In a few weeks we’ll be returning to the adventures of the Fantastic Four, but first I wanted to explore a few comics that blew my mind as a kid. The first features Punisher and Wolverine in what is known as The African Saga. This week we’ll take a look at Punisher War Journal No. 6 and next week No. 7. Two issues, that’s it. That’s the entire saga. Now kid me was impressed, will adult me be impressed? Spoiler alert, less so.
The cover displays the glory that was Jim Lee in the late 80s and early 90s. His hyper-detailed art, along with his future Image counterparts (mainly Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld) changed comics… frankly for the worse as it became purely about art (though I still love Spider-Man and X-Force from that era). Now don’t get me wrong, art is hugely important, but it’s a comic book, great art is nothing without at least a good story. McFarlane, Liefeld, and Lee (and others) were and are brilliant artists, but none of those guys would be mistaken for J.D. Salinger (his son is Captain America). The result, in part at least, the comic book crash of the 1990s. For now, though, Carl Potts and Jim Lee bring us a preview of Jim Lee’s later work on X-Men.
The story begins with a worn out Frank Castle (don’t tell anyone, but that’s the Punisher’s secret identity) going to Micro for help. Micro essentially tells him he needs a vacation.
We also have some weird dude in Texas. He has tons of trophy heads and wants more. However, he doesn’t hunt, he just sends people to do it. I think.
Returning to the plot and characters we care about – Wolverine is in Madripor, following a very showy poacher. Wolverine steals the guy’s coat and learns that he’s not the poacher, he’s just the distributor. Wolverine heads for the real target, leaving the dude naked in the road, but he’s alive so that was nice of Logan.
The vacation Micro set up for the Punisher? Dinosaur hunting in deep Africa. Yep. I feel they missed a chance to set a much more interesting story in the Savage Land here. The expedition involves a professor, his young overly affectionate wife, a shady guy, and other people not worth mentioning.
We get nature, the jungle, and danger as Frank enjoys himself, maybe even finds some sense of peace in nature, but then again, we’re hunting dinos. Their existence is confirmed by the locals.
The wife and the shady dude are up to no good. What a shocker! One of the locals on the expedition sees them, wife and shady say a gorilla roughed him up. Frank finds the boy, but the boy doesn’t make it. Frank (going by the alias of Chuck Fort) goes full Punisher mode. He knows the boy was murdered by man, not by nature.
Wolverine, now wearing the pelt for camo, is hot on the trail of the gorilla poachers. I see a big misunderstanding in the very near future. The Punisher is forced to battle a vengeful gorilla. At that exact moment, Wolverine shows up. They don’t talk, they aren’t the talking kind. They throw down, and Wolverine wins easily.
See you next issue!
Also, not, it doesn’t hold up all that well. However, the end, in particular. is great comic book fun.
Josiah Golojuh is a writer, he REALLY loved this comic as a kid (find his collection of short stories here), he’s also a YouTube commentator (where, among other things, he does things similar to these Retro Reviews).