The super-hero spoof/send-up is, at this point, quite likely as tired as the notion of the super-hero itself, so trust me when I say that someone needs to have something unique, provocative, or both to say within the confines of this shop-worn genre in order for this critic to pay attention to it himself on the one hand, and to draw your attention to it on the other. Ryan Alves’ intelligently revisionist take on Ba*man, , was one such all-too-rare diamond in the overcrowded rough (in fact, if memory serves me correctly I reviewed it on this very blog), though, and so when he told me he was going to be offering up his own slant on a certain bloodthirsty skull-bedecked Marvel vigilante, I immediately found myself something I’m usually not with regards to this sort of thing — interested. Moustache
Admittedly, his collaborator and co-publisher on the just-released
, Ron Beek III, is someone whose work I’m not familiar with, and just as admittedly I have no firm handle on precisely how the division of labor on this what-I-assume-to-be-a-one-shot breaks down, but in a pinch I’d guess that Alves did the lion’s share of the art, while the script was more of an “even-Steven” affair. I could be wrong about that, but hopefully neither creator will shoot me down in the street if I am. The Punishment : Social Justice
The targets chosen by Alves and Beek’s iteration of Fran* Castl*, however, are far more appropriate, in my humble estimation : racist fuckwits who have absconded with The Punishe*’s icononic emblem in the year since his retirement, and who fancy themselves as carrying on his legacy in his absence. However, much like the real-life “Proud Boys,” these asshats have nothing to be proud of, and the bulk of this comic is taken up with our ostensible “hero” violently slaughtering all of them in a bar in hopes of distancing his “brand” from them in permanent fashion. It’s a grim slog, even for someone of the “always punch a Nazi” mindset such as myself, but as with the final act of Tarantino’s , there’s something inherently cathartic in the sadistic bloodshed served up that may not leave you necessarily feeling Inglourious Basterds proud of yourself for enjoying it but will, at the very least, leave you feeling that it couldn’t have happened to a sweeter bunch.
To paraphrase Clarence Darrow, I’ve never wished a man dead, but there are a number of obituaries I’ve enjoyed reading, and certainly the loss of these fictional miscreants in their world likely has no more negative value than the loss of a Gavin McInnes, Richard Spencer, or Marjorie Taylor Green (or, for that matter, a Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell) would in ours, but at the same time there’s something unsettling about using the right wing’s second favorite tactic next to lying through their teeth — that being the application of brute force — against them that will, or at least
should, always give those of us with a functioning conscience pause. I mean, ideally, you’re always going to hope that there’s a better way of dealing with prejudiced scumbags than killing them.
Really. You are. Please say that you are.
Still, if there’s one thing recent history has taught us, it’s that the age of idealism could very well be behind us, much as we wish that weren’t the case. QAnon lunatics are still trying to overturn an election that they lost fair and square on orders of their amoral, syphilitic, game show host, pretend-billionaire cult leader, one of the two major political parties is busy running interference for them in the halls of government, and the question of when it’s appropriate to do unto others as they’d gladly do unto you, only do it first, is a very pressing one, indeed. The Punishe* has always been an answer to that query writ large and bloody, and the the appropriation of his insignia by white nationalist thugs is problematic on its face, sure, but who are we kidding? It’s appropriation by thousands and thousands of cops is even more terrifying, something that the character’s co-creator, Gerry Conway, has addressed in a statement that Alves and Beek reproduce (with appropriate redactions) on the back cover of this comic. Whether we’re talking about law breakers or law enforcement, then, we seem to find ourselves surrounded by a “Punishe* mentality” on all sides, and to the extent that this comic offers decidedly unsubtle commentary on that equally unsubtle phenomenon, you have to tip your hat and say “job well done” — even if said job wasn’t an especially pleasant one.
Where does that leave us, then? Well, “fucked” is the shortest and probably most accurate answer, but under such circumstances a bit of gallows humor such as this — especially gallows humor this flat-out astonishingly drawn — may be more than simply an entirely healthy response, it may be the only healthy response. Plus, this book would be sure to raise the blood pressure of any “comicsgate” asshole who stumbled upon it (although given that it wasn’t crowd-funded by a 400-pound perpetually whining YouTube grifter who resembles a rotting sack of pig shit drenched in mayonnaise and draws like one, as well, or by an inbred-looking Charlottesville attendee with a $6 Hitler haircut and a stack of back child support bills up to his neck, their odds of being aware of its existence are minimal), and that’s a nice plus. See? Like Alves and Beek’s Punishe*, I’m all about choosing the proper recipients of karmic justice.
is available for $5.00 from the Awe Comics Storenvy site at The Punishment : Social Justice https://www.storenvy.com/products/32117815-the-punishment-social-justice
Review wrist check – Mitch Mason “Chronicle” in the dial color they call “desert sand,” riding its factory-issue suede strap.