Punisher War Journal #1-3 (1988-1989)

Here’s how you know we’re heading into the overmuscled, dark and violent 1990s: Punisher has two monthly books.  What’s odd is how different he is in the two.  In War Journal, he’s more of a “person.” 


He acts friendly with Microchip, and we see his inner thoughts in fluffy white bubbles instead of through the stark narrative captions in the other book.  And he’s nice.  Like helping a couple raise a retarded child.

The panel above, where he’s flying a kite, reflects this change: War Journal is the “human” side of Punisher.  And these first three issues tie to his origin, connecting up some Contra arms deals to the original mob hit that killed Frank Castle’s family.

Daredevil shows up and tries to help Punisher, but he sends him packing—because he’d rather kill than play nice.

What’s really nice about issue #1 is how they re-tell the origin, in a series of wide-and-narrow panels across the bottom of every page of the issue. They’re reproduced below.

There’s also a lot of wordless panels, and most words are the inner-dialogue boxes (rather than thought bubbles), reflecting the movement towards more mature and less cartoony storytelling–as well as the continued “over-explaining” style of Stan Lee that was also promoted by Jim Shooter.

But don’t get the impression that the entire story is artsy…

There’s plenty of violence.

And fighting.

And death.

The story introduces the Shadowmaster group, including Yuriko Ezaki, Rikichi, and Phillip Richards. I’m just tagging “Shadowmasters” for all appearances of members of the group because they’re not important enough to tag as individuals. They will get a miniseries in 1991, but after that they pretty much disappear.

The credits are cool too. Carl Potts did both writing and breakdowns, by the way.

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