Ah, the 90’s.
If you were a comics fan during this decade, chances are you picked up something that was just overflowing with testosterone, whether it be big guns, big boobs, or tiny, tiny waists and ankles. If you don’t know what that means, I refer you to the amazing works of Rob Lifeld. Comics in the 90s were like action films of…well, the 90’s: big, boisterous, super-violent and without a single trace of logic. Good times.
In 1992, Marvel Comics published an imprint dubbed Marvel 2099, which featured futuristic takes on a number of their most popular properties: Spider-Man, Hulk, the X-Men, and even Dr. Doom received the 2099 treatment. And so, of course, did the Punisher. This Punisher, despite the resemblance, is not Frank Castle, who is long dead and gone as we learn late into the issue. This ‘roid-infused vigilante is Jake Gallows, a cop whose family is gunned down in front of him (even in the future, origins are derivative) and when their murderer is allowed to walk, decides to take matters into his own hands.
The story doesn’t take every cue from Castle’s origin but it may have benefitted from making the “hero’s” loss more tragic. Rather than losing his wife and children, Gallows sees his mom, brother, and sister-in-law killed before his very eyes. Not that it isn’t tragic but it just seems like there could have been a greater emotional connection to the character had his loss been greater. The ways in which the characters are dispatched are weird; books under the Comic’s Code Authority were not allowed to show much, if any blood, and violence was much more subdued back then. One of the characters is blasted by a weapon that seems to hypnotize the character, while simultaneously blowing them to pieces. Or something. It’s weird.
The story, by Pat Mills and Tony Skinner, is fairly one-note: it starts by showing the Punisher in action, brandishing some ridiculous but pretty rad weaponry, before delving into flashbacks to show how he came to be. They present their protagonist as basically Frank Castle but in the future and with crazy armor. He also seems to be pretty much on his own; no mention of superheroes apart from the fact that his family are members of the Church of Thor. Yep, Thor has his own church because that’s how Gods work. Tom Morgan’s very dated art doesn’t fare much better as it’s all typically 90’s: every single character looks like an extra from a Van Damme movie, while Gallows looks exactly like his predecessor, with little to set the two apart. It’s also interesting to note the giant skull emblazoned on his entire torso, with the teeth coming to rest seemingly as armor on his crotch.
Gallow’s decent into becoming an anti-hero is not without merit and certainly when we discover, through one final flashback, that Gallows has in his possession Frank Castle’s War Journal, his transformation is complete, if not a little formulaic. In the last page of the journal, Castle beckons the reader to “carry on [his] work.” Gallows certainly does and while it’s entertaining, he’s not your daddy’s Punisher. And ultimately, that’s a shame.
In the book’s defense, that might just be the best line ever written.