Best Shots Advance Review: THE PUNISHER 2099 #1 (8/10)

The Punisher 2099 #1
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

The Punisher 2099 #1
Written by Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson
Art by Matt Horak, Eoin Marron, and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Credit: Marvel Comics

All users must be punished in The Punisher 2099 #1. Bringing back elements of the original 1993 series, writing team Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson drop us in the middle of a police state sector of Nueva York. Defended by the oppressive Public Eye police force, backed by the vast Orwellian tech of Alchemax, the future has become based around social scores. Your score goes up when you support the corporations, down when you stand up to it.

But Public Eye officer Hector Tago has discovered a flaw in the system. His “Iris,” a sort of biomechanical body cam hooked into a user’s nervous system for the illusion of objectivity, is replaying his memories wrong, showing him things that never happened. But the further he goes down the rabbit hole, the further Hector begins to doubt the system — not to mention his commanding officer Jake Gallows, the original Punisher 2099.

From there, readers are treated to a surprisingly complex and strange Punisher origin story, one that is based around elements from the original series, but also tangled up in the trademark body horror Nadler and Thompson are known for, alongside the complicated politics of cyberpunk. While the script provides solid thematics, the art team of Matt Horak, Eoin Marron, and Rachelle Rosenberg deliver splashy, neon colored pages that lean into the more broader visual aspects of 2099 AD. With a foot in both the past and future, The Punisher 2099 #1 stands out amid the new 2099 pop-up line.

Credit: Marvel Comics

From the jump, Nadler and Thompson hit the ground running, opening on a battle between the Public Eyes and the anachronistic Thorite Cult. Evoking real-world police violence with unsettling ease, Nadler and Thompson establish the era’s class disparity early, thanks to block texts of “Social Scores” seemingly straight out of Black Mirror. This is Hector’s “crucible” - apparently during a Thorite riot, he defended himself against an armed cultist, thus gaining a healthy boost to his Social Score.

But the memory keeps changing every time Hector views it, leading him to buck convention and keep replaying it, much to his superiors and fellow Eye’s dismay. This is where Nadler and Thompson start to play in the morally grey areas of the mind and the “state narrative” afforded by the far-future setting. Supported by the familiar elements of the ‘93 series, the pair deliver a surprisingly prescient and timely tale, using the future tech to support themes of identity, personal freedoms, and revenge. The best Punisher stories always have something more to say with the violence and I am glad to say The Punisher 2099 #1 carries on the tradition.

Credit: Marvel Comics

However, the sudden appearance of the Punisher armor does come across a bit like an obligated ending for the one-shot. For one thing, this final sequence is the only time the armor does make an appearance, and the script never really mentions Gallows’ time in the armor or how Hector happened upon it. Had Nadler and Thompson provided more connective tissue to bridge (or even really acknowledge) the gap between Gallows’ fanatical time as the Punisher to Hector’s more righteous use of the armor, I feel this issue would have had a stronger throughline connecting both eras. But instead it is used more like set dressing, which is fun and gives readers of the past run a neat Easter egg, but I feel it could have been used more effectively here.

That said, this one-shot also isn’t afraid to get really pulpy either. That’s where Matt Horak, Eoin Marron, and Rachelle Rosenberg come in. Translating Nadler and Thompson’s heady, idea heavy script into raw, tabletop RPG-inspired visuals, Matt Horak and Eoin Marron really thrive in the future setting. Starting with computerized panel borders for the holographic memory replaying and blossoming into cramped, dangerous-looking interiors and exteriors, Horak and Marron make the future look appropriately wonderful and terrible. The streets boil to a fun, kinetic debut of the Punisher, who stalks through a riot, complete with a gastly “World Tree” built out of bodies by the Thorites, like a futuristic riff on Jason Voorhees.

Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg proves to be the secret weapon in Punisher 2099’s arsenal. While Marron and Horak provide solid scene construction, Rosenberg drenches the whole issue in searing, inspired colors, amping up the neon-lighting of the future and earthy anachronism of the Thorite cult. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the scene where Hector, now donning the grim Punisher armor, faces off against Gallow amid the World Tree riot. The pencils clearly lay out the fight, but Rosenberg gives it an eye-catching visceral quality thanks to her focused, bright colors highlighting each blow, blood-spray, and background detail.

Even in the future, the world requires punishment, and The Punisher 2099 #1 delivers as such with brains and brawn. Headlined by a writing team who make this one-shot more than the sum of its parts and an art team unafraid to lean into more outlandish visual qualities, this 2099 installment could arguably be called one of the better efforts. If you like your Punisher tales with a bit more to say and a little less empty wanton violence, then look to the future and The Punisher 2099.

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