Monday, November 19, 2012

"My Boyfriend's A Crackhead...BRRRRR!"

The Punisher is a character I really started to appreciate after reading Garth Ennis's take, after binge-reading volumes of Hellblazer and Preacher. I've since read all of the Ennis Punisher material, and now and again buy random issues of the various Punisher comics I think could be fun to read. One such random issue was The Punisher War Journal # 28, from March 1991, written by Mike Baron with art by 'Tex', lettering by Jom Novak and colors by Greg Wright. I found the cover and interior art to be up to snuff, so I added it in my 15 comics for $10 pile. 

The cover, by Michael Golden

This issue threw me for a loop about a half dozen times. Is it a comment on over zealous protesters, who frown upon people that eat meat? Or perhaps a creed against the meat industry, where The Punisher starts out a meat eater but ends up on the side of the animals? Read on, dear reader, to find out!

The story begins outside of Bruno's Steakhouse, where protesters are gathered behind a police cordon, protesting...people that eat meat. Our hero, The Punisher (a.k.a Frank Castle) is meeting an ex girlfriend, Joy, for dinner. Even though The Punisher doesn't wear a mask, I guess in this series it isn't yet common knowledge that Frank Castle is indeed the mass murdering Punisher, who I am sure has been all over national news. When Joy asks Frank what he's been doing with himself, he replies "You don't want to know, it isn't pretty." Which is a completely normal response to that question and, of course, would not prompt ANY follow up questions. Joy cackles and manically tells Frank that she is seeing Cole Grist, the 'Biggest Meat Packer in the state', and tells Frank she hopes he can meet him. 

Once outside after a dinner that "hit the spot," with Joy in her fur coat, they are confronted by the extreme anti-meat protesters. 

Did they not notice the protesters when they went INTO the restaurant?

After dousing Joy's coat with red paint, Frank decks a protester with a mighty PTHMM! (actual sound effect they used) and guides Joy through the crowd, while a stander-by congratulates Frank for giving the self-righteous prigs a 'poke'. Frank thanks him for his support, with a Grinch-like grin.  It's here that the book throws me for the first loop. Joy gets a call from Cole, her meat packing beau, and we find that an extremist animal rights group, The Animal Liberation Army, rigged his mailbox to explode, and sadly (although fortunately for Cole) the mailman was killed instead, and I expect the Punisher will be facing off against militant vegans. But is that the whole story?

Cole hires Frank to be his bodyguard, per Joy's suggestion. Frank goes with the happy couple to a social club, where they eat every Saturday night, complete with protesters, again. Seems Cole's country club only allows whites. (Why is Frank guarding this man again? And why is Joy ok with going to a place like that?) Cole asks the cops not to coddle the protesters  and proclaims that he would like to "Rip their lungs out"...what is that sniffle Cole lets out? Does he have a cold? At the club, Cole runs into a "slimy union official" and makes a meeting with him later, at his meat packing plant. Cole also keeps getting up to use the bathroom, which prompts Frank to wonder if Cole has a coke problem.

Hmmm I wonder if this development will come up later?

After dinner, Cole goes to his meet with the slimy union guy, at the meat packing plant, and tells Frank and Joy to wait in the car. Needless to say, Frank and Joy don't wait in the car, and follow Cole. They come across some of the Animal Liberation Army folks, who happen to carry membership cards.
Do they get decoder rings too?

Frank dispatches one ALA member, only to come across another, with a gun, trying to get into the plant. Frank and Joy get the drop on him, and he explains he was only trying to save the animals, and a few panels show some of the inhumane conditions the animals undergo at Cole Grist's plant. So maybe the bad guys aren't the Animal Liberation Army? Is Frank Castle going to side with them? It seems that way after it comes out that Cole Grist is also connected to the mob...but before the ALA goon can elaborate, Cole appears out of nowhere with a machine gun and mows the animal rights guy down.

It seems the union rep Cole came to meet tried to kill him, and now Cole has gone off the deep end, and suspects that Frank and Joy are having a little fling. Turns out Cole IS on drugs, as Joy so eloquently states while hiding in a freezer...

Frank leaves Joy hiding in the freezer and goes after Cole, and finds the union guy dead. Turns out he and Cole were freebasing, and got into an argument over drug money. Nothing more about the Plant, or the Animal Liberation front, is brought up for the rest of this comic. Suddenly its about a drug problem gone haywire. Cole captures Joy, and lures Frank out for a showdown. Frank, unarmed, confronts Cole, but Joy pushes a button and a meat hook grabs Cole from behind. At this point, Cole is subdued and unarmed, but The Punisher decides he needs to stab Cole in the stomach with a nearby knife, for good measure, and quips "I guess this means I'm out of a job." Yeah, I guess so, Frank.


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