Video Game Review: The Punisher (NES)

This is a terrible game and it’s always been a terrible game.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t play the hell out of it when I was a kid because frankly, I loved Marvel Comics and this was the closest thing to the arcade game Operation Wolf that I owned on a home console.

Sadly, like most early Marvel games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this just sucked. I tried to convince myself otherwise but the controls were dog shit and the game was hard as fuck, especially on the tedious boss fights.

The big problem with the difficulty is that it becomes impossible to dodge all the gunfire, missiles and grenades lobbed at you. You become quickly overwhelmed as the game advances and the opportunities to gain some extra life are too far and few between.

The graphics are also shit and this looks like a game that was rushed or just designed pretty half-assed.

Additionally, the villain roster was pretty generic, except for Jigsaw and The Kingpin. The reason for this could also be because the regular Punisher comic book series was still only a few years old when this was made. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have used other street level villains from the larger Marvel universe like Hammerhead, Tombstone, The Owl, Bullseye, Boomerang, Taskmaster, Crossbones, Typhoid Mary, Mister Fear, The Rose, The Gladiator, etc.

Hell, what’s with the fucking android boss? They could’ve designed it to look like a Doombot or mini-Sentinel.

I know, I know… I’m asking too much for a basic bitch 1990 Marvel game.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit side scrolling shooters or other terrible 8-bit Marvel games.

TV Review: Spider-Man (1994-1998)

Original Run: November 19th, 1994 – January 31st, 1998
Created by: John Semper, Bob Richardson, Avi Arad, Stan Lee
Directed by: Bob Richardson
Written by: John Semper, various
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Kussa Mahchi, Jeremy Sweet, Shuki Levy, Joe Perry, Shuki Levy, Kussa Mahchi, Udi Harpaz
Cast: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Ed Asner, Jennifer Hale, Roscoe Lee Brown, Mark Hamill, Hank Azaria, Joseph Campanella, Martin Landau, Richard Moll, Don Stark, Dawnn Lewis, Majel Barrett, David Warner, Earl Boen

New World Entertainment Films, Genesis Entertainment, Marvel Enterprises, Fox, 65 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After the success of the early ’90s X-Men cartoon on Fox, it was natural for the network to ask for more Marvel properties to adapt for their Saturday morning audience. The Spider-Man series was the longest running and most successful of these animated spinoffs.

While the X-Men show still stands as my favorite of these animated Marvel series, Spider-Man is a very, very close second and nearly as good.

The stories are generally well written and even if they have to take some liberties and alter the plots from the comics. This was due to time constraints and by trying to wedge in the debut of Venom really early in the series, which changes the overall timeline of events in Spider-Man’s life, greatly. Also, the showrunners probably wanted to get as many villains added into the mix, early on, so that each new episode felt fresh.

Spider-Man has a massive rogues gallery and this show utilized the core villains really damn well.

The tone of the cartoon is pretty perfect. Sure, there are cheesy and hokey bits in every episode because this is a kid’s cartoon but it does stay pretty true to the tone and style of the source material. Most importantly, it’s true to the characters and the writers obviously knew the Spider-Man mythos well.

I love this show and it’s still fun to have minimarathons of episodes. Honestly, to me, it’s one of the highlights of Disney+.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other animated Marvel television series from the ’90s.

Comic Review: The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man

Published: 1991
Written by: Danny Fingeroth
Art by: Al Milgrom

Marvel Comics, 103 Pages

Review:

I loved this series when it came out in 1991. My sixth grade friends and I couldn’t stop talking about it and we all thought the idea of the Sinister Syndicate was pretty cool, as they were a sort of B-level Sinister Six full of Spider-Man villains that usually don’t get as much airplay as the A-level baddies.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, reading this thirty years later, but I have to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised. This was a great story with a ton of twists, turns and backstabbery. The villains could barely get along enough to pull off one heist, so seeing them all play against one another was entertaining as hell. Each villain had their own objective and pretty quickly, those solo objectives created real friction.

This also has a few subplots that worked great.

To start, the deceased Ringer’s girlfriend is a part of the gang, as a getaway driver. However, she has revenge plans of her own and it’s neat seeing them unfold, as she sort of plays a classic femme fatale.

Also, The Kingpin gets involved and starts pulling some strings for his own reason. He adds to the chaos in a great way and plays everyone like pawns. Well, that is until a certain character surprisingly outwits him.

I liked the subplot about The Shocker too. He’s not officially in the Sinister Syndicate but he weaves in and out of the story while dealing with his overwhelming fear of Spider-Man, The Scourge and The Punisher.

Danny Fingeroth wrote a really cool, very layered and well executed story. Al Milgrom complimented that with beautiful art.

After revisiting this and loving it so much, I think I’m going to delve into its sequel soon, The Lethal Foes of Spider-Man. That one, I haven’t actually read.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The Lethal Foes of Spider-Man and The Superior Foes of Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Wolverine and The Punisher: Damaging Evidence

Published: 1993
Written by: Carl Potts
Art by: Gary Erskine

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

This comic was really weird but also kind of cool. It’s certainly a product of the early ’90s and with that, taps into some comic book tropes that seemed cool when I was twelve but come off as really dated and hokey, as an adult nearly thirty years later.

Which young kid in 1993 didn’t want to read a Wolverine and Punisher team up story, though? Especially, with the possibility that the two legendary badasses would actually duke it out, as the cover implies?

The real villain of this story is the Kingpin but he is working on creating a cyborg soldier with the ability to destroy the Punisher. The cyborg also has personal beef with the Punisher and is glad to do his part in trying to put him down.

Wolverine kind of just stumbles into the story and at first, he’s focused on taking down the Punisher for something heinous he believes the Punisher did. There are some plot twists and turns and nothing is exactly what it seems.

This comes to a crescendo with some badass fights and the two heroes coming together in the end. While it’s not a great read, it’s still fun and entertaining.

Also, the art style is sort of unique and not what you’d typically see from Marvel in this era. I feel like it was trying to tap into a grittier, indie style but it still works for the tone of the story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: all the other Punisher miniseries, one-shots and graphic novels from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection, Book 3

Published: October 17th, 2013
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 450 Pages

Review:

This is the final installment of the Ultimate Collection releases of Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Daredevil. Each of these three beefy collections forms a pretty solid trilogy that actually exceeded my expectations and reminded me of how good Bendis was when he cared, which he hasn’t for a very long time.

This is my least favorite of the three volumes and that’s mainly because it felt like it lost some steam. And it didn’t give us any sort of closure to some of Bendis’ more batty experiments with the character.

The first half of this book is made up of two different stories that are self-contained and don’t really move forward the larger arc that Bendis had been working on for a few years by this point. The second half of this book then picks up those more important major plot threads but then doesn’t do much with them and leaves things even more unresolved by the end.

In fact, this has a time jump at the end that kind of just further fucked up Daredevil’s life and didn’t resolve anything that Bendis brought into the character’s story. It was some weak ass J. J. Abrams shit that tainted the entire run and not just this final book.

That’s not to say there wasn’t good stuff in this, there was. But had I been reading this run in real time, watching Daredevil struggle with the world possibly knowing his identity and seeing that dragged on for fucking years, I would’ve quit reading this.

That whole plot about people finding out Matt Murdock is Daredevil and then just seeing that life altering reveal kicked around like a goddamned hacky sack was enraging as hell. You, as the reader, were never sure what anyone actually thought about the reveal, as Bendis couldn’t commit to the story and deal with it in any sort of clear way. It was lazy and fucking dumb. It lacked finality, stakes and real consequences. Honestly, by the end, it didn’t really matter and the book was then handed off to another creative team to either resolve the issue or ignore it.

One thing that was noticeably better this time around was Alex Maleev’s art. Yes, I liked it previously but in my review of the last book in this series, I pointed out some of the issues I had with it. In this volume, those problems seemed to be fixed or a lot less apparent.

Overall, there’s a whole hell of a lot that I liked about Bendis’ Daredevil run but his finale left me annoyed and scratching my head like everything J. J. Abrams has ever started and not truly finished.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Punisher/Black Widow: Spinning Doomsday’s Web

Published: 1992
Written by: D.G. Chichester
Art by: Larry Stroman, Earl Norem (cover)

Marvel Comics, 51 Pages

Review:

I’m really digging the hell out of reading the old ’80s and early ’90s Marvel graphic novels. Back then, they made these great stories that were too big and too hard for the regular comics and almost all of the ones featuring the Punisher are damn good.

This one is no different and it was great seeing him get to team up with the Black Widow, as both characters are pretty “no fucks given” when it comes to taking down evil scumbags.

This story also had a good, intimidating villain that I kind of wish wasn’t just a one-off baddie. He’s a normal human but he’s a hell of an evil, terrorist bastard.

This starts as a Black Widow story and man, she gets her ass kicked pretty hard going against orders and trying to bring the bad guy down. Luckily, she survives and then the Punisher comes into the story, causing the two to work together for a common goal.

Honestly, this is simply badass but it’s also short and sweet. I really dug the story and the art by Larry Stroman was really damn cool.

I miss marquee Marvel graphic novels like this but then again, in the modern era, they’d never be as good as this.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Punisher comics of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection, Book 2

Published: September 15th, 2010
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 461 Pages

Review:

This long stretch of Daredevil issues should’ve actually been better than the ones in the first volume, as shit got real dark, things were more action packed and this went to places I didn’t expect.

The reason why I can’t rate it as high as the previous one is because of the awful romantic subplot that actually sees Daredevil get married for a short time.

I hated this plot, the new love interest and thought that it detracted from a much better story about the shifting power in the New York City criminal structure and Daredevil dealing with that while also trying to work around the public knowing his identity.

The romance plot was just too much added into an already very layered and rich story. Plus, that stuff was poorly written and I don’t want to be that guy but I don’t think that Brian Michael Bendis understands romantic interaction above a college aged level.

That being said, Bendis’ writing is great outside of the romantic shit.

Also, I love Alex Maleev’s style and tone in regards to Bendis’ story. They come together rather nicely, even if it appears as if Maleev is tracing some characters and doing digital tricks. This was originally made at the turn of the millennium and artists were experimenting with a lot of new technology at the time. Frankly, I know he used Photoshop filters because I recognize them. Still, the end result works and I’m just a traditionalist that likes things done the old school way. This is why I also don’t like Pixar movies or that style of animation.

Out of all the different story arcs collected here, I think I like the one that features The Owl the best. I liked seeing him truly unhinged and trying to wedge himself into The Kingpin’s spot as crime boss. After that, I really loved the section with Typhoid Mary, as she’s one of my favorite Daredevil villains and doesn’t get enough love, in my opinion. She also looked great in this run, even if I still prefer her original look, as drawn by John Romita Jr. back in the late ’80s.

I love the hell out of Bendis’ run on this series and it truly rivals the great runs by Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti, who still takes the cake for me.

Remove the romantic, juvenile love shit in this story and this would’ve been a perfect Daredevil collection.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Daredevil comics from his Marvel Knights run.

Comic Review: Punisher/Captain America: Blood & Glory

Published: 1992
Written by: D.G. Chichester, Margaret Clark
Art by: Klaus Janson

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

This was just incredibly badass! It made me yearn for the days of Marvel Comics when I was still an impressionable, young middle schooler.

This was originally released as three 48ish page square bound trade paperbacks. The Punisher had several books released this way that were mostly one-off stories. This one, however, was so epic and awesome it took three books to contain it. I’m actually going to review more of these one-off style bigger comics in the coming weeks or months.

In this, we get to see Punisher and Captain America come together, after the Punisher was sent to assassinate Cap. Cap fakes his death, Nick Fury is involved in that and Cap is sent to stop the real threat, alongside the man who was sent to put him down.

This is a great political thriller with intrigue and cool twists. Tonally, it reminds me a lot of the Winter Soldier movie but it’s even more badass and much more “adult” than a typical Marvel comic, even in 1992.

I also like that Klaus Janson was the artist on this, as the book looks stupendous and he’s one of my favorite artists of the era. His version of Punisher and Cap have always been pretty high up on my list. He also illustrates action so well and there are some phenomenal action sequences in this book. The big action-packed finale where Punisher and Cap fight helicopters is just f’n awesome!

This is just a badass miniseries, period.

Damn, I typed “badass” a lot in this one.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Punisher comics of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: The Punisher (1989)

Release Date: October 5th, 1989 (Germany)
Directed by: Mark Goldblatt
Written by: Boaz Yakin
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Dennis Dreith
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbe, Kim Miyori

Marvel Entertainment, New World Pictures, 89 Minutes, 76 Minutes (heavily cut), 98 Minutes (workprint version)

Review:

“If you’re guilty, you’re dead.” – Frank Castle

While I know that this isn’t as good as the 2004 Punisher movie, this is still my favorite film of the lot and Dolph Lundgren really embodied the version of Frank Castle that I envisioned as a kid in the late ’80s, just discovering Punisher comics.

I loved the fuck out of this movie when I saw it in 1990, once it hit video store shelves in my area. I would’ve loved to have seen it in the theater but I lived in a small town with small theaters that played it safe, didn’t take risks and have now mostly been replaced with better theaters offering more variety… and alcohol.

Dolph Lundgren is just fucking perfect in this and nothing else about the film really matters. Sure, I like Louis Gossett Jr. but he’s kind of a non-event in the picture, as is everyone else, except the mob boss turned vigilante that helps the Punisher fight ninjas in an effort to rescue his kidnapped son.

This wasn’t made by Cannon, it was in fact made by New World, but it has that Cannon vibe to it albeit with an even cheaper budget. Still, its a solid mix of gritty, ’80s action, a badass hero and more ammo wasted than an Argentinian coup.

One sequence that really stands out is where we get to see the Punisher battle a hoard of machine gun ninjas in a decrepit carnival funhouse. Granted, I also loved the big finale that saw our hero and the mobster douche machine gun the crap out of ninjas.

All in all, this is just a badass flick with uber amounts of testosterone, one of the best, most physically intimidating action stars of all-time and it feels true to the source material. It’s certainly better than everything that came after that Thomas Jane Punisher movie. 

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel live-action films pre-MCU.

Film Review: The Punisher: Dirty Laundry (2012)

Release Date: July 15th, 2012
Directed by: Phil Joanou
Written by: Chad St. John
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight soundtrack)
Cast: Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Shannon Collis, Jack Goldenberg, Sammi Rotibi, Brandee Steger, Karlin Walker

1984 Private Defense Contractors, RAW Studios, 10 Minutes

Review:

“Couple of years back, that was me standing right where you are now, looking out that door. The difference was, a little girl back there.” – Big Mike

For just a ten minute movie, this delivers the tension, suspense and incredibly badass payoff that is usually reserved for a regular feature length film. Dirty Laundry packs a solid f’n punch and it is hands down, one of the best fan films ever made.

No, it doesn’t feature great amateur special effects or costumes like some of the other impressive comic book fan movies out there, it just features a solid actor that loves his role, a second solid actor that turned it up to eleven and a filmmaking crew that understood the source material and authentically tries to both build off of it and compliment it.

The Punisher: Dirty Laundry didn’t just succeed in what it set out to do, it exceeded it.

Tom Jane, once again, proved that he was the perfect Frank Castle. And if this film does anything, it proves that point pretty definitively. In fact, this made me want a proper sequel more than I ever thought I did.

There has been talks about another one of these fan films in the future but it’s been quite some time since this one came out. Still, it’s something I’d love to see and I hope that the right people can get involved and just give us a full-length film with Jane, front and center, bringing justice to more scumbags.

This was competently shot, fantastically written, perfectly acted and even if the gunshot effects weren’t perfect, it didn’t wreck the satisfying feeling you get in your gut seeing The Punisher turn vigilante, once again.

I’ve linked to the entire short film below.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the 2004 Punisher movie with Thomas Jane, as well as other Punisher movies and the Netflix television show.