Reviews 

Remembering Amalgam: “Bullets & Bracelets” #1

By | June 22nd, 2020
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Continuing the summer trip through the Amalgam titles, we get to one of the least obvious pairings, “Bullets & Bracelets”, where the Punisher married Wonder Woman.

The Mash Up
The Punisher’s civilian name is Trevor Castle, a combination of Frank Castle and Steve Trevor, and that’s really the only difference from the regular Marvel version. Diana Prince has some bulletproof bracelets, but otherwise left the Wonder Woman job to her adopted sister Ororo (more on her next time). These two met up during their wars on crime, fell in love, married, had a son, and divorced. Now, a new enemy has forced them to team up yet again! This issue is styled as the big finale to two stories, one from issues 90-99 of “Punisher” and one from issues 90-99 of “Diana Prince, Freelance”. It’s written by John Ostrander, drawn by Gary Frank, and published by Marvel.

Plot
The pair’s infant son, Ryan, has been kidnapped and they’ve been independently led to a castle filled with ninjas. As they’re led deeper into it, a trap is sprung by their ally-turned-enemy, James Rhodes aka Monarch. Monarch’s really just here to be here, because the only thing he says is “I led you here, but it’s not my plan.” He then triggers a boom tube to send the two to Apokolips.

Captions quickly inform us that they’ve been here before, during the Secret Crisis. Punisher heads to retrieve weapons from a crypt while Diana looks around. She encounters Big Titania, the wife of a hero who died during the Secret Crisis and is now a bitter villain. They fight a little bit, then Diana is captured and taken to the citadel of the mighty Thanoseid.

As he reveals, this whole saga was initiated by Thanoseid as revenge for the pair’s part in stopping him from using the Infinity Links. As baby Ryan is threatened, Punisher bursts in wearing the armor of Orion, Thanoseid’s dead son. There’s a scuffle, Titania decides to help Diana, and a random background character finds himself unable to kill Diana. As his plans fall apart, Thanoseid uses his omega eye beams to apparently incinerate the baby. Punisher gets mad and attacks the random background guy, yelling about taking a life for a life. Diana stops him and explains that Ryan wasn’t hurt, he was sent back in time and raised on Apokolips, growing up to be the same goon who Punisher is attacking. This whole time Thanoseid’s plan was to make Punisher kill his own son. Robbed of victory, Thanoseid teleports everyone home. Diana and Punisher kiss, because this amazing journey restored their love.

What “Wizard” Thought Then
Very little, really. It was overshadowed by “Amazon”, the John Byrne book starring Storm as Wonder Woman. “Bullets & Bracelets” was number 17 on the sales chart, but it was one of the lower selling Amalgam titles, coming in ninth out of twelve.

What I Think Now
Well, let’s get this out of the way first: I was not impressed with Comicraft’s effort on this one. Most of the issue was styled in all caps, which is fine, but certain words were sentence case. The mix was distracting, which I doubt was the intended effect. Plus, it allowed for occasional goofs. See if you can spot it:

Beyond that minor quibble, the foundation of the premise is pretty rickety. Getting remarried and starting a new family doesn’t sound very Punisher-esque to me, even if this isn’t entirely the Marvel 616 Punisher. It’s also hard to fathom that a cosmic-scale bad guy would go to all this trouble (or any trouble at all) for street-level vigilantes. We’re never told exactly what their role was during the Secret Crisis, but I’m having a hard time imagining what they could have done to warrant this much effort at vengeance – which, again, involves raising his enemy’s child to adulthood and arranging attempted patricide. Why not just send a message back in time instead of a baby and avoid defeat during the Secret Crisis?

Don’t get me wrong – the issue had more good points than bad. The backstory presented here may not be entirely satisfying, but the backstory is imaginary because the “build-up” issues were never written. Secret Crisis doesn’t exist outside of this one-shot. All that matters is that the backstory we’re given supports the story we’re reading, and it does.

Continued below

The important thing is that this specific issue was entertaining. The characters felt fully realized and their interactions were mostly believable. The twists were surprising – I sure wasn’t expecting the New Gods to pop up. The humor was well done, too. I laughed out loud at this one:

Frank’s artwork captures the spirit of the story well, especially his layouts. The whole point of this story is to show why these unlikely characters belong together, and he hammers that home with effective parallel structures. I first noticed it while reading through the origin recap (and I’m sure at least some of it was dictated by the script), but in later reads the relationship between the two leads is represented visually through multiple techniques including reflected images, aerial shots, and repeated staging.

While flipping through for examples to list, I came across this panel, which made me wonder if the CCA censors were asleep when this bare butt was approved:

In the end, I finished this book wishing I could read more of it. And that means it was a good book.


//TAGS | 2020 Summer Comics Binge

Drew Bradley

Drew Bradley is a long time comic reader whose past contributions to Multiversity include the Minding MIND MGMT, Small Press Spotlight, and Tradewaiter columns, along with Lettering Week and Variant Coverage. He currently writes history-based articles. Feel free to email him about these things, or any other comic related topic.

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