Four months after Batman and Punisher’s first team up, they get another shot, and Punisher even gets top billing this time. But unfortunately for our dear Frank Castle, he’s not dealing with the raving craziness of pseudo-Batman/Azrael, a man who does not prepare for everything no matter how inane and weird. But despite the real Dark Knight jumping across rooftops, the Punisher’s still hanging out in Gotham City. His only supervillain Jigsaw teamed up with the Joker to do evil stuff, so he’s going have to stay for a while. In Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knight, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson, the issue goes pretty much like you’d expect.
Batman and Punisher, each not fond of the other, get two short fights. It’s bound to happen, y’know, because the Punisher shoots people once while Batman prefers instead to have bad guys get jump kicked over and over again for decades. More importantly, without all of Azrael’s armor and claws, we’re going to get a fair fight – at least as fair a fight from two fictional characters each with rabid, loyal fan bases who’ll rise up against the opposite comic book company if their boy loses.
Look, let’s be honest: the Punisher has probably saved far more lives than Batman has. Not in terms of catching civilians from burning buildings, but just in the sheer thousands of mobsters and criminals the Punisher has taken off the street. And it is in the thousands. Every issue he mows down at least one crowded restaurant or party full of bad guys. So with the climax of the book over complete, and all Punisher has to do is clean up whatever trash remains – you know what’s going to happen in the next three pages as soon as you take a look at the first. Of course Batman’s not going to let Punisher kill Joker, and of course it’s done in a very non-Batman way, but what else could possibly happen? The end result always ends with the status quo. That’s good business.
You’re about to witness a punch so full of rage and frustration that it needed a two-page spread. But rest easy knowing that you and the Punisher likely have the same opinion of Gotham City: it’s an insane, illogical, mess of a widly broken city filled the most insane, illogical, and definitely broken people. Plus, in New York City, superheroes dress as spiders instead of bats, the way a civilized society should be.
On Friday, we’re delving into some of Iron Man’s daddy issues!
Finally, right? You know you’ve been clamoring for it – Batman does many things, but fighting non-powered dudes who shoot guns isn’t one he does often. By that I mean every ten pages as opposed to the entire issue cover to cover. But this team up carries a far different weight than the last article, due to the whole Batman and Punisher disagreeing violently over their very moral cores. So when they have their inevitable fight, it’s for real. No genital measuring contest here. Except in Batman/Punisher: Lake of Fire, written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Barry Kitson & James Pascoe, you might notice something different about this Batman. Hint: this comic came out in 1994.
That’s right, my friends. It’s Mecha-Batman. The lunatic Azrael still reigns over Gotham City as their forced caped crusader since Bruce Wayne’s back remains still broken by Bane. Azrael’s cult brainwashing and inferior complex to the real deal drives him further into those insanity depths he jumped in long ago. But since I introduced Azrael, I’ll give you Punisher’s intro as well. Spoiler alert: religion doesn’t come up as often with him.
I know that going into “stats” or superpowers is a useless discussion. The writers determine many of the imaginary limitations for the imaginary characters, but it won’t stop me from attempting it – it’s very late, and I have space to fill. Azrael’s suit makes him stronger, tougher, and faster than Punisher. But Punisher, usually armed with only silly weapons like guns and bullets, takes on Marvel supervillains frequently enough for that to negate all of Azrael’s benefits. Plus, the Punisher fights dirty. Don’t go expecting a long drawn out ordeal – it’s a six page fight – but I hope it’s bloody enough to satisfy your superhero bloodlust.
Punisher isn’t cheating. He thinks he is, but he’s not. If Mecha-Batman can use super strength and giant claws to fight a man clad in just spandex, it’s not against the rules if the Punisher pulls out a pistol. Actually, the fight should have probably started this way. And also, since when is the Punisher against cheating? The only reason the team up had to include Punisher’s baddie Jigsaw is because Jigsaw is the only bad guy Punisher has. He has a rogue gallery of one. His oppenets tend not to last more than single issue when Punisher’s modus operandi is to murder them. Almost always by cheating.
Good news. There’s a second team up, and Punisher fights the correct Dark Knight next time. We’ll read it next time to finish up our crossover articles, as it’s hard to find enthusiasm for all those Silver Surfer team ups.
Before we begin, here’s for my fellow Jews:
With Hanukkah acknowledged, let’s begin the real thing.
Today a single stoic tear rolls down my cheek as we’re ending our eleven part, month-long series of articles about everyone”s favorite (and the wettest) superhero. I’m serious this time. On Friday, it’s Batman. Y’see, as I was putting together the images for last time’s article about the whole piranhas eating Aquaman’s hand, I perused a bit of the next issue. And it’s awesome. And because it’s awesome, I’m going to beat this dead horse until it’s mushy and unrecognizable. To hush any naysayers who believe Superman would destroy Aquaman (and let’s be fair — 99 times out of a 100, he would), I present to you proof that Aquaman at least can hold his own. Spoiler alert: it involves water. Let’s take a look at a scene from Aquaman #3, written by Peter David and drawn by Gene Gonzales & Martin Egeland.
Remember how Aquaman just lost his hand like the final page of the issue before? Surprisingly, he’s taking the maiming pretty well considering.
So Aquaman spends the whole issue attempting to visit this Admiral Strom mentioned above. It turns out one of the Navy’s nuclear subs disappeared. And that makes Aquaman the best superhero for the job. Like the Air Force would call Hawkman or whatever. But since this is a comic book, nothing’s ever so easy as a simple meeting with a simple admiral. Also, it’d be a really short issue. Nope, you know the drill — there’s a misunderstanding that results in unnecessary punching. We’d expect nothing less.
Oh, Superboy is ’90s comic book perfection. So much ‘tude. Earring, leather jacket, sunglasses, horrific haircut. Originally premiering in 1993 as the Metropolis Kid (one of the four Superman replacements after Superman’s death), he now gets the honor of almost being hurt by Aquaman. Sure, the former Atlantean king has oodles of super strength, it’s just not enough to do stuff like injure a member of the Superman family. Aquaman can punch sharks into goo, but Superboy can do that to moons.
You can click the picture below for a larger version.
Superboy’s “ass” joke is clever and you should have chuckled to yourself when you read it. In summary, I greatly enjoy butt humor. So yes, Aquaman doesn’t stand a minnow’s chance of victory in a fistfight against Superboy. Of course he doesn’t. No one stands a chance against the Superman family in a fistfight. They punch moons into goo and all that. Luckily, there’s a few weaknesses to exploit — and it’s awesome:
That’s right, Aquaman doesn’t control water. But a whale army can. Surely, Superboy can freeze the tsunami with his super breath and then flick Aquaman into unconsciousness, right? Probably. But not this time. Ambush and whatnot. Also, that’s a crapload of water. Like this attack may actually change the ecosystem of the city. I know why I love Aquaman now. It’s because he can do stuff like this. Dude’s a badass.
The beard really does make his threats scarier, doesn’t it? Next time, Batman!
Remember when Aquaman’s hand separated from his body? No, the second time. We pick up in the first pages of the very next issue. Look, it’s brutal — a bloody stump can only be good if you’re at the end of Empire Strikes Back. And luckily, this isn’t a permanent loss as he regains his hand within a few issues (White Lantern magic!) and the DC universe soon reboots to a point where he still has all his limbs. But for now, Aquaman’s arch-nemesis just scored some major supervillain points.
That’s right! Aqualad, who dramatically rescued Aquaman gets dramatically rescued by Mera! To fight an army, one’d need an army, right? So the queen of Atlantis went around to every corner and crevice of ocean to gather up every single remaining member of the Aqua-powered family. Which is only Aquagirl. Those other superheroes you’re reminded of from previous articles, like say the first Aqualad? Dead. The original Aquagirl? Dolphin? Dead. Vulko? Dead. Lagoon Boy? Coma. Only Topo survives, but he’s an octopus. It’s been a bummer of a decade for Aquaman’s supporting cast.
You can click the picture below for a larger version if you’d prefer.
Aquaman’s a badass. But more importantly, if you need proof that Mera’s the more powerful of the Atlantean super couple, it’s here in all its oceanic delight. You remember Captain Planet and how we made fun of the Heart guy because he could only control animals (and his power was called Heart and we were pre-pubescent morons)? Well, we were right. Controlling nature tends to be far more useful than controlling the things that live in it.
So I understand your concerns: 1) Aquaman hasn’t done anything cool at all this entire story, and 2) he hasn’t fought Black Manta despite the title of this article. I can help you with number one and I apologize about number two. Y’see, DC’s Brightest Day event comes right after Blackest Night — the zombie event when all the dead superheroes became super evil. Aquaman could summon his fish, but only gross dead fish. That problem still persists. As Aquaman saves the day with his awesome Aquaman powers, notice all the zombie fish. Coming back to life takes some time before all the kinks are worked out, y’know?
Of course they win. We end today, and just because I haven’t beaten this dead horse enough, there’s one final Aquaman story on Monday. I present to you this last picture as my State of Aquaman’s Marriage. Spoiler alert: it’s strong.
This is a safe place, right? I’m going to be honest: I like Aquaman, but I don’t know why. The whole ocean angle is cool, but there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the wettest superhero in the DC universe. Truthfully, I think half my enjoyment of his stories come solely from him stabbing people with a trident. Is it because his name is Arthur? But I’m trying, okay? I want this website to be a place of positivity instead of the flood of anger and rudeness that normally pours out of the comic book community, so I’ll do my best to fall in love with Aquaman. I won’t friend-zone him, I promise. And today (and Friday) certainly help his case.
Let’s take a look at his second big Aquaman fight from Brightest Day #19-20, written by Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi and drawn by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, & Rob Hunter. Aqualad has a costume now, an official sidekick offer from Aquaman, and those cool water swords (sort of like sharp Super Soakers). Plus as you can tell, Aquaman has all the qualities of a great teacher:
This fight begins like all good Aquaman battles — the ocean climbs out of the surf to conquer the surface world. Only Aquaman can stop this invasion, but — as you’ll protest — he’s from the ocean himself! That’s right, dear readers, Aquaman fights against the sea itself to save these ungrateful normal land people. For the hundredth time. Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t enjoy the spectacle of shark monsters and water soldiers climbing onto a beach — like an evil majestic Normandy.
Notice how the mean lady looks similar to Mera? Meet Siren, Mera’s younger sister. They both come from the alien ocean world of Xebel, who wants to kill Aquaman for illegal riding whales or something. Look, I don’t do as much research as I should. What’s important is Aquaman and Aqualad stand alone against an army of bad guys.
Seriously, I think it’s only Superman and Batman (and maybe Flash) who are the only DC superheroes who don’t kill. Wonder Woman’s slain more dudes than most supervillains, and Green Lantern has space-blasted hordes of aliens in his travels. Even Aquaman doesn’t really have much of an issue with open threats of murder.
But luckily for our protagonist, Aquaman just came back to life a few months before this. Everything’s cool again — all his body parts are in the right spot and he’s back in his normal outfit again. Life’s going to turn around for our sea king just as soon as he takes out Siren and her goons. It’s not as if something horrifically traumatic and disfiguring would happen to him now. The writers have to wait for low sales before resorting to anything dramatic. Breathe easy, my friends. Aquaman’s going to be okay.
Y’see? That’s how a supervillain makes an entrance. For Black Manta to have just the right amount of delusional ego, it must occasionally be peppered with small successes along the way. Like killing Aquaman’s kid. Or chopping off Aquaman’s hand. And just like all perfect attacks, I present to you the perfect one-liner:
Next time: the fate of Aquaman. Anything can happen now! The gloves are off (literally)! I’m excited too!
The moments before the DC reboot were certainly bright. As in they had a series called Brightest Day that brought to life a bunch of dead characters just before the reboot made that unneccesary. Luckily for everything wet, Aquaman gets to be one of those fortunate few to come back from the dead. He died a few years before, it’s complicated, and I’m skipping that life (death?) event. But before he gets to do things like enjoy himself and be happy, he has a few loose ends to tie up. Like Black Manta in Brightest Day #10-11, written by Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi and drawn by Ivan Reis, Scott Clark, Patrick Gleason, & Joe Prado.
Oh, and apparently, Mera’s first appearance was retconned so that she was actually an assassin who fell in love with her target. There, you’re all caught up, but it needs to be discussed so Mera can swim away. How can Aquaman get back his self-esteem with his more powerful wife at his side?
You guys remember the Young Justice cartoon? I know you’re upset it got cancelled. But most importantly, the series introduced the new Aqualad (Jackson Hyde or Kaldur’ahm depending on comics or TV). So to keep comics and TV equal(ly flushed with money), we get this kid formally premiering:
Kind of a spoiler, but I’m going to tell you anyway: Black Manta is Aqualad’s father. Much like other supervillains, he’s an awful father, always trying to kill his offspring and other bad-parent things. Unlike Aquaman, our new teenage superhero has powers more like Mera, which is the whole controlling water as opposed to the creatures that live in it. And to kill two birds with one stone, Black Manta’s suit gives him the normal super strength, durability, and a delightful horde of weapons to shoot at civilians. Oh, and a laser face mask. The basic stuff.
Look, I know Aquaman hasn’t even shown up yet. You’re looking down the barrel of ten Aqualad pages, and our title protagonist hasn’t shown one gill or fin. Well, don’t you worry — you know superheroes. He’s waiting for the most dramatic moment possible to pop up and begin pounding his arch-nemesis. But does he still stand a chance without his hook hand or cool beard or devil-may-care attitude?
The trident’s a nice touch, though I guess it’s sort of a quin-dent with five prongs. Please take a moment in the next few pages and admire Black Manta’s incredible boasting. Aquaman outclasses him in every area of combat (I guess except in laser face masks), and our bad guy still prattles on like he’s not fighting a dude who can shrug off bullets and lift tanks.
Am I the only one who doesn’t see the big deal about Mera’s confession? Sure, she may have originally planned to kill him, but she also married him a few times, popped out a few of his children, and ruled Atlantis for years with Aquaman at her side. And let’s be fair — Mera has tried to kill Aquaman many times in their relationship, so who cares about the non-first time she was supposed to? Is it about keeping secrets? You know who doesn’t have time for these games anymore? Damn right, Aquaman.
We’re not done with Brightest Day! Get ready for beach warfare next time as Aquaman, Mera, Aqualad, and Aquagirl team up to fight other people who have water-themed powers!
Instead my normal lengthy introduction, let’s start with some pages:
That’s right — in the comic book universe, good deeds always end up with a mob of supervillains ganging up on you. Deadshot learns this the hard way. So in Deadshot #5, volume two, written by Christos Gage and drawn by Steven Cummings, Deadshot gets to end his miniseries in a bang — and a fight against a dozen superpowered supervillains. I know you’re not really sure who to cheer for — sure Deadshot’s the protagonist, but it’s not like you’d want the Joker or Lex Luthor or Gorilla Grodd to win if they received their own five issues. Bad guys can’t win, because then the world would suck. But Deadshot got into this mess by wanting his illegitimate daughter and her former prostitute mother to live in a neighborhood free from crime and violence. And that’s worth cheering for, right?
We can go back to the fight. While Deadshot doesn’t have any cool superpowers like the snake lady and dude-with-a-mace-for-a-hand supervillains above, he does have plenty of other useful tools like, say, bullets. But are his skills alone be enough for him to take out a dozen supervillains in the suicide mission for his future and happiness? See? I’m getting better at building tension.
Unfortunately, the status quo must be restored, and that includes Deadshot returning to his life of apathetic crime. Comic book bad guys can’t get happy endings (well, I guess neither can the good guys). At least in his battle royale, a horde of embarrassing supervillains get taken off the map. Green Arrow’ll need to send Deadshot flowers after this, just for saving him a good three or four bank robberies of baddies to clean up later.
Skaboom indeed. Look, I’m not happy about this either. We’re suckers for tales of redemption, but artistically, the stories always turn out better when the hero has to tragically give up his dreams for the safety of those he loves. So in retaliation to me having to wipe away my own tears (and to be fair to me, this was five issues of build up leading to this moment), I’m not going to show you the ending of the miniseries. I mean, I pretty much gave it away, but I’m denying you the satisfaction of reading it yourself. You need to buy this book — it’s that good.
Next time, some Aquaman stuff!