I’ve often joked about launching people into space to make sequels or spin-offs to tired concepts that just won’t seem to die an honorable death. It worked “wonders” for Jason Voorhees, Dino Crisis, and even Dracula, among countless others. It’s a concept that is so insane that you can’t help but be interested, even if just to satisfy some morbid curiosity about how much of a train wreck it could possibly be. Once you launch your franchise into outer space, you’re basically admitting that you’re completely out if ideas.
Imagine John McLane floating around in a space suit spouting one liners. It’s Christmas Eve, and an unnamed space station has been hijacked by Russian terrorists. If their demands aren’t met they will detonate the station, sending it crashing into the heart of New York City, killing an unspecified amount of people. Our only hope is a balding actor who is way past his prime. It’s a good thing sagging Hollywood stars never know when to call it quits. Die Hard 6: Die Even Harder.
Sounds like something you would go to see, right? It’s so absurd that it can’t POSSIBLY be a waste of your time! The idea works precisely BECAUSE it’s such a gigantic departure from the realm of normalcy. What happens when you apply this to The Punisher?
As much as I hate to say it as a fan, The Punisher is the kind of character who’s been around for so long, and has such a basic concept behind him that most writers tend to resort to silly things to try and keep him fresh. There are only so many books that you could write about a man shooting mobsters before you start having him kill roach people with a chainsaw or die and be rebuilt as a Frankenstein monster. Unfortunately he’s a lot like Carnage: his comics are stale, but he looks damn good on a T-shirt or a poster.
The absurdity has come full circle, with writers using the Punisher books as a way to poke some lighthearted fun at this concept. Introducing an intergalactic mafia was part of Frank Tieri’s original pitch to take over as writer on the main Punisher series, since he had it in his mind that aliens might make their way to Earth, and Frank Castle would be called into action in a “Not on my planet!” kind of a way. Thankfully the Space Punisher miniseries exists outside of the 616 universe.
The comic begins with Frank Castle storming a Brood ship and getting attacked. These aren’t those same lame aliens that the X-Men fight, however. These guys are even dumber. These guys have Symbiotes.
The Sym-Brood-Ants (Frank Tieri’s words, not mine) express an interest in interior decorating, using Frank’s internal organs, but Castle isn’t very fond of his own evisceration. Being a resourceful guy, he uses a sonic gun and laser combo to incinerate them instead.
The “Sound and Fury” (again, Tieri’s words, not mine) just aren’t cutting the mustard, however. The Punisher is being overrun and insists that his smart-assed robot sidekick, Chip, gets their “shiny metal ass” in there to help him.
The two exchange some banter before the Brood Queen (who also has a Symbiote, of course) decides that she wants in on the trash talking, and attacks The Punisher. Some more badly written one liners are exchanged while Chip downloads some MP3s off of the Brood computer and plants a bomb. Why would these guys even have a computer? They use giant sentient space fish as ships.
Frank fights the Brood Queen off with a Lightsaber and has his ship’s A.I. beam him and his sidekick to safety, moments before the bomb explodes. Not ten pages in and we’ve already referenced Buck Rogers, Aliens, Star Trek, AND Star Wars.
Back on Frank Castle’s ship, named after Frank’s deceased wife Maria, The Punisher gets patched up and brags a bit to his robot entourage. We learn that he’s on a mission to kill every member of a space Mafia called the Six-fingered Hand and get his hands on their leader to avenge his family’s murder. We also learn that it took him eight years to find one of these guys. How much do you want to bet that he blows through the other five in record time?
Deciphering the files that Chip downloaded off of the Symbiote/Brood computer, our hero learns that he wants to be after a guy named The Barracuda, and he knows just where to look. Frank sets a course for The Starjammer, a space nightclub, where he plans on meeting with it’s owner, Corsair, to get information on The Barracuda’s whereabouts. Yes, Corsair is Cyclops’ father, although that’s probably not true in this continuity. In this continuity he prefers to have sex with space horses, space mermaids, space furries, space chickens, space men, space centaurs, and even space blobs.
The Punisher shows up and starts asking questions, but when he lays hands on Corsair, things get ugly. A bodyguard tries to strong arm Castle, and gets nuked by an orbital laser for the inconvenience. While standing over two smoking feet with no body attached to them, Frank explains that the laser came from his ship, and that he has no problem killing anyone else that wants to start some trouble.
We get a good look at The Punisher’s design here, and I gotta say I’m digging the whole Flash Gordon thing he has going on with the wrist bands and the cape. It’s surprisingly fitting.
Six hours later Frank arrives at The Barracuda’s safe house and kills at least a dozen people off panel. He interrogates a barely surviving Barracuda to get some data, threatening him with Skrull Piss or something, and the half dead villain quits playing hardball when Castle offers to cut his life line. After watching some fish porn, The Punisher learns the identities of the five remaining members of the Six-Fingered Hand: Space Dr. Octopus, The Space Green Goblin, Space Magneto, The Space Red Skull, and Space Ultron. It’s worth noting that in regular continuity Barracuda is one of Frank’s low-lever recurring villains, so his treatment here is rather fitting, and re-imagining him as a literal sea creature is right in line with the campiness of this book.
Suddenly Space Sabertooth, Space Deadpool, and The Space Leader crash the party. They’re the deadliest hitmen that the Space Mafia has, and they’re not interested in fish porn. It looks like The Punisher has gotten himself into a “sticky situation”, but the issue ends before the big battle, leaving a lot of unanswered questions. Will The Barracuda get the Skrull piss that he needs to survive? Why does Space Deadpool look exactly like his Uncanny X-Force counterpart, except with gun hands? Is there still fish porn playing on the computer screen? We’ll have to hold out until the next issue to find out!