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Marvel Ultimate Legends
by yo go re

It was truly unfortunate timing on Hasbro's part that they solicited this set just when every coward cop and wannabe tough-guy in America who chooses to decorate themselves with Punisher skulls was proving that yes, they are in fact bastards.

Frank Castle rides through the night dispensing brutal vigilante justice.

Frankly (no pun intended), any officer who would willingly identify with the Punisher is an idiot and should be fired immediately. For one thing, the guy's a criminal. Frank Castle is literally a criminal. He commits murder on a daily basis, and while we know cops would love to be able to do that (looking at you, St. Louis), their job is to uphold the law, not break it. You know, "to serve and protect"? Murdering people is neither service nor protection. But beyond even that, Punisher himself is wildly anti-police: as creator Jerry Conway has pointed out, Punisher is an example of the social system failing, not something to be celebrated. Calling for help from police who display Punisher skulls would be like doing your banking at "Bonnie & Clyde Savings and Loan."

We've had plenty of Punisher Marvel Legends over the years, most in either the "superhero" or "tactical" outfits. This one, however, is wearing a T-shirt and jeans, just like Hasbro's first Punisher did. It's really something to compare this 2021 release to the 2009 figure and see how incredibly far the sculpting has come. The old toy looked thin and sickly; this one looks like he could crack coconuts with the insides of his elbows. This big biceps may be reused, but his shoulders and hands are for sure new: the gloves he's wearing are super short, not even reaching all the way to his wrists, and his shirt sleeves are either cut or rolled high enough to almost make this shirt into a vest. He's also got some spare clips strapped to his left thigh, and a harness around his shoulders.

The figure comes with two heads. They're both a very "Ariel Olivetti" sculpt, matching the style of the costume - the biggest giveaway is the receeding hairline, which no one else really draws Frank with. The flat nose? The deep cheeks? Could be anyone. But that hair? That's Olivetti. One head is just grumpy, but the other is all beaten up, with bruises and bandages cuts, plus the teeth bared.

He also includes a helmet that can fit on either head: a viking-style bucket with brown horns sticking out the sides. What on earth is that supposed to be? During Marvel's "War of the Realms" crossover, Malekith led forces from all the other realms in an attack on Midgaard. The monsters killed a lot of innocent people and left a lot of broken families before they were defeated, so the Punisher decided to go looking for retribution. As he do. In journeying to different realms, he picked up some local equipment, including this very helmet.

Other than that, he's got a selection of perfectly Punishery weapons: a sawed-off shotgun, a machete, a baseball bat, an Uzi, and a TEC-9. Both his hands have the trigger fingers extended, and the wrists move different directions for posing options: the right hand goes up and down, the left hand goes back and forth.

And then there's the bike.

Punisher is just a normal human dude with no special powers other than a tolerance for pain and an almost fanatical devotion to killing mobsters, so when he wants to get around the city, he needs transportation. That most often translates to a van (filled with weapons, of course), but sometimes means a motorcycle instead.

This is the same mold as the chopper Johnny Blaze rode, making this the fourth time we've seen it (and also explaining why I personally never bought either WWII Captain America or Patch Wolverine), though this one gets new "ape hanger" handlebars. And also a little Punisher logo on the speedometer. Being the same mold means the wheels still roll, the handlebars still turn, and the kickstand still doesn't work the way it should.

Clearly this bike was a budget-saver release, because it's entirely black. Even the engine! So he's not just spending his free time drawing cartoon skulls on his shirts, he's also painting every bit of chrome or bare metal on his equipment jet black. The only non-black parts are the lights and the New York license plate: PNSH-616. Only the toughest of toughies take the time to find out the number of the reality they live in, then get a personalized license plate with that and their name on it!

Punisher was supposed to be released last fall, but never seemed to show up - not even an empty spot on the shelves indicating he'd been there and sold out. Is it simply a case of bad timing, like releasing a toy of a mass-shooting site soon after a mass shooting? Or was it just too soon, and stores were still trying to movie Squirrel Girl and Cosmic Ghost Rider? Either way, if you want this set, the only reliable way to get it is online. The bike itself is kind of unimpressive, due to the flat paint (though it doesn't look half bad under someone else), but this is a style of Punisher we haven't really gotten before.

-- 04/26/21

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