“Good Deeds, Bad Seeds”
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Review: This series pits Punisher against Hammerhead, the latest in a long line of potential Kingpins who see Wilson Fisk’s removal from Hell’s Kitchen as an opportunity to make a play for control of the criminal underworld of Daredevil’s chosen parish. The opening of this issue presents Frank Castle’s assassination attempt on Hammerhead foiled by the less psychopathic DD, and as the Punisher’s attempts to peel back the layers of Hammerhead’s criminal organisation continue, Matt Murdock remains on his trail to stop any unnecessary deaths. As old-time Spidey villain The Jackal makes a surprise appearance, the Punisher – now with a $10 million bounty on his head - bides his time before making his presence known to the local criminal community, exacting retribution on a racketeering gang in revenge for their crimes.
It’s clear that this miniseries isn’t going to be a simple, generic character vs. character story, in which a misunderstanding between two heroes leads to a fight before they team up against a common villain. This promises to be an altogether more philosophical affair, examining exactly what makes the two heroes’ approaches to crime different from one another. Whereas typical Spider-Man/Punisher stories have shared a similar dynamic, Spidey’s age, lack of experience, and very different character history always make the pairing come off as mismatched and the two characters difficult to compare on an equal playing field. Pitting Matt Murdock against Castle, however, is a much more inspired choice. The two have a history together which dates back to DD’s heyday under the pen of Frank Miller; both characters have had enough personal tragedy in their lives at the hands of ruthless criminals to feel motivated to fight the underworld on their own terms; and, crucially, both are mature adults who know exactly what they’re doing, and disagree fundamentally on how to do it. For this reason, I’m eager to see a little more connection, exchange or direct conflict between the two characters next issue. Daredevil is used sparingly here - his presence always an effective deterrent to Castle, but never getting a chance to really state his own case – and as such, I’d be keen to see the two sides explored a little more fully.
The artwork is solid and consistent, setting a strong mood even if some of the colouring and thick linework gives it too much of a cartoony tone to really sit easily with either Punisher or Daredevil’s main titles at the moment. Whilst the “new Kingpin” plot seems fairly generic, having been explored more than once since Bendis ousted Wilson Fisk from his seat of power, a lot will rest on how Lapham decides to play out the story. Telling the tale predominantly from Castle’s point of view was a surprising choice, as it risks alienating fans such as myself who have bought into the series through an interest in Daredevil rather than the Punisher. However, Lapham makes it work, letting us in on DD’s perspective via some third-person narration (I especially enjoyed the line about how he hates the Punisher for making him “defend the lowest scum of the city”), even if we never get a direct insight into what’s on Matt’s mind. It’s also fun to see how Punisher views Daredevil, as all too often it’s assumed that the heroes of the Marvel Universe are happy in each others’ company: here, Matt plagues Frank like the Devil, and it’s apparent that some of Matt’s urban legend status may even have rubbed off on the hard-as-nails vigilante, despite his tough demeanour.
What's always frustrating about these kind of crossovers is that you know that however ruthless and destructive the Punisher might be able to be in his own title, once a shared Universe comes into play it becomes a lot more difficult to make any kind of lasting changes to the characters involved. Daredevil and Hammerhead (and to a lesser extent, Jackal) would seem to be on relatively safe ground – so just for once, it’d be nice to see Marvel editorial policy surprise us, and allow a mini like this to have some overall significance on the characters by the time the series is over. However, what’s really piqued my interest in the title is not “lasting effects” or “nothing will be the same again” – rather, it’s the promise of a clash of distinct crime-fighting ideologies which is bound to come to the fore when Daredevil learns of the events of this issue and returns to haunt the Punisher again. Just include a little more DD next time please!
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