I realize all of this is slightly premature since there is one more issue of The Punisher coming before Secret Wars kicks in, one that promises to address “what will happen to those Frank has left in his wake” so it’s possible that this issue will feature a repudiation of everything that has come so far. But having now re-read the current Punisher series by Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads (with assistance from Kevin Maurer, Carmen Carnero, Moritat, Felix Ruiz, Brent Schoonover, and others) I can’t help but notice an incredibly obvious and pretty gross conservative undercurrent that is extreme even for a series about the Punisher. The overall storyline is very much the simultaneous government-fearing/military-worshiping sort of thing you get out of the modern conservative movement, and the downright contempt held for the (primarily minority) criminal class, repeatedly labeling them “thugs” and “homies” and “the have-nots” is hard to ignore. In the interest of brevity, this first exploration of the series is going to focus on the latest in a series of “women pushed too far” who become acolytes of the Punisher. Bear in mind, the pages excerpted below comprise the majority of the pages she appears in, so I feel like I haven’t lost any nuance or depth the character has been given. Wait, she took some night school classes in art so she could identify the skull ring as a “memento mori” because she doesn’t want to be just “a pretty face on the force.” There you go, all the background required or given on the character!
In The Punisher #1, Frank gives a skull ring he took from the bullet-ruined hand of a drug runner (who he subsequently pushed into the water and calmly watched get eaten by alligators) to an unnamed female police officer:
In the second issue, Samantha Stone is named, and the Punisher comes in and mows down all of the perps who are engaged in a firefight with Stone and her LAPD partner. It’s not clear why they were in a firefight, but it’s clear that the police need the Punisher.
Soon Stone is sermonizing that “the old rules don’t apply” and that the Punisher is an inspiration.
I mean, if criminals are committing crimes and not respecting the law, maybe it’s time for the police to stop hiding behind the law too!
Not content to adopt this sort of attitude when criminals are actively shooting at police officers in the middle of a huge conflagration, Office Stone takes it upon herself to abandon her partner who is dealing with three suspects in a robbery to chase down and shoot a fleeing suspect in the back.
This shooting has the predictable effect: no real punishment, but some stupid bureaucrat WHO DOESN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT’S LIKE ON THE STREETS decides Stone needs to be benched for a little while. This dummy clearly doesn’t appreciate the nuances involved in shooting a dude in the back.
But what if dumb ol’ Bureaucrat is right? Maybe it IS the cops who are out of control, not the thugs. Well, that is quickly answered by Skinny Pete and his mohawked friend randomly beating Officer Stone’s kindly old diner friend.
Check and mate, Bureaucrat! And lest you think this is some sort of racial thing with all the “homies” and “papis” and “thugs” and “amigos” dropped by the Punisher and his white supporters as they gun down or bomb hundreds upon hundreds of people of color: look at these arguably white thugs who beat up a black man! A black man who helpfully denounced the Rodney King riots just pages earlier! Predictably, Officer Stone is not going to let a little thing like administrative leave keep her from seeking justice: SKULL RING JUSTICE.
This is where I thought the story of Officer Stone would become a cautionary tale. Her plan to “do something about it” is to walk up to random “thugs”, flash some money at them and get them to narc on whoever beat up her friend.
How is this reliable intel? You walk up to the first couple of “thugs” you see, flash them some five dollar bills and ask them to finger the perps of a random mugging. Why would they know this? And the information they give identifies some “kids” with “the black hats” hanging out by an “empty theater”. Through the magic of comic books, we can scroll up and see that the two men who assaulted Lou don’t look particularly young, and are wearing a blue Dodgers cap and no hat respectively. And look at the expressions of those “thugs” as Stone walks away. How is this actionable evidence?
Never mind, she was able to find them on the very next page and shoot those homies!
Not so tough now, are you homie? All crying and apologizing and not really able to keep your mohawk on straight? Maybe he only put on a fake mohawk in order to impress his friends who hang out by the empty theater, the ones with the black hats. Maybe he didn’t even beat up Lou. The hair color and amount of facial hair vary an awful lot from panel to panel. Pretty big coincidence for it to be the same guy. We’ll never know, because THE POLICE show up and interrupt this righteous(?) kill.
We next see Stone tossed into Gen Pop of an apparently co-ed prison. It seems like these thugs just don’t care for or respect police officers!
She’s not locked up for long though, because all of the street thug gangs have united under the banner of the Dos Soles cartel (who are a false flag for the Secretary of Defense and his shadowy cabal of federal officials, but that’s for another post) to take over Los Angeles, and part of their plan is to break literally everyone out of jail. Well, almost everyone…
So to clarify: Stone was so inspired by the Punisher that she smuggled the skull ring all up inside her into prison, where I assume anyone noticing it (well anyone besides a gang leader) would immediately seize it as contraband. I’d comment on a cartel leader under the tutelage of the United States Secretary of Defense trying to orchestrate a huge series of riots that will allow Big Government to absorb all law enforcement divisions nationwide into some sort of New World Order Army probably shouldn’t be wasting resources and time performing acts of violence (sexual or otherwise) on imprisoned disgraced police officers, but if there is one thing that this book (and honestly, far too many other comics) have taught me, it is that if you are a criminal there is literally no crime you are not just champing at the bit to commit. A hired hitman? Obviously you’re going to rob some people on the side. A bank robber? You’re definitely down to sexually assault a random lady. A corporate spy? If a sufficiently big supervillain shows up and wants to literally exterminate the human race, thus making corporate espionage obsolete, you’ll probably go along with it. I mean, you’re a criminal.
Thankfully, the power of THE SKULL RING allowed our heroic beat-cop-turned-vigilante to lay out all of those thugs and walk free. Now that thugs rule the city and are helpfully shouting their intentions from the tops of cars, she is unequivocally doing the right thing going after them extra-legally now!
Now again, maybe the last issue will reveal that Samantha Stone is tragically mistaken, and should never have taken the law into her own hands. Maybe her endorsement of the Punisher’s inner monologue — full of chestnuts like:
The cops mean well. But this is war. And someone else said the only crime in war is to lose.
A rehabilitated criminal is a criminal who got a trip to a motel with three free meals a day for his crime.
Some people think criminals just make mistakes. They don’t realize that these men have made a choice, over and over again. They’re not here to pay for their crimes. They’re here because they’re CRIMINALS.
The police do not protect. They do not prevent. They can’t be there before the gun is fired, they can only chase the thug who fired it. Only a FOOL puts his safety in someone else’s hands. Only a fool expects that the authorities can make him safe.
Rehabilitation. What a joke. They’re animals. They don’t deserve to be treated as people anymore.
Maybe he’s not supposed to be a role model with this extreme, nihilistic view of the human condition. His belief that “criminals” and “thugs” and “the have-nots” are subhumans worthy of “extermination”. Who would support such a man?
Ah, carry on then. We’re back to the military patches. I guess the Punisher really should inspire us all. Take that, bleeding heart liberals!