Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas in the Crapbox: The Punisher Xmas #1

Merry F***ing Christmas!

"And on Earth Peace, Good Will Toward Men"
Writer – Jason Aaron
Artist – Roland Boschi
Colorist – Daniel Brown
Letterer – VC's Cory Petit
Asst. Editor – Sebastian Girner
Editor – Axel Alonso
Editor-in-Chief – Joe Quesada
February 2009 (February? A Christmas tale in February?)

In 2001 Marvel decided to put out a special "R" rated comic book imprint. Titled "MAX," the line debuted with Brian Michael Bendis's Alias book, the book that introduced us to the character of Jessica Jones. Basically the first season was lifted from Bendis's Alias storyline.

Two years later they decided to revitalize the Punisher series by giving Garth Ennis a shot a Max title for the Punisher character titled "Born" and a year after that, Punisher got his own ongoing Max title. The title lasted for five years and seventy five issue plus an annual.

And this one-shot: A Punisher Christmas.

Be warned that this is an R rated Frank Castle and he lives in a mature audience's only world. A world populated by guys like this disenchanted priest shown here who walks into a bar. Which isn't the opening of any kind of joke. It is deadly serious.

Because this priest has lost his faith…

Oh! And to make the opening more like a joke, sitting down the bar from the priest is a drunk Santa. Just don't prod him, he's surly.

What makes the priest most mad, are the mobsters who sit out in the open. So he calls them out.

And for his trouble, they toss him from the bar. Also note the F-bomb.

Then they get back chatting about business, which currently a rival mob boss's wife checking in to a hospital to give birth to a new baby boy. Meanwhile Santa reaches into his sack to give the mobsters a surprise they won't forget. And no, it isn't coal.

But it does light them up rather well. So obviously this was the Punisher in disguise. As he decks these guys halls with a hail of rounds, a group of masked hitmen make their way to the hospital. Seems that baby the rival mob boss is having is about to get wacked along with his mom and pops.

This is where writer Jason Aaron really shines. I dig this story, which is an allegory to another well-known tale. You'll see in just a moment which one.

They bust into the hospital, waving guns and screaming profanities while rushing to the nursery. Once there they try to find the mob-boss's newborn, but they don't see him. So to be sure they don't accidentally miss him…they KILL ALL THE BABIES.

Any of this ringing a bell…?

Unfortunately they are all wrong as the mobster's wife hasn't delivered the baby yet. She is awful close though and that means they are directly in harm's way. But someone just arrived at the hospital with them in mind too. Will he help or harm is the question.

Either way, Punisher better hurry or these two are dead meat. Just look at what happened to their guards!

One of the hitmen flips out when he realizes he killed all those infants for nothing.

Which is fine, since the Punisher does the same to him. The other gunman gets behind a gurney and decides to use harsh language as his primary attack.
Wordlessly, the Punisher strolls up after the hitman's gun jams and does this to each of them…


Perhaps the cruelest deaths in a Punisher comic yet. That leaves Frank to deal with the Mother-and-Father-to-be...

But Frank appears to be doing the charitable thing. Let's hope he doesn't regret it. 

Also by now you should be getting hints of a similar story about a woman giving birth on Christmas Day. In fact if you want another small hint…

Here's the rival mob bosses answer to his men fumbling the raid on the hotel. First he beats the only survivor to death with a golf club. Then he turns the matter of disposing of the infant over to these three wise…guys?

Need another? Really? Okay, this brother by the name of SHEPARD decides he wants to collect the bounty on the baby's head. He sets off to find them too.

In a fit of irony, Frank makes the couple wait to deliver the baby in an actual stable or MANGER…okay, see it. This is the birth of Christ story told in a Punisher magazine. With mobs and gunmen and head shots and dead babies…and the works. Also, the story works. For some cockamamie reason, we get sucked in and wonder what Frank will do with these two and their kid.

Frank leaves them alone which is a mistake as the mob boss pulls out his cell phone and calls for his troops, who have been conveniently slaughtered by the three wise men…er guys. So his message goes in exactly the wrong ears. Now that they know where they are holed up, it will be child's play to erase them.
Frank comes back with the first aid kit and the mob boss is all scared at the concept of having to do this by themselves. Frank's been there before, both in 'nam and with the birth of his own kids. His answer is pretty hard ass.

Shepard arrives outside, like he was following a bright star or something. While checking out the cab Frank "borrowed" with his homeys, the wise guys show and start taking them out. Shepard escapes, but all that shooting alerts Frank that trouble has found them.

And he knows how to handle trouble. By applying a hunting knife to the neck…

Or a horse kick to the head followed by a single bullet to the back of the skull…

And neck snapping action hands. Remember: this is a Christmas book!

Unfortunately the baby is coming out breach and that means Frank will have to try those twisty hand moves on something infinitely more fragile. Not to mention he will have his hands full (literally) when the Shepard comes calling.

And maybe someone will take advantage of him leaving his gun on the floor like that.
That's when Shepard shows up and things get really screwed up. Punisher has to keep the baby turned and can't move. Shepard doesn't want to kill Frank, he just wants the money for the kid. Suddenly Shepard is minus and eye and some brain matter…

…courtesy of Mrs. Mob Boss. Frank delivers the kid in a final stressful scene and we have a baby boy! Hallelujah!

But there still is a couple of problems…

…wait! What? Why kill him now?

Well, all good reasons. But the mother…She shouldn't have to pay for his crimes too, right?

 But I suppose that stands to reason that she is just as crooked as her husband. So it isn't a surprise when this happens…

…and the baby? What happens to him?

Ahh, nice dovetail back into the beginning. He leaves him on the steps for the Priest to find.

So this was a gritty, bloody Christmas story with parallels with the story of Mary and Joseph in a very screwed up way that I kind of loved in spite of all the profanity and violence. Not everyone's Christmas tale, to be sure, but definitely one the Crapbox appreciates.

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