Each day in November, I will read and review/discuss/whatever one comic taken from a box of some of my childhood comics. Today, we kick things off with The Punisher 2099 #1.
The Punisher 2099 #1 by Pat Mills, Tony Skinner, and Tom Morgan was the fourth series in the 2099 line of books, which followed Spider-Man 2099, Ravage 2099, and Doom 2099. I didn’t buy this issue when it first came out, I got it at some point after — I’m actually not sure when. Looking at the credits, I’m given hope by Pat Mills being a co-writer since his work on Marshal Law and Judge Dredd suggests that he’s got the right sensibilities for a Punisher-like character.
It’s not a bad read, really. In 2099, money is all that matters — the issue begins with a man being chased by street surgeons and calling for police assistance, but he’s four days behind on his payments. He swears he’ll wire them the money on Friday, so they say they’ll send an officer… on Friday. The street surgeons catch up with him and beginning harvesting his organs only to be interrupted by a heavily-armed man who calls himself the Punisher. He slaughters them with guns and a ‘power bat,’ which basically is a baseball with adjustable density. We cut to police headquarters where special agent Jake Gallows has been brought in to help with the investigation into these Punisher killings.
Of course, Jake Gallows is the Punisher.
On all of the security tapes, the Punisher’s face is blocked out with a digital skull graphic and they recount some of his crimes: killing these flying people who were dropping children from the sky, but were untouchable thanks to their wealth; a techno-shaman put a computer virus into a hospital, killing patients, was sentenced to having 15 years taken off his life, but the Punisher uses a plasma gas cannon to burn him alive despite his protective energy bubble; and this asshole burned down a house full of ‘degens’ (mentally impaired, genetically damaged people), but that’s legal since degens have no rights as people, so the Punisher bashes him across the back of the head and then threatens to burn him alive if he doesn’t transfer all of his money to the ‘degen help fund’… and then shoots him in the head. The cops wonder if he’s out to be competition or is working for the mob — when Jake brings up the idea that he believes in justice, the cops all react with shock and scorn.
We then get the origin of Jake Gallows: he was a cop who met his mom, brother and his brother’s fiancee/wife/girlfriend (it’s unclear) at the zoo (which has dinosaurs!) only to have a group of criminals kill the entire family save Jake because the leader, Kron Stone sees that families are really lies, they’re not happy, they are just groups where people are cruel and awful to one another. For punishment, he’s fined a huge sum of money, but he can afford that because he comes from an insanely rich family. We find out that Jake and his brother collected old weapons and stuff like that, including coming across the journal of a man named Frank Castle, upon whom Jake draws his inspiration…
It’s a pretty solid first issue as everything you need to know is laid out. The Punisher in 2099 isn’t simply doing the job cops are unable to do now thanks to the law, he’s doing the job that the cops refuse to do because of systematic corruption. Where ideals of law and due process prevent criminals from adequate punishment now (in some eyes), Mills and Skinner up the ante by taking capitalism to its logical endpoint where the gap between the rich and the poor is so great that the rich are literally above the law in an overt fashion. If the Punisher now seems an extreme psycho, Jake Gallows comes across as a bit more legitimate since his world is more corrupt and in need of some justice — he goes too far, of course, but it seems almost measured, counter-balanced by society.
Kron Stone is an interesting villain — the scene where Astra (Jake’s brother’s wife/whatever) questions why he’s doing it and protests that they are a truly happy family, Kron’s answers are chilling. He knows what families do behind closed doors: “Cruel things.” And, if they are happy, it won’t last, so he’s doing them a favour by killing them now while they are happy. It’s twisted and insane, but in that way where you could see how someone could develop those ideas. I have a feeling that, in future issues, we learn that Kron suffered abuse of some kind in his past.
Tom Morgan’s art is very hit-or-miss here. The panel where Kron says “Cruel things” is absolutely genius, but a lot of it is very rough and generic. But, the storytelling is strong, very clear, and effective. He’s good at showing emotion in that obvious way — which kind of works.
Actually, reading this issue, I’m kind of curious as to where the series went after. It’s not a fantastic read, but it’s intriguing enough to make me want to see if it introduced other ideas about the future. One idea that’s raised here that I always liked about the 2099 universe is the Church of Thor, which the Gallows are members of (Jake’s brother’s name is Baldur). That will come up again when, on the final Sunday of the month, I do a reread review on the “Fall of the Hammer” crossover that the 2099 titles had. We’ll see how revisiting this book 10 or 12 issues later is.