Specifically, Dark Reign is the period of time in which Norman Osborn AKA the Green Goblin and former dead guy, has control of U.S. national security, an era that is just now coming to an end with the coming Heroic Age.
Said defense systems just happened to be manufactured and regulated by Tony Stark AKA Iron Man, who also happens to be the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. following his victory during Civil War, which took place just prior to the Invasion.
Long story short, Norman Osborn lands the killing blow against the Skrull Queen, and is somehow promoted to hero status in the public eye, which he then parlays into usurping Tony Stark’s control of S.H.I.E.L.D.
*Whew!* Now that we’ve gotten all that nonsense out of the way, we can finally get to opening the damn book!
Right off the bat, our first page is… explanation detailing what happened earlier in the Punisher comics during Dark Reign.
Okay, fine your majesty, I shall summarize:
The Punisher wasn’t too happy about a total nutjob like Norman Osborn taking control of S.H.I.E.L.D., (now changed to the more AMERICAN sounding, H.A.M.M.E.R.) so he did what any concerned citizen would do, and tried to put a couple of bullets in Osborn’s head.
I think it goes without saying that the Punisher missed, no thanks to that golden-haired son-of-a-fuck, The Sentry.
Naturally, Osborn wasn’t too happy about the whole attempted murder thing, and thusly decided to use our tax dollars to send a fleet of space ships and a few hundred soldiers after old man Frank.
I like how this story is a one-shot, usually requiring no prior knowledge of previous storylines to be enjoyed.
One-shot my ass…
Anyway, our story opens with a quote from James Thurber:
In case you’re wondering, James Thurber was cartoonist and writer for the New Yorker back in the 20′s.
You can thank Wikipedia for that last bit.
We are then treated to a page of some kid leaving a message on the Punisher’s voicemail while zipping off walls and over peoples’ heads on his hoverboard.
Fortunately he knows better than to take it over water. Everyone knows you can’t do that; unless you’ve got power.
Anyway, this kid, named Henry by the way, is apparently trying to get a hold of Frank because he’s been “trolling” H.A.M.M.E.R.’s networks, and apparently he caught word that Osborn is just about to launch his big push against the Punisher.
I don’t see how posting photos of penises on H.A.M.M.E.R.’s forums would be at all helpful to the Punisher, but oh well, I’m not about to pretend that I give two shits about Henry and what he does with his intersnatch.
Meanwhile, Osborn is floating above New York in his pimp-ass helicarrier, when one of his goons walks over to him to ask for permission to implement operation “Nuke-the-shit-out-of-the Punisher.”
Our next page opens with the Punisher hanging out in his “Punisher Van,” heating up some cocoa and ignoring Henry’s phone calls like a dude.
This page also serves as our introduction to “Punisher Speak.”
Punisher Speak consists solely of a combination of sentence fragments, gallows humor, and man-isms.
If the text box isn’t black, or the text doesn’t have an ellipses in it, it’s not Punisher Speak.
Despite missing Henry’s call, the “Punisher Van’s” perimeter alarm goes off, tipping our hero off to Osborn’s approach.
Subtle man that he is, Osborn begins his assault by doing this:
Despite the fireworks, H.A.M.M.E.R. determines that the Punisher managed to avoid the blast.
Osborns’s first reaction is to sick a shadowy figure named Daken, after the Punisher.
Oh yeah, then he sends EVERY FUCKING MAN HE’S GOT.
With Osborn’s goons on the way, the Punisher reveals to us just how he managed to survive the explosion that his pimpin’ van could not.
In between a full page ad for Halo: ODST, of course.
Pym Particles are, in the Marvel universe, a special form of radiation created by Dr. Henry Pym AKA Ant Man/Giant Man/Yellow Jacket/Goliath/The Wasp/Scientist Supreme, that allow one to manipulate the size of objects and living things.
Evidently, the Punisher used them here to shrink himself to an atomic size so as avoid the THWAADOOOOOOMMM!!!!
With this, the Punisher takes off down an alleyway, whereupon he happens upon Henry, still crusin’ around on his hoverboard.
The Punisher greets him as only he can do.
With Henry safely tucked away in a dumpster, the Punisher finds himself set upon by Osborn’s glider troops.
In response, the Punisher, principled man that he is, elects to handle them using non-lethal measures involving, I shit you not: a bullwhip.
He’s got Pym Particles and a fucking “Punisher Van” and he resorts to using a fucking whip?
C’mon now Frank, you can do better than that…
The “suit” Punisher is the one with the skin-tight body suit that used all sorts of hokie sci-fi guns designed to make his arsenal seem more “friendly” and more accessible to the kiddies.
The “Max” Punisher walks around in a trench coat and a wife-beater and gets the job done by gutting people and feeding them to animals n’shit.
In either case, both drive a fucking awesome van.
‘Ole Frank manages to evade the glider troops pretty well, walking away with only a single laser wound to his leg, oddly enough, just as he’s reaching for some sort of “Punisher Shield” thingy.
Eventually he manages to escape to the sewers, where he proceeds to internally monologue to himself about things… mainly the hole in his leg and how the shit seeping into the wound builds character.
Remember that shadowy guy I mentioned earlier? Daken?
Well, he decides to use this opportunity to make his big entrance.
Now you’re probably asking yourself: “Isn’t that Wolverine?”
Well, you’d be close, but you’d also be wrong, dumbass.
Look at the guy’s claws, he’s got two where the ‘Ole Canuckle Head has three.
Okay, fine. Daken does in fact have three claws, the third is housed on the inside of his wrist.
Dork-isms aside, Daken is actually Wolverine’s son from a previous relationship involving a Japanese woman named Itsu.
Long story short, Itsu got killed, Daken had a shitty childhood, and now he hates Wolverine… ’cause I guess he has nothing better to do.
Daken has all of Wolverine’s powers, except his claws are lined with the metal of a cursed sword (don’t ask) called the Muramasa, and he can manipulate his pheromones to the point of granting him limited control over others.
Basically he’s Wolverine, but EEEVVIIIIIILLLLLLL…
Cut to bad-ass fight scene.
As evil and as vicious as Daken can be however, remember, this is ‘Ole Frank he’s tangling with here.
Surely he’s gonna’ have some sort of crazy bazooka or wicked-ass gadget he can whip out to save the day…
…but I guess biting works too.
Despite all that GLAZZAT-ing, Daken’s broken-ass healing factor keeps him good and healthy.
In fact the only real damage he seems to have incurred is a side-ache with a little bit of a cough.
Taking Daken’s fat-kid side-ache as a window of opportunity, Frank hops out of the sewer and up to the surface.
But not without leaving Daken a parting gift, of course.
Trust me when I tell you, there is an explosion on the next panel.
We then cut back to Frank as he stares down about a hundred or so of Osborn’s glider troops.
Frank’s mind immediately jumps to poop jokes.
Before the glider troops can have their way with Frank however, Daken suddenly appears behind him.
Daken talks some shit, but before he can get too out of hand, Punisher shuts him up and is all like, “Come’n git’ it son.”
What follows is probably the most violent fight I have ever read in the standard Marvel continuity.
Yup, they interrupted the most bad-ass fight ever, with butt.
ANYWAY, where were we?
Unfortunately, that last hit to the throat seems to slow Frank down a little bit, (that other shit though, that wasn’t nothin’) and Daken starts his shit talkin’ again.
Although unlike some shit talkers, Daken seems to be able to back up his bravado pretty well.
Case in point:
No wait, just one more:
It’s funny, I don’t even think the Punisher and Daken had met up to this point in the comics.
You see boys and girls, this is what happens when a “new” writer (Rick Remender) takes charge of a character (The Punisher), while at the same time receiving orders from the higher-ups in the company to “push” a brand new character (Daken).
At least, that’s how they do things in pro-wrestling anyway.
Yeah, that didn’t go so hot.
I’ve never been a reader of “suit” Punisher stories.
I always found the idea of a PG-13 Punisher a little bit strange given the fact that he generally shoots people to shit every chance he gets.
“Max” Punisher however, is something I read religiously until Garth Ennis left the series.
I bought this comic because, well, IGN gave it a high rating. That, and I genuinely cared to see how they went about killing off the Punisher, even if it was just the “suit” Punisher.
I can’t say I was impressed by the storytelling in this comic, but I will say this, John Romita Jr. knows how to draw violence.
I’ve always felt that Romita Jr.’s finest moments came almost 20 years ago, (his blocky characters seem a little raggedy nowadays, too much so) but the sheer violence and spectacle of this, a one-shot with a relatively small budget and production timetable, is pretty damn impressive by anyone’s standards.
Anyway, it’s been fun, hopefully it was as good for you as it was for me.
With that, I leave you with this preview image for the first cover to Rick Remender’s follow-up story for the Punisher: FrankenCastle.
Oh wait, out of those three, only Uncle Ben has actually stayed dead.
Oh well, comics are convoluted bullshit, but I love ‘em anyway.