Comics : What If? (Vol. 2) #44

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: What If, Whenever, Wherever...

This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

In Web of Spider-Man #1, Spider-Man struggled and abandoned a sybmiotic black costume. Later, in Amazing Spider-Man #300, the symbiote came back, bonded with a disgraced Eddie Brock. However, what if the symbiote had bonded not with Eddie Brock, but the vigilante known as the Punisher?

In Detail...

"What if Venom had possessed the Punisher?"
What If? (Vol. 2) #44
Dec 1992 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man Guest-Stars
Editor:  Craig Anderson
Writer:  Kurt Busiek
Pencils:  Luke McDonnell
Inker:  Luke McDonnell
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Articles: The Punisher

The story opens with the Punisher praying in Our Lady of Saints, chosen entirely at random from a myriad of other churches in the city. He had seen Spider-Man swing by before entering, and instead of praying, was instead thinking of how many times he and the Web-slinger have crossed paths. Sensing his animosity, the symbiote Spider-Man had abandoned bonds with the Punisher and soon makes itself known. After Frank Castle realizes he's in control, the story cuts to the Watcher, watching our tale unfold. He tells us what has gone on in our universe, and quickly gets back to the tale at hand.

The Punisher has his partner Microchip try to discover the symbiote's origin. While Microchip is trying to figure out where it came from, the Punisher gives it a field test. After assuming the guise of a middle aged man, the Punisher walks up to a criminal named Roky Vance and kills him. After discovering that the symbiote can do webbing, the Punisher ponders if it can also do bullets, and shoots Vance's thugs. Following this successful test, the Punisher begins a more brutal war against crime. However, Spider-Man and Daredevil soon learn of the Punisher and his brutal tactics. Unfortunately, neither has all the pieces to the puzzle.

Some time later, the balance of power between the symbiote and the Punisher has shifted. Microchip is the first casualty, and soon after, the symbiote has taken the Punisher to confront Spider-Man. After a short battle, Spider-Man is nearly killed, but the Punisher reasserts control and forces the symbiote to let Spider-Man live, and goes home. Spider-Man, meanwhile, seeks help from the Fantastic Four. They give him a special gun and fashion advice. The Punisher, however, arrives home and quickly becomes enraged. He flies off to seek Tombstone, and after quickly dispatching the albino assassin, decides to go after a bigger catch: the Kingpin.

The Punisher confronts the Kingpin, though Fisk has protection: Daredevil and Typhoid Mary. The pair are not enough to stop Punisher, and soon the Kingpin is dead. Afterwards, the symbiote directs the Punisher to go after Spider-Man, and later, back to Our Lady of Saints. When the Punisher reaches the church he finds Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Moon Knight waiting for him. The trio of heroes are quickly dispatched, but Spider-Man turns the tide of battle with Reed Richards' Sonic Blaster. Unfortunately, the symbiote has fully bonded with the Punisher. Fortunately, the blast allowed the Punisher to regain control and confront the symbiote within their collective mind.

After a while, the Punisher emerges and claims that he has tamed Venom, in order to use it as an instrument of vengeance.

In General...

I felt that this was an entertaining story, though ultimately forgettable. However, the highlight of the story was seeing the amount of things the Punisher could do with the Venom symbiote, such as manifesting bullets and creating glider wings. Also, the Moon Knight appearance seemed to be thrown in for no good reason. The art, like the story, was good, but not outstanding.

Overall Rating...

As I said above, the story is good, but not one you'll remember fondly years from now. I expect more from Kurt Busiek.