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Marvel Legends
by yo go re

The way the Punisher has been drawn has always been a reflection of superhero comics in general. When he first showed up, he wore a straight superhero costume; by the '90s, that had slowly morphed into some kind of thick tactical suit. These days, as artists try to draw costumes in a more realistic manner, Frank's mostly shown wearing plain pants and a T-shirt.

Even the most vicious criminals have nightmares. Not that they'd ever admit it, but Frank Castle is the one bad dream they all share. There's not a made man in New York that hasn't spent at least one night plagued by visions of a black-clad silhouette, shrouded in the smoke of a burning building. That white skull resolves from the smoky background, and Castle's thin-lipped, square-jawed face moves towards them, lit from above by avenging flame. He is a man lost in a war fought alone, a man for whom justice and peace mean less than nothing while one criminal remains in the world. He is a man who has worked for years to be the dark figure that bears down in every scumbag's worst nightmares.

Obviously the movie Punisher figure was meant to represent Thomas Jane, but this is the first artist-specific Punisher toy - it may have been the intention to make the Face-Off Punisher a Ross Andru figure, but it didn't quite work. And interestingly, the hard-to-find variant of that figure tried to pass itself off as a Tim Bradstreet version, which is what this figure clearly represents.

Punisher is a big figure, standing over 6½" tall. This mold was originally designed for the Punisher, but the series took so damn long to find a home that it was first released (without anybody realizing it) as Ultimate Nick Fury. He's wearing a dark grey shirt with wrinkles revealing that he's twisting to the side. His pants bunch up where they're tucked into his footgear, and he has distinct bootlaces. He has a complex belt, and his arms are bare, with decent musculature - and amazingly, his hands aren't too small for his body!

It's more than just the style of shirt this toy is wearing that makes it a modern Tim Bradstreet Punisher. The head is unmistakably based on Bradstreet's distinctive artwork: it has the harsh, sunken cheeks, the straight, slightly hooked nose, and of course, the slicked-back hair. You throw this figure under a harsh overhead light, stand him in front of a brick wall and surround him with skulls and shellcasings, and you'll have every Bradstreet Punisher cover ever made.

Frank has two accessories: a large M60 machine gun and a small pistol. The pistol fits in the holster on his right thigh, and he's sporting enough articulation to look natural holding the big gun. We're talking a swivel head, hinged neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, elbows, torso, hips and ankles, swivel wrists and thighs, and double-hinged knees. All the joints work easily, so your Punisher can be kicking ass with confidence.

Punisher is, along with his friend Daredevil, one of the figures in Series 4 to get a variant. His comes from the 2005 Punisher videogame, when he infiltrates Grand Nixon Island, one of those fake Marvel Universe locations like Latveria, Wakanda or Columbia. The South Pacific island was introduced during Garth Ennis's "Welcome Back, Frank" storyline second storyline in the ongoing Punisher series, as the home base/atomic launch pad of disgraced ex-U.S. Army General Kreigkopf (which translates as "war head," get it?), who wanted to bomb Europe. In the game, he instead wanted to blow up New York, and was the one who sicced The Russian on Frank.

Anyway, when videogame Frank went to Grand Nixon, he dons a new outfit, a jungle camo that should allow him to sneak around the island unnoticed. Of course, since The Punisher wasn't a stealth action game, he mostly just walks around in the open firing his guns and using human shields. Tactical! "Jungle Camo" Punisher uses the same mold, but he's wearing a green shirt and camouflage pants. The skull symbol on his shirt is the classic style, rather than the skinny little thing Bradstreet came up with.

In the game, Frank also put on some warpaint: he painted everything above his neck green, with a white skull logo on his face. The sculpt is the same as on the regular Frank, which gives you an interesting chance to see the difference facepaint like this can make when looking at details. Going by the source material, though, the white paint should continue onto his hair.

The variant comes with the same accessories as the regular version, which is slightly disappointing: in addition to the green clothes, he also wore webgear that the variant is lacking. Yes, it may have been too much to ask for another accessory on what was meant to be a cost-saving variant, but it still would have been cool to get, consarn it!

Both Punishers have the same Nemesis Build-A-Figure piece, the character's massive left arm. Which is also apparently some kind of huge blaster. Stood on end, it'll reach as high as Frank's chest joint. The piece is translucent yellow with red speckles painted on the surface. Nemesis was originally designed by Joe Maduriera, and you can absolutely see his influence in the shape of the arm.

Because of the way this series is shipped, it's hard to tell what the ratio of modern Punisher to jungle Punisher is, but it seems really close: I know for a fact that I've seen more way green than black, but that may just mean that people are grabbing the standard version first. Whichever Punisher you like, these are both different from any other Punisher toys we've had before - and since they're different from each other, as well, you may want to get both.

-- 12/07/09

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