Of all the team ups I ever expected to see, this, admittedly, was not one of them. On the other hand, who could pass up on a concept like this? “One’s a vigilante who ruthlessly guns down criminals, the other’s the master of the mystic arts. Together, they solve crimes, while learning to get along.” Or at least that’s the idea, so let’s take a look and see how this odd couple works out.
Written by John Barber
Illustrated by Andrea Broccardo
The team-up to end all team-ups is here, as two of the most different Marvel characters worlds’ collide! What new mafia threat is so great that the Punisher needs Doctor Strange’s help? Find out as the Sorcerer Supreme teams with the One Man War on Crime!
As with all team-ups, one of the first things to look at is how exactly the team-up begins. What dark forces conspire to bring two unlikely allies together? (Well, aside from the editorial decisions, of course, but that’s a different dark force altogether.) In this case, we have Frank Castle on one of his usual outings of shooting anyone and everyone associated with whatever gang has his ire, but the gang he just so happens to attack has been working on something a little paranormal, so who else should he turn to but the sorcerer supreme?
So far so good. It’s fitting for the character, it’s a reasonable decision, and with everything in the Marvel universe, gangsters dealing with demonic entities is nothing new.
As for Doctor Strange, he’s been dealing with his own mystical issues. Complements must be given for the artistic choices here, utilizing color (or lack thereof) to show when his mystic battles are from a magical perspective or a mundane one. When we see the mystical elements he’s battling, the outside world turns black and white, making the colors on the good doctor and the monster he’s battling pop out. When we see the same scene from an average person’s perspective, color is restored, but the monster he’s battling has vanished.
I must also say that I love the monster’s design; it’s like if you took a short fat Godzilla and merged it with a WW1 fighter plane, complete with propeller and weaponry (military history aficionados, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about the plane). The design is used for more than just show, as it’s instrumental in Dr. Strange’s victory, showing his cleverness in addition to a rather gruesome triumph.
One other nice touch with the mystic battle is the bystanders; as they cannot see the demonic entity Dr. Strange is fighting, it looks as though he’s just shadowboxing, and spinning his axe around in the air, and they’re loving it. It’s very amusing, and shows how Strange can fight monsters from beyond the human world in public without drawing too much attention.
Although you’d think at least someone would go “Wait a second, wasn’t that guy an Avenger?” At the same time, the Marvel universe is almost certainly filled with superhero impersonators performing on street corners, so it’s a reasonable use of “hidden in plain sight.”
So necessity brings the heroes together, but how well do they work off one another? About as well as any typical hero teaming up with the Punisher does. Frank likes killing people, Dr. Strange doesn’t; Frank shoots someone, Strange gets frustrated. All the while, Frank Castle gets in a few jabs about magic cliches, and Dr. Strange carries around a big axe.
In short, the usual juxtaposition of typical do-gooders and the “kill bad guys” anti-hero. Throw in a combination of a street-level, gun-toting anti-hero alongside a master of the mystic arts, and you’ve got an all around decent team.
But just as no hero is complete without a villain, a proper team-up needs a threat that can meet and challenge both of them. As mentioned earlier, the foes they’re facing combine the criminal underworld with demonic forces, so it’s a perfect blend for battling the Strange/Punisher team.
I admit, I’ve got a soft spot already for Livio Fusilli, who really just wanted to run a restaurant, and has something of a freakout over all the dead bodies the Punisher leaves behind.Continued below
In addition to the decent characters on the human side, the designs of the eldritch horrors they’re dealing with are all varied and impressive. We’ve got crawling demonic bugs, multi-eyed creepers, tentacle monsters, flying skulls, and all sorts of creepy crawlies. Andrea Broccado does a fine job with all of their designs, making each appropriately otherworldly.
As we see all the great designs, there’s another entertaining moment where one of the gangsters enters the room to alert them of oncoming trouble, pauses as he sees all the demonic creatures, then just slams the door and decides he’ll have no part of that.
As far as first issues go, it’s a good setup. It makes the team-up and concept work properly, has good characterization, great artwork and designs, and flows properly. Whether you’re a fan of Dr. Strange or the Punisher, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this issue.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – A solid first issue on all fronts, making a most unlikely of team-ups one to look forward to.