Issues in Comics: Daredevil vs. Punisher

 

DD-Punisher

For those infinitely more interested in the coming war between two street-level New York vigilantes than the Man vs. God stylings of the gritty, dark, grim, bleak upcoming Batman/Superman film, this week is already an exciting one. Just yesterday, Netflix dropped the rather enticing trailer for Season 2 of Daredevil.

Check it out here for a first glimpse of Jon Bernthal’s Punisher, amongst other things.

Now, not to get too far into trailer analysis…but this is pretty promising thematically! Karen Page’s suggestion that perhaps the existence of Daredevil has been the catalyst for the emergence of other psychopathic heroes and villains alike is a crucial story beat best associated with Batman. It’s a brilliant theme that DC’s Gotham show has recklessly thrown away by featuring a full pageant of classic Batman rogues while Bruce Wayne is still a child. Origin story obsession strikes again.

The dominant theme in the Daredevil trailer, though, is the philosophical conflict between Daredevil and Punisher. Where Matt Murdock, the lawyer, remains firmly against killing, Frank Castle simply doesn’t care. He insists, in fact, that Daredevil isn’t doing enough, that Red Batman is just a ‘half measure’. As a war veteran who’s lost his family to mob violence, Frank Castle sees human deaths as the inevitable casualties of a real war on crime. It’s a solid exchange in the trailer and with any luck, this show’s second season will skew just as adult as the first and Jessica Jones did, allowing this to play out with real power and impact.

With The Punisher imminently destined to reach a wider audience than ever before, Marvel have ensured some of his best misadventures are available to keen readers right now. Punisher: The Complete Collection vol. 1 collects Castle’s Vietnam origin story and the first twelve issues of Garth Ennis’s Punisher MAX run, while Punisher vs. The Marvel Universe reads as a compilation ranging from 1976-present with a choice variety of writers and artists.

Most importantly though, and the real reason for this particular column: the Daredevil/Punisher conflict previewed in the Season 2 trailer is almost a direct lift from an absolutely astounding single issue from 1988 in Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr.’s run on the Daredevil title (#257) and its companion piece by Mike Baron and Whilce Portacio in Punisher #10. Baron’s dialogue lays out the argument between the two characters with precision, while Nocenti and Romita’s silent re-presentation of the same scene from the perspective of the crook caught in the middle works as a critical commentary on the self-indulgence of superhero ethics. Executed perfectly, it’s an exemplary crossover. Both issues are collected in the Daredevil Epic Collection vol. 13: A Touch of Typhoid. The Nocenti/Romita run has been covered before over here, and also over here. HINT: it’s unparalleled.

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If the TV show can bring a measure of this kind of critical and thematic awareness as its trailer threatens, March 18th ought to be a real calendar highlight next month.

Adam Karenina Sherif