Written by Chuck Dixon
Drawn by John Romita Jr.
Inked by Klaus Janson
Colored by Christie Scheele
Published by Marvel Comics
A few months after DC Comics released Batman/Punisher: Lake Of Fire it was Marvel Comics’ turn to release their crossover. They enlisted quite a creative team for this issue, Chuck Dixon was the natural choice for writer since at the time he was working for both publishers writing each character in their own series’. And while I won’t buy any new comics that Dixon writes now, due to him being a piece of crap homophobe, I was a huge fan of his at the time. And John Romita Jr. on art was also perfect, he’d had much experience drawing the Punisher in various Marvel titles, and now this was a chance to see him drawing some DC characters for the first time. So I was eagerly anticipating this comic, and was (mostly) not disappointed. Once again, when talking about a comic like this I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but there are some specific details that I simply have to talk about, so…
It’s a few months after the first crossover, Bruce Wayne is back as Batman. The Punisher has returned to Gotham looking for Jigsaw, who never returned to New York. Jigsaw is working with The Joker who, for reasons which are never made clear, is helping him rise through the Gotham underworld. They’re currently plotting to take over the territory of a mobster named Navarone. We open with a gunfight going on between a bunch of Joker and Jigsaw’s men and Navarone’s men in some kind of factory. Both Punisher and Batman show up and a brief fight between them ensues. The Punisher, unaware that this isn’t the same man who he teamed up with and fought before, notes to himself “Last time I was in Gotham this guy was a reckless brawler. Now he seems more skilled. Something refined about him. He must have changed personalities when he changed masks.” While Batman is less-impressed with The Punisher. “At heart he’s just a brawler. All rage and brute strength.” A fire causes the roof to collapse, and Punisher gets away.
We see Jigsaw and The Joker together discussing their next plans. Batman is conferring with Robin in the Batcave, while The Punisher confers with Microchip in the battle-van. There’s some more investigating going on, we see Jigsaw and Joker killing some people, and then this all leads up to another big gang fight, this time at a restaurant, and both Punisher and Batman arrive. And it’s one big mess of gunshots and smoke-bombs.
It ends with Batman knocking out Jigsaw and handcuffing him, while Punisher chases after The Joker and catches him in a back alley. He’s ready to shoot Joker in the face when Batman stops him and tells the Joker to “run for your life.” The Punisher isn’t happy with that, which means that once again it’s FIGHT TIME!
Well. . .it’s not exactly much of a fight…
That was pretty bold for Marvel to allow. That remains a controversial outcome for many Punisher fans, seeing Batman dismiss him so easily. But Dixon was the main writer for both characters at the time so if anyone would know how a fight between them should go, it would be him.
This story is not without its flaws. There’s a funny little bit where Robin and Microchip are each doing some computer hacking and run into each other in cyberspace. Other than that they don’t really have a purpose here and probably could have been cut out of it in order to expand the story. Likewise the brief appearances of Commissioner Gordon and Alfred seemed just tacked on so John Romita Jr. could have an excuse to draw them (in fact, IIRC, neither character was even active in the bat books at the time). Also Joker has helped Jigsaw get plastic surgery, because he says that Gotham criminals wouldn’t follow someone who looked like Jigsaw. Really? Gotham is full of freaky-looking criminals who never have trouble getting henchmen to work for them. Two-Face, Penguin, and The Joker himself, among many others, so that doesn’t make sense. And, as I said, it’s never made clear why Joker is helping Jigsaw in the first place. And as funny as the bit with Batman and Joker at the end is, he’d really just let Joker run away just to save him from Punisher?!? That is really out of character, especially when we see how easily Batman can handle The Punisher.
That being said, I do still enjoy it. It’s cool to see the characters together, and John Romita Jr.’s art is excellent. It’s not perfect, but it’s a worthy crossover, recommended for both Punisher and Batman fans.