Punisher Annual (#2, 1989) – Mike Baron, Roger Salick

5 out of 5

Another annual that shouldn’t work, but totally, totally does.

‘Atlantis Attacks’ is the crossover event this time around, and I can’t even possibly begin to tell you what it’s about.  There’s some blurb about it at the end, provided by Peter Sanderson, but it is some dense text scrawl about a succession of kings and no thanks.  But kudos to you if you were down with this at the time.

Back in the main story, it results (somehow) in a lady named Viper running around and creating snake mutant zombies.  This… shouldn’t work in a Punisher context.  But Baron tosses Frank together with Moon Knight, and these two dudes are nearly on the same side of the coin – especially with Frank canted a bit more toward sane in this issue than Baron had, at that point, been writing him – beatin’ up thugs with no impunity and no speeches about making sure to use rubber bullets and whatnot.  They just hop on Knight’s crescent plane, find Viper’s pit of bad guys, and start a ruckus, smirking at one another.  The dialogue is a nice punchy back and forth about dealing with reptiles – I love that Castle doesn’t miss a beat here, even though it’s kinda out of his wheelhouse – and when we cutaway to the badguy, it’s all entertaining vamping.

Sealing the deal: Bill freakin’ Reinhold on art, who Baron is sympatico with thanks to good times with Badger.  These guys work great together – Reinhold knows Baron’s beats – and Bill’s heavy style is the right match for our fight-happy duo.  The backup, from Roger Salick, is another Microchip mini, repeating – focus and tone – the story from the previous annual, with Micro enacting some justice and then questioning his own behavior, but it’s better effected than in annual #1, a bit more at ‘Chips “level.”