Written by Dennis O’Neil
Drawn by Barry Kitson
Inked by James Pascoe
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Published by DC Comics
The year was 1994, the height of the speculator boom. With Image and other creator-owned publishers nipping at their heels, DC and Marvel were more receptive to publishing crossovers than they are now. At the time Batman and The Punisher were two of their biggest properties, both with multiple ongoing series, miniseries, and one-shots, and I was buying and reading all of them. So when it was announced that the two companies would be publishing two crossover comics, one from DC and one from Marvel, featuring these two heroes I was very exciting. I was mostly looking forward to the Marvel version (which I’ll be reviewing next), because it was going to be written by Chuck Dixon who happened to be the main writer for the Batman and Punisher titles (this is before the age of exclusive contracts, when it wasn’t unusual for creators to work for multiple companies simultaneously), so I thought that should be awesome. But the DC version I planned to get mainly out of obligation. Previews showed that this issue would be tie-ing into the then-current status quo of the Batman books, where Bruce Wayne had his back broken by Bane, and so a man named Jean-Paul Valley had taken over the role of Batman and designed a new high-tech suit, which you can see on the above cover.
Even though that was a nice idea to some degree, giving this story a measure of importance by implying that it “counted” (Jean Paul even later refers to this crossover in an later issue of one of the regular Batman titles, I don’t remember which, exactly), it still took away some of the specialness of the event for me, because Punisher wasn’t teaming up with the “real” Batman. So I had pretty low expectations for this book when I got it, but then was pleasantly surprised. I realized that there’s no way that I can avoid spoilers in writing about a comic such as this one, including the big surprise at the end and the one-on-one fight which you know this had to have. I’ll try to minimize spoilers as much as I can, but be forewarned.
The basic premise of this story is that Punisher’s arch-enemy Jigsaw has moved to Gotham City, picked up a construction company from a recently deposed mob boss and is setting up a major extortion scheme involving stolen rocket fuel and a plan to burn Gotham’s water reservoir. Punisher is in town to track him, and Batman is also following the case, although he is unaware of Jigsaw’s involvement. Following the same trial via different leads, both heroes arrive at an old church. It had been set up to trap Punisher in a fire, and Batman saves his life. Batman recognizes The Punisher, knowing him to be a criminal, but The Punisher convinces him not to try to turn him in yet because he’s Batman’s best chance of catching Jigsaw. So they temporarily team up, although Batman vows to take him in afterward.
So the two heroes patrol the city together, pay a visit to a bathhouse where they fight a bunch of mobsters and their henchmen, but then Punisher ditches Batman because he prefers to work alone. Eventually, Punisher comes face-to-face with Jigsaw and tries to kill him by throwing him off of a building, but Batman arrives in time and saves him. And that’s where we learn that The Punisher has a secret partner who helped bring him to Gotham City.
THE JOKER! Of course.
Batman goes back to the roof to confront The Punisher, who tries to convince him to let him go now, but Batman isn’t listening. Meaning, it’s FIGHT TIME!!!
That is what the fans want, after all. It’s a staple of superhero crossovers, they just have to fight at some point. But the problem is if you have a clear winner then the fans of the losing character will feel cheated. Plus neither company really wants their character to lose. So how do you resolve the fight?
That’s right, The Punisher cheated and uses the gas bomb to make his getaway. As far as endings go, it’s not bad.
So I remember thinking this comic was better than I expected when I first read it. Reading it again years later I can appreciate it even more. O’Neil does a rather good job of writing The Punisher, who narrates the majority of this story through his captions, and it all sounds mostly in-character as if we were reading a regular issue of Punisher War Journal. Jean-Paul Valley is annoying, but that’s the way the character was. He keeps having visions of Saint Dumas (long story) and talking to himself. This is near the end of the big storyline in the Batman books, and I was very happy when Bruce Wayne returned. Overall it’s not a big universe-shattering story or anything, but it’s enjoyable for what it is. And Barry Kitson’s artwork in this issue is lovely. I think fans of Batman or The Punisher (or both) would like this.
It’s out of print, but new and used copies can be found pretty cheap on Amazon. It can also be found along with several other crossover, including the Marvel version of this one, in the paperback collection DC/Marvel Crossover Classics, Vol. II