Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Punisher Holiday Special!

There are so many classic Christmas stories out there. You have the story of Ralphie and his wish for the elusive Red Ryder BB gun, the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge through the Ghosts of Christmas, and the story of how Clark W. Griswold and his family were almost arrested for kidnapping. However, none of them are as epic as the time the Punisher had to take on a bunch of goons in a shopping mall on Christmas Eve. This is going to be a long one, so grab some snacks and a cup of your favorite hot beverage while Mr. Stunt Zombie reads you a Christmas story.

I can't say this about too many issues of The Punisher, but this cover is just beautiful. I feel like I've been thrust into the branches of a Christmas tree, while the Punisher kicks all kinds of ass behind me. For all I know, my ass was kicked too, and that's how I ended up face first in the tree. I like how there are reflections of the Punisher in the ornaments as he spreads his Christmas cheer all over the walls. I feel like they could have left out the distorted view of his face on the bottom though, that's just creepy. My favorite part of the whole cover has to be the Punisher skull up in the top left corner wearing a Santa hat. I like to think that Frank has a red and green sweater with his skull emblem on the front, just for the missions he takes during the holidays.

The story starts off with the well permed Little Tony Caruso putting out a hit on our favorite vigilante for killin' his pa. He decides to get Rudy, his least qualified lackey, to carry out the job. Still, when you're dealing with a guy that has hair like that, you can't help but do what he says. Seriously, the guy puts Rick James' do to shame. Maybe his family specializes in running black market hair care products instead of drugs.

The next scene, we find the Punisher eavesdropping on a conversation between some of New York City's street level thugs. Apparently, Free Love has been dealing out junk, and the other two gentlemen aren't happy with the quality of his goods. It's only thanks to a well time burst of submachine gun fire into a chimney that the hippie doesn't end up faceplanted on the pavement. Just as he's about to receive a gift of 9mm's in his face, hippie boy spills some info on Little Tony and his plan to hit the new mall on Christmas Eve. Who is this guy, the Grinch? Anyway, the Punisher is satisfied with the intel, so he lets the hippie live..

Right up until he punches him off the roof. I guess there's a chance he could pull himself back up on the roof, but being a low level street dealer, I doubt he has time to hit the gym. I'm going to consider this kill number 1.

Kill Count: 1

So, Frank goes to the mall, does some quick shopping, and then hides out under a sports car in the food court. Rudy's men are working as security guards, and they finish ushering out all the shoppers and lock up the place. The Punisher starts to realize something is wrong when they lock all their gates and still haven't made a move to steal the mall's money.

Since he was getting a little bored hanging out under the car, Frank decides to go retrieve his bag o' weapons. When he gets to the locker where he hid his guns, he finds it missing. Rudy and his guys have been watching him the entire time. Before he has time to get truly pissed, some of the goons rush up on him firing away. They're all rank amateurs though, and Frank makes quick work of them, easily taking out two more.

Kill Count: 3

Fourteen of them and now there's only eleven left? Oops..Maybe he means they're just out of commission, rather than all out dead. I mean, the guy holding his guts in against the bloody wall is still talking, so he can't be totally deceased yet. I don't know, it's hard to tell exactly what's going on here. Still, I'm sure the Punisher can count, so...

Kill Count: 3 4

One of the Rent-A-Goons manages to wing Frank, but he doesn't seem to notice or even care. He just wants to go for a ride.

The Punisher, trying to even the odds a bit, takes off in the sports car. He doesn't get far before he crashes into the escalators only a short distance away. Rudy's right, what a jerk. That car didn't do anything to him, was it really necessary to destroy it? Maybe Frank figured if he couldn't have it, nobody else should either. Rudy's men close in, ready to finish off the Punisher, but instead they find...a gun jammed against the accelerator. The gun knew he was on a suicide mission, so he made Frank promise he would make his death loud and explodey. When the Punisher makes a promise to a gun, he keeps it, and the ensuing blast takes out 6 more goons.

Kill Count: 10

Frank decides to try and even the playing field by knocking out the power and the security cameras. Martz, one of Rudy's men, notices the second floor has had a break-in. That Martz. He's in the middle of a mob hit, and he still finds the time to do his job as mall security. Such dedication. As they're searching the second floor, Martz asks his partner if he can smell blood. Apparently, it's a handy skill to have as a killer. Just then, Martz says he can hear someone breathing. He can smell his blood.

Err..her blood. Geez Martz, way to make things awkward. She almost looks like she could be Little Tony Caruso's kid with that curly red fro she's got going on there. The guy that grabbed her has quite the do as well. Is that part of the requirements for joining the Caruso mob? Everyone must get perms? Perm goon is about to do the young lady in, when a knife mysteriously appears in his kidney. Martz, understandably upset that a knife just ended up in his buddy's back, freaks out a bit and starts "blamming" off some rounds in a random direction. The girl gets away, sneaking into a crawlspace.

Kill Count: 11

She ends up in the same crawlspace as the Punisher, who is slightly perturbed about having his nap disturbed. Gotta sleep light when you're doing the good work. Martz, still freaked out from his friend spontaneously sprouting a knife from his back, is ready to call it quits. All he wants to do is go home, drink some liquor, and try to forget the night all his crime buddies were gunned down by Frank Castle. Rudy's having none of that though. They have a job to do, and he plans on seeing it through.
Right about this time, Frank remembers he's been shot, and decides to administer first aid on himself. Red Fro tells him that she ran away from home months ago, and has been hiding out in the mall since then. Frank gives her some advice, ending with this little tidbit:

Thanks Frank, good talk.I bet she didn't have a good excuse for running away, like an abusive father or something.  I'm sure he was ready with more threats advice, but he was interrupted by the sounds of muffled explosions.

Frank and Red Fro manage to sneak out of the vents, while Martz and yet another goon wait to ambush them. That's the problem with mob guys, they talk too damn much, and then completely miss it when their target runs behind them. Even a cold hearted vigilante has a sense of humor, and the Punisher is no different. Having long since run out of ammo, Frank starts tossing Christmas ornaments on Rudol....Rudy's head. Hey, those glass ornaments are no joke. If these guys were walking around without shoes on, they would have feet full of shards.

Cody always had a smart mouth, and tonight was no different. Cracking jokes at his boss' expense, he almost didn't hear the sound of pounding hooves getting closer. Seeing movement out of the corner of his eye, he quickly turned and saw the reindeer heading for him. Initially, Cody was excited about meeting Santa for the first time in his life, until he remembered that he'd been a naughty boy this year....

If there were a hall of fame for the Punisher's most ridiculous kills, this would have to be the main exhibit. Sadly, Cody will never get to see it, since he has a couple of reindeer swimming in his abdomen.

Kill Count: 12

At this point, Martz finds Cody impaled by Santa's sleigh, and he freaks out yet again. I kinda feel bad for Martz. He was just supposed to come in, kill some guy and go home. Now he's watching all of his friends die in a real life horror movie. He suggests they just save the Punisher the time and trouble and blow out their own brains. Rudy, who is getting more than a little crazy by this point, orders someone to go back up Martz, while everyone else meets back up at the burning car. The Punisher orders his young tag along to go to the car too. When she reminds him that they probably want to kill her too, the Punisher says she'll be safe as long as he's still alive. They'll just use her as a hostage to draw him out. Then they'll kill her. I think Frank was just tired of her following him around.

Honestly, the main reason I used this panel is for that store ad up there. Anabolic Warrior Doll w/ Steroid Induced Heart Failure action. Why aren't these a real thing?

Martz and his boys are able to get the jump on the Punisher and overpower him. Martz is getting a little tired of watching everyone die at this point, so he figures he'll take care of the Punisher right here. Frank, ever uncooperative, maneuvers one of Martz' partners in the way, causing him to take a jigsaw to the back.

I don't think something like that would be immediately fatal, but what the hell, I'll take it.

Kill Count: 13

As the Punisher is taking care of the other henchmen, Martz rudely interrupts him with a jigsaw to the shoulder. Understandably upset, Frank decides to show Martz how to safely handle a jigsaw.

Kill Count: 14

Somehow, Red Fro has managed to stay alive this entire time. I also can't help but notice that Rudy still has more men. So, either Frank miscounted, or they had to call in reinforcements. He may be a vigilante, but that doesn't mean he can't get into the giving spirit. At some point, he gave up his shirt to one of Rudy's poor henchmen. Unfortunately for the goon, his friends mistake him for their original target. If that wasn't the Punisher, then where did he go?

As an aside, I love the fact the gunfire noises sound the same as a cat hacking up a hairball.

Ah, there he is, in all his shirtless, hairy chested glory. I have to admit, it's nice to see a hero that isn't as smooth as a freshly waxed surfboard. With no regard to proper Christmas tree safety, the Punisher swings in on top of Rudy's men. They're all so shocked, they don't even think to start shooting at him.

Knowing that gravity is his real enemy, the Punisher slows himself down by driving his elbow into the chest of the nearest goon. Then he's able to shoot two more, literally causing one's head to explode. While we're here, I just want everyone to get a good look at the size of that tree. That's easily the size of the one in Rockefeller Center, if not larger. Just how high is the roof on this damn mall?

Kill Count: 16?

Rudy is the first and only person to see the Punisher actually run out of ammo. The look on Frank's face is just priceless. You can just tell this has never happened to him before. "I'm sorry Rudy, this is so awkward..when I have my gear I never run out of ammo.." Of course, Rudy is quick to show Frank that he still has plenty of bullets to ventilate his face.

Except, he didn't count on Red Fro being able to pick up a gun and jam it in his face. Ever vain, Rudy would rather make a deal with the Punisher than end up with fewer brain cells and extra holes in his head. He calls off his men, telling Frank that it's safe to go out. Not one to be fooled by smooth talking mobsters, Frank motivates Rudy to go first by lobbing a few bullets in his direction.

Well, I guess the Punisher technically kept his word. Rather than verify who they were shooting at, Rudy's men cut loose at the first person coming toward the doors. What if they had actually subdued the Punisher? Cripes, you can't find good help these days. With Rudy dead, Frank has what I think is another fault in logic. While Red Fro screams they need to leave,  Frank tells her that they aren't the mobster's problem anymore. Well, yeah. You still kinda are Frank. Rather than try leaving, they sit down and take a nap until dawn. I know New York City crime was bad, but wouldn't the cops be on their way by now? Even if there weren't any alarms, wouldn't there be some cops patrolling near or around the BRAND NEW mall Christmas Eve? Bah, whatever. I know the Punisher didn't technically shoot Rudy, but I'm counting it anyway.

Kill Count: Uh...17?

Christmas morning, Frank plays Santa and delivers a gift to Little Tony Caruso. He gives Tony a cryptic warning not leave his bed, and walks out. No doubt he was planning on spreading his Christmas cheer all over town. This leaves Tony, alone and frightened, doing his best Brad Pitt impression as he agonizes over opening the box. What's in there? Sadly, we'll never know..

The post credits ending sees Red, finding her way back home, only to be accosted by her asshole father. Empowered by watching the Punisher kill mob goons all night, Sandy has some surprises of her own; the police! She lets her dad know that things have changed, and the cops quickly arrest bad dad and lead him out of the house while Frank watches from a distance. The End.

Final Kill Count: 17 goons and 1 future victim of prison violence.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this heartwarming holiday tale, I know I sure did. It's almost a shame it was never made into a movie. It would be even better than Die Hard. Happy Holidays Punishing!


  1. Whoa!For a minute there i thought the guy from Hall and Oats was making a Punisher mag cameo appearance lol !Nothing beats a great Punisher read ;)

    1. Holy crap! I missed that. It looks just like Hall (or Oates).


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