Damaging Evidence - Part One
Credits: Carl Potts (writer), Gary Erskine (artist), Marie Javins (colors), Richard Starkings w/John Gaushell (letters)
Summary: The Punisher kills one of the Kingpin’s hitmen, and is soon drawn into a larger firefight. During the fight, one of the gunmen is killed in front of his son, and the Punisher is hit by the Sniper. The Kingpin responds to the attack by hiring the Reavers to kill the Punisher. Wolverine overhears the assignment while fighting Reese in Hong Kong and decides to warn the Punisher. Meanwhile, the Kingpin’s cyborg Damage is repaired with technology provided by Donald Pierce. Later, the Punisher is framed for killing bystanders during an attack. He travels to the scene of the crime and discovers a mysterious van.
Continuity Notes: There’s no indication in this issue, but future chapters will note that this story takes place prior to Uncanny X-Men #248-281 (i.e. before the Reavers crucified Wolverine and the X-Men disbanded) and Daredevil #296-300 (i.e. before the fall of the Kingpin). This means the story’s set a good four years before the miniseries was actually published.
Approved By The Comics Code Authority: Numerous “damn”s and “hell”s in this issue, which was extremely rare for a mainstream Marvel comic at the time (although still considered tame enough for Code approval).
Review: This is an odd artifact. A Wolverine/Punisher team-up miniseries should’ve been a huge deal, especially in 1993, but I don’t recall any promotion for this title. In fact, I don’t think I knew it existed until I saw all three issues sealed together in a comic pack at Wal-Mart. And even at the height of my X-completism, I didn’t take the bait. Something about this miniseries just seemed off to me, even though I couldn’t quite pinpoint why. Reading it today for the first time, my suspicions were confirmed. I just don’t believe this went through the normal editorial channels of Marvel of this day. The minor profanity, the lettering, and the art make me wonder if this was initially produced as a Marvel UK book. The presence of Carl Potts, regular writer of Punisher War Journal and one-time Punisher editor, is a hole in that theory, though. My other hypothesis is that this began as a graphic novel, but was cut up into a three-part miniseries after Marvel abandoned the format. The extremely abrupt ending to this issue would seem to indicate this.
I knew none of this at the time, of course. I just knew that this book came out of seeming nowhere, and Wolverine looked utterly bizarre on the covers. Wolverine’s hair might be the lasting legacy of this book. We’ve seen some odd interpretations of Wolverine over the years, but only Gary Erskine seemed to think it was a good idea to portray Wolverine as if he just walked out of José Eber’s salon. “I’m the best there is at what I do…but even I need help in the battle against split ends,” Wolverine read awkwardly off of the cue card, still annoyed at Cher for stepping all over his lines in the first read-through.
Judging the issue on its own merits, it reads as an average Punisher comic from this era. I’ve read much better from Carl Potts, but a mediocre Punisher story from Potts is still pretty entertaining. The pacing of the issue is a little odd, as the subplot about the Punisher being framed for killing civilians comes out of nowhere in the final two pages, but I suspect that’s because the story wasn’t intended to be read in twenty-two page installments. Even though Wolverine has top billing here, it’s not surprising that the story’s biased toward the Punisher’s continuity, given Potts’ history with the character. I do remember the Sniper and Damage from the early issues of Punisher War Journal, but I don’t recall the Sniper working for Kingpin, nor do I remember Damage as a white cyborg (he was a black gang leader in the issues I remember). Using the Reavers as a connection between the two anti-heroes makes sense, given that they were always intended as Wolverine adversaries and ended up as minor members of the Punisher’s rogues gallery in the late ‘80s. Nothing feels forced so far, and aside from some reservations about Erskine’s art, this is at least a competent start for the miniseries.