Friday, January 12, 2018

To Topple the Kingpin

The Punisher Magazine #11-12 (Marvel, June-July 1990, $2.25)
I don't understand why they published The Punisher Magazine. I always thought the reason to go magazine format was to bypass restrictions from the Comics Code Authority, to do things you couldn't do in a comic book. You also benefit from a larger page size and the rich moodiness enabled by black and white on newsprint—perfect for horror and adventure.

As Marvel's answer to Mack Bolan, the Punisher seemed ripe for a more mature newsstand magazine, like the mid-'80s Savage Tales. But this wasn't it. Instead, the magazine reprinted issues of the comic book (these two issue reprint #15-18). That's fine—the comic's not bad—but colored artwork isn't always well suited for black-and-white reproduction, and Portacio's art is a little hash-marky for B&W.

#11: "To Topple the Kingpin" Script: Mike Baron, Layout: Whilce Portacio, Finishes: Scott Williams, Letters: Ken Bruzenak, Editor: Carl Potts, Under a Heavy Load: Tom DeFalco.

The Punisher goes after the Kingpin after routing a youth gang in a high school. Building his own Able Team, he enlists the help of Microchip ("Buckminster Fuller's my idol."), a high school student, a chemistry teacher, and too-fleeting love interest Conchita Ortiz. Meanwhile, the Kingpin brings in the specialist Mr. Kliegg.

"Escalation" Script: Mike Baron, Layout: Whilce Portacio, Finished Art: Scott Williams, Letters: Ken Bruzenak, Editor: Carl Potts, Editor with Ammo: Tom DeFalco.

Kliegg is quickly defeated, so the Kingpin turns to a high-school computer hacker, the Board, who discovers the computer bug planted by Microchip. The team takes their fight to the King's Inn, a hotel in which the Kingpin has momentarily moved his operations. "The Kingpin's got some kind of battle bus!"

The issue also includes a one-page pin up by Dan Reed, and a letter column, "Shoot Your Mouth Off!"

Read Also: The Punisher Magazine #6, 9, and 10. (Unless the issue reference captions went un-edited from the original comics, in which case, read also The Punisher #6, 9, and 10.)

#12: "Computer War" Script: Mike Baron, Layouts: Whilce Portacio, Finishes: Scott Williams, Letters: Ken Bruzenak, Edits: Carl Potts, Chief: Tom DeFalco.

The battle continues on the road, with the Punisher's team in a van and the Kingpin in a battle bus. While the two groups trade gunfire, Microchip tries to hack into the Kingpin's vehicle computer, but the Board stops him. After crashing into the water, the Punisher regroups at a safe house in New Jersey over anchovies and mushroom pizza.

The Kingpin brings in a couple of Asian accountants to help him with his bookkeeping while the computers are down, and the accountants bring Mr. Lem, a "most skilled assassin" with some psychic abilities. "Mr. Lem has an almost uncanny ability to outguess his opponents." Mr. Lem tracks down the Punisher's safe house and kills Ortiz before falling to the Punisher.

"Face Off" Script: Mike Baron, Layouts: Whilce Portacio, Finished Art: Scott Williams, Letters: Ken Bruzenak, Edits: Carl Potts, Leery of Skateboards: Tom DeFalco.

The Board plans to defect from the Kingpin's organization, offering to help Microchip and the Punisher. The team takes the fight to the Kingpin, who proves a worthy opponent—but not one to turn down a good deal.

Of the issues so far, "Computer War" had the most art worthy of black and white: pp. 6-7 and pp. 18-21. This issue also features a one-page pin up drawn by Don Perlin and inked by the impressive Jack Abel—also making the magazine worthwhile—as well as a one page "Shoot Your Mouth Off!" letter column. The letter column includes a couple of missives requesting original stories rather than reprints, and an editorial response suggests the magazine would publish original work soon. Regardless, the magazine folded after #16 and was reprints to the bitter end.

Availability: These stories have not been reprinted otherwise. We recommend The Essential Punisher Vol. 1 and The Essential Punisher Vol. 2.

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