at me and said I'm not Hood, I'm Robin.
Luke: I'm proof there's a way out. And nobody has to die. Now, c'mon-- we got things to see and people to do...
Linkara: Uh, Luke, there's a gang war going on. Maybe now isn't the best time to go to a brothel.
Linkara (v/o): Later, a bunch of women who had hired Luke Cage for the job discuss how they're kinda having second thoughts, worried about gang retaliation. However, one says that luckily the gang can't connect them to Luke Cage. And then in the next panel, the gang members just happen to be passing by and overheard them and prepare to attack them. However, before they can stab one with a knife, Luke Cage's hand intercepts it, bending the blade.
Linkara: (as Luke, holding up hand) "Knife" to see you! (beat, normal) What? It's better than what he actually says.
Luke: Welcome to Cage's Etiquette School, boyees...
Linkara: So apparently, Luke Cage thought (makes an "air quote") "Sweet Christmas" was too lame a catchphrase and decided instead to rip off Flava Flav.
Linkara (v/o): Despite getting beaten up by Cage and Castle yet again, they're still bragging about how they're unstoppable.
Gang member: --We got fat money behind us! Enough to take y'all down when Wrench gets this.
Linkara: Yes, truly you have some sizeable pockets funding this operation to... (shrugs in confusion) take over an apartment building?
Linkara (v/o): Frank chases after the guy out of concern that he may go and attack the apartment building now, with that Aisha girl still in there. And apparently no one's supervising the child, but whatever. The other gang members try to tell Cage he doesn't know who he's messing with, but Cage decides to give him a lecture.
Luke: Bunch of thugs buying into a big dream as a way out... (narrating) Watchin' the rollers on a path to glory out of poverty...
Linkara (v/o): And an asterisk informs us that "rollers" means "big money gang members".
Linkara: (confused) That's the slang you felt the audience needed translating. This isn't exactly the Ultimate Warrior telling us to get foked.
Linkara (v/o): I'll spare you the lecture and cut to the chase. Frank beats up the guy and drags him back to Cage, and they get into yet another argument about how they need to be willing to kill these guys. Cage tells him he can walk if he doesn't play by his rules, although Frank secretly slips a gun to one of the women to make sure she has her own defense in case things get ugly.
Linkara: Yes, handing the nervous woman who was almost attacked and happens to have a young daughter a weapon that she has no training in how to manage safely. (points to camera, smiling) This is a good plan!
Linkara (v/o): At a coffee shop, the two go over their plan for the night. Most of the apartment tenants have slipped out quietly, and those remaining will be on the second floor in a single apartment. Cage will go in first and deal with the gang members, keep them in the apartment as long as possible, while Castle gets the remaining civilians out the fire escape. They'll get the police there soon after the action start so they can arrest all the gang members at once. Not a great plan, given how trigger-happy everyone is, but better than a lot of plans I've seen. At midnight, we soon see things go down as Cage begins beating up the people out front. And then there's a knock at the door.
Gang member: Wh-Whozat?
Linkara: Buster who?
Luke: Buster head open if you don't get out!
Linkara (v/o): Heh, not a bad one.
Frank: (narrating) It's not how I would've planned it.
Linkara: (as Frank) I would've gone with (holds up fist) "OH, YEAH!"
Linkara (v/o): And again, we see that people with automatic weapons at close range are incapable of aiming their guns slightly up to point at their heads instead of their Kevlar, so the Punisher remains unscathed.
Linkara: Maybe Spaceballs was wrong. It seems evil is pretty dumb, too.
Linkara (v/o): Nearby, Mr. Rudy and the aforementioned Wrench are watching this whole thing play out on closed-circuit cameras, because I guess they decided to install those for this operation of... taking an apartment building, and Frank is beginning to second-guess the "kill 'em all" approach when he encounters a kid with a gun that he just orders to "Get out!", and they comply. He gets to the civilians and orders them to the fire escape, but it seems Wrench has arrived, wielding a giant wrench, of course.
Linkara: Because really, when your codename is (makes an "air quote") "Wrench", you have to go all in. Or confuse people by having a huge screwdriver.
Linkara (v/o): Wrench takes Aisha hostage, telling Frank to back off.
Frank: (narrating) Cage keeps wanting to keep those goons alive, some misplaced sense of salvation. But they choose their lives-- just as I choose to end them.
Linkara: (as Frank, looking thoughtful and stroking chin) Yeah, I'm pretty sure that balances out. Frank Castle, poet and philosopher.
Linkara (v/o): Wrench runs off with Aisha, although the other goons get a spray of bullets for their trouble. Aaand we see that the letterer apparently got confused about this word balloon, since we see here Frank yelling...
Frank: You've got to go, mister, we can't...
Linkara (v/o): ...before he responds to... himself, ordering everyone to get out the fire escape now. Meanwhile, back over to Luke Cage...
Luke: This is getting monotonous, boyees.
Linkara: Tell me about it. This is like the hundredth time we've seen you beating up random thugs. Could we have an interesting fight scene somewhere?
Linkara (v/o): Wrench returns to Mr. Rudy with the girl, and Mr. Rudy holds a gun to her head. Cage has also arrived, but of course, Rudy tells him to back off. Wrench starts beating Cage up with, well, the wrench, which, shockingly, actually seems to hurt him.
Linkara: Luke Cage's one weakness: oversized novelty tools.
Linkara (v/o): We also have another word balloon mistake as Luke Cage says that...
Luke: Maybe I ain't the one to take you down--
Linkara (v/o): ...before Frank leaps through a window and yells...
Frank: --but I ain't alone.
Linkara (v/o): ...finishing his sentence, but implying he was the one to start it off. Or is Frank just stealing everybody else's lines in the script? Frank breaks Mr. Rudy's hand and makes him drop the gun before unceremoniously shooting down Wrench. He then grabs Mr. Rudy by the neck.
Frank: (narrating) I was the Punisher. I've seen this same disease before-- and found only one best, final cure.
Linkara: (as Frank) Chloraseptic spray!
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, he's dead, and Cage once again wags his finger at him, though for practical reasons this time. It's harder to justify to the police that they gunned down several guys and choked a guy to death. Their only defense is that it was a hostage situation, but that's still pretty bad. And so, our comic ends with some mobster meeting this guy with blue hair named George. I'm sure he's supposed to have been a recurring character in previous issues since he talks about how he used to work with the Kingpin, but whatever. To me, he's just some douchebag with blue hair. He tells the mobster that he's going to help him take down the Punisher.
(Cut to the cover of "The Punisher #62")
Linkara (v/o): This brings us to the final issue of our three-parter: "The Punisher #62". It proudly proclaims: "HE'S BACK!"
Linkara: (confused) He was never gone!
Linkara (v/o): The cover is okay, though I'm not usually a fan of these hyper-stylized negative space colorings, especially since with all the lines in the buildings, at a glance, it looks like he's falling into one of those '90s futuristic high-tech buildings that just have random holes in them. Also, despite them talking about how he's back, as if this is some sort of return to his natural form, his coloring had made him pink.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Power Rangers)
Zordon: Too much pink energy is dangerous!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): We open with the shortest recap ever, but at least it's integrated into the story more naturally.
Luke: (narrating) So what are you telling me... the Punisher's come back--as a black man?
Linkara: That sounds like a really stupid idea for a comic, especially when it really doesn't affect anything in the overall plot.
Linkara (v/o): Also, this issue is titled "FADE... TO WHITE". Cute. George says that he'll take out the Punisher for him, while Mobster Guy picks up a baseball bat... and proceeds to smash his own TV equipment.
Linkara: I'm pretty sure the warranty won't cover baseball-related accidents.
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, Mobster Guy agrees to the deal, and we cut back over to Frank Castle, as he's in the middle of – surprise, surprise – beating up gang members.
Frank: (narrating) He says it's not a war.
Linkara: Well, officially, it's labeled a peacekeeping mission.
Frank: (narrating) Back when I wore a skull on black Kevlar, it was-- a fulfillment of a promise, because... because.
Linkara: (as Frank) I don't know, did my family die or something? Whatever, I just like guns and skulls.
Frank: (narrating) He keeps ordering, "Nobody dies." Nobody tells them. He can afford to-- he's the hero for hire. I'm just a man.
Linkara: (as Frank) In the middle of a complicated plan. No one to show me the signs.
Frank: (narrating) A soldier without a war. A white black man.
Linkara: (stares) Shut up.
Linkara (v/o): He's been around for two weeks now, continuing to secure the area for Luke Cage and the neighborhood. In between issues, they did in fact manage to keep themselves out of jail, and Frank is considering what exactly he's supposed to be doing now since he doesn't consider himself the Punisher anymore. Luke Cage, in the meanwhile, has been busy making a positive reputation for himself in his solo title... and he's apparently upset about that.
Man: Mist-yar Cage? I vant to tank you for what you doing for us-- for all us. I...
Luke: I don't want your thanks, pal. I'm not doing favors, I'm running a business, same as you. I'm doing this because it's good for business. Remember that.
(Cut to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang as they watch Hobgoblins)
Mike: (as a character in the movie) You and your stupid thoughtfulness can go to Hell!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Aisha and her mom even go up and she invites Cage to dinner.
Luke: Lady, you paid me for a job and I did it. That's as far as I'm looking to take this.
Linkara: (as Cage) Stop being nice and grateful! How am I supposed to be a likeable protagonist if I don't act like a complete jackass?!
Linkara (v/o): I mean, what the hell?! Were they writing Luke Cage to be the most dickish person around, just to make the Punisher look reasonable by comparison? Anyway, the woman hands Frank back the pistol, saying that as a single mom trying to raise her daughter the best she can, having a gun around is a bad move.
Frank: (narrating) A life without guns. A world, without the war.
Linkara: (as Frank) A sentence, without a comma splice.
Linkara (v/o): Frank is starting to wonder if it's possible for him to start living life without being the Punisher anymore, but he's got more pressing matters. Only now is the melanin treatment Frank got starting to wear off, and his skin is turning lighter. He has to figure out, if he sticks around, a reason why he was passing for black this whole time or finally skip town. Aaand after George locates and identifies Frank on the street, he apparently decided it was time for him to leave. Naturally, this leads to him and Cage having an argument, because this is the most hate-filled buddy crimefighting movie I've ever seen. On his way out, Frank spots a woman being attacked by four random guys and steps in to intervene, but it's a trap. A net pops out and snags Frank, allowing the others to beat him up. Luke sees it happening, but another guy aims a bazooka right at him. Cage may even be strong enough to survive that, but he's more worried about the blast hurting anyone else in the building, so he lets them go. However, he does try to follow after in his own car... which is then bazookad.
Linkara: Sooo... wait, did he get his original car back from the highway after he stole that cop car last time... only for it now to be blown up?
Linkara (v/o): Frank is dropped into a dark warehouse as George demands to know if he really is the Punisher. He then brings out Drug-Addicted Prostitute Surgeon Lady – Melinda is her name; I just find that description to be funnier – who also still seems to be wearing the same dress as last time. I mean, I guess it's a coincidence, but like with her description, I find it funnier to believe she's been wearing the same dress for weeks now. George threatens her, as well as offer her some drugs to try to identify Frank, but ultimately, Frank just admits who he is.
George: Hold you fire, boys-- he's got on Kevlar anyway. A slice across the jugular is faster, more certain--with that personal touch.
Linkara: (shouting in exasperation) SHOOT... HIM... IN... THE... HEAD!!
Linkara (v/o): Aaand Frank shoots George in the head.
Linkara: (still exasperated) NOT... WHO... I... WAS... TALKING... ABOUT!
Linkara (v/o): It's just baffling to me that he'd say such a stupid line when they've got him surrounded, as if the Kevlar is magically protecting his brain, too, and then having Frank kill the guy exactly how he should be killed! Oh, and the gun? It's the one Aisha's mom gave him earlier. He just managed to sneak it into his hands. Frank gets off a few stray shots before he runs out of bullets, but once again, it's Flava Cage to the rescue.
Luke: Heads up, boyees!
Linkara: Well, except for George; I think his head is permanently down now.
Linkara (v/o): No explanation is given just how the hell Cage found him, but whatever, story's almost done with. Frank gets free just in time for him to become Caucasian again, and the tape covering up his skull shirt is ripped off. And thus, the Punisher is reborn, I guess, and lots of people die.
Luke: So you're the Punisher. Nice disguise, till you lost your tan.
Linkara: I know I shouldn't be surprised that he is not surprised by this, given that this is a world featuring Galactus, cyborg space knights, and Clone Sagas, but come on! Be a little confused, dammit!
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Frank saying the two of them are even and then threatening Cage to never step over the line, or else he'll come after him... even though he was the one constantly stepping over the line!
Frank: (narrating) I was the Punisher. Long as there's crime preying on innocents in the swill of corruption, I will be. There'll always be a need for a Punisher. God help us all.
Linkara: (as Frank) Or at least, God help Riverdale, 'cause that's where I'm going next. (normal again as he closes the comic and holds up this and the first in frustration) These comics suck!
Linkara (v/o): Setting aside Frank's little excursion into a Michael Jackson song, the story is just duller than a butter knife: Frank Castle teams up with Cage, people are beaten up – and he leaves. That's all that happened! The two are constantly butting heads over the same issue, even when it seems like Frank is actually coming around to Cage's way of thinking, and it gets repetitive quickly! Luke Cage is almost completely ineffectual from a dialogue standpoint, serving only as the guy to disapprove of the Punisher, but never doing anything about it, yet needing to save his ass all the time. Him being indestructible would be fine for the story – Superman gets away with that all the time – if only he was more compelling and interesting, which he isn't, especially when he suddenly becomes a jerk in the final issue. The artwork is bland and uninteresting, and, oh, yes, FRANK CASTLE BECOMES A BLACK GUY FOR THREE ISSUES FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON!!! There was no need for it at all, except for a few moments talking about racism, but why the hell did Frank need to be black for that? Wouldn't Luke Cage's presence be enough? It's not like this was some big publicity stunt or something. You would barely be able to tell that this was happening, based on the covers. Lord knows the Punisher has had a whole crap-ton of other, weirder things happen to him that were pushed by Marvel more than this. Why does this story exist?!
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang watching The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies)
Crow T. Robot: We've hoped you've enjoyed No Moral Theater, ladies and gentlemen.
Linkara: Next week, we return with a Patreon-sponsored review of an entire miniseries, and while it doesn't contain surgery-changing skin color, it does have laser swords becoming electrified rapiers. (throws down comics, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
So WHY exactly was a mobster trying to control THAT particular apartment?
And why did that mobster destroy his TVs with a bat? Was he just having a really bad day and wanted to conform to mob stereotypes?
(Stinger: The final panel of the comic is shown, showing the Punisher having a somewhat triangular physique)
Linkara (v/o): Dear Lord, and they say Chris Evans has the proportions of a Dorito.