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by yo go re

Marvel's got a really strange habit of rebooting movies that don't need it. Ang Lee's Hulk was pretty damn good, but it was cast aside for The Incredible Hulk, an interpretation that was different, but not substantially better. Similarly, the 2004 Thomas Jane version of Punisher was surprisingly well done, but it got a bullet in the head in favor of Punisher War Zone.

Equipped with the latest gear and an unyielding appetite for vengeance, the Punisher takes to the streets to continue his one-man war on crime. On his tail is the FBI's Punisher Task Force, dedicated to bringing him in dead or alive.

This Punisher figure is awesome! We normally try not to gush in our reviews, but this time, I just can't help it. This guy alone is reason to get the set - best Minimate Punisher yet! Of course, there aren't as many of him as there are of, say, Wolverine, but this one is still aces. He's mostly black, with dark grey feet and arms to break up the monotony. Of course, there's a white skull fading away on the chest - very impressive apps, to convey the feeling of a design that's wearing off even when it's brand new.

Since the figure is based on the movie, the little block face is meant to look like Ray Stevenson - an excellent choice to play Frank Castle, by the way. He's grimmacing and needs a shave, but the scrapes and bruises show that he's been in a hell of a fight. The hair is a new piece, slicked back and thinner in the front than the back, just like it was in the film. That's nice design work!

And while all of that is good, what makes this Punisher a must-have is his arsenal. He's wearing his assault armor from the end of the movie, so he's absolutely loaded down with weapons. And we're not talking about sculpted details, but an entire arsenal of separate, removable weaponry! Let's start at his feet and work up. Strapped to his right thigh, there's a revolver, and on the left hip, he's carrying a baton. A pair of silver pistols slide into place on either side of his torso, and there are two unique rifles plugged into his back - Minimate-ized M-16s, one with a sight and a scope, the other with a grenade launcher underneath. Immediately behind his neck is a silver knife with a brown grip. That's seven accessories, not even counting the fact that you can strip off his armor, the holsters on his legs, and the ammo clips on his right shin. Even if you don't add his hair to the tally, that's a total of 11 accessories for a 2" figure! 5½ accessories per inch! Outstanding! That's why Frank alone is worth the purchase.

But hey, Frank's not alone! He's got a little enemy in this set, which you can pretty much think of as a freebie (since the Punisher's so awesome by himself).

Mob boss Billy Russoti's first encounter with the Punisher left him with two things: disfiguring scars across his entire face and a thirst for venegeance like none other. Calling himself Jigsaw, he begins to recruit an army with only one goal. the death of Frank Castle!

There's no question that this set is based off the movie, so it's interesting that the back of the box shows comic art of the characters. It must be a rights issue - it's one thing to make a 2" block figure that sort of looks like someone, it's another thing entirely to show photos of those same people in the marketing of your product. So this may be Jigsaw, but it's not Dominic West. Who, for a long time, I confused with Dominic Monaghan, since, you know, people have at least heard of him. Besides PWZ, Dominic West was also one of the Spartans in 300, so that means he makes the list.

Jigsaw's appearance in the movie was pretty consistent with what we've seen in the comics, so this Minimate will work for fans of either the printed page or the silver screen. Below the neck, he's very reserved, wearing tan slacks and a fancy white shirt, and above the neck, he's chopped all to hell. Right at the neck, meanwhile, he gets a new piece: a small ring that fits between the head and torso to simulate a tall collar (or a neck brace). Interesting choice. Very simple, but it works.

The important part of a Jigsaw figure is obviously going to be his creepy puppet his ruined visage (although, much like the guy from Saw, bits of his face are made from a pig, so there you go). His railway-map scars are very crisp, and one eye sits lower than the other - eww! He has a hairpiece with a big spiky wave in the front, and his white shirt is actually painted that color, over a paler base.

All Minimates share the same body with different paint decos, and they all move at the same 14 points: neck, waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles - lots of motion for something so tiny! Frank can't put his arms down at his sides, because of the holsters, but you can fake it. There wasn't a dedicated PWZ Minimate line - just a four pack with these two figures, a "civilian" Frank Castle and a generic mob thug. This pair is a Toys Я Us exclusive, and a bit hard to find: if you're resorting to secondary market prices, it might be cheaper to just get the four-pack, since the figures are the same.

While it's ridiculous that Marvel keeps trying to reboot movies that don't need it (and, in the process, ends up making movies that perform exactly on par with the quote-unquote "bad" ones), at least they do one thing smart: there's nothing about either The Incredible Hulk or Punisher War Zone to actually say they're reboots; both films can be viewed as continuations of the established continuity, which is great for those of us who actually saw the first films rather than just listening to nerds on the internet. Hopefully they'll keep that streak alive with the Daredevil redux that's been rumored, recently. It'd be a shame if one of the best Marvel movies, period was written off entirely.

-- 06/08/09

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