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Gimmick or Good? – Punisher War Zone #1

In this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence “Gimmick or Good?” Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with 1992’s gatefold die-cut cover for Punisher War Zone #1…

Punisher_WZ_cover

Punisher War Zone (published March 1992) – script by Chuck Dixon, pencils by John Romita Jr., inks by Klaus Janson

By the early 1990s, Frank Castle, aka, The Punisher, had emerged as one of Marvel’s hottest commodities, leading to the launch of Punisher War Zone, the third monthly title starring the character (a mother later, the Punisher Armory series resumed publication at issue #3 after a year-long absence). But the series may be best remembered for the return of fan favorite son John Romita Jr., aka JRJR, on pencils after a nearly two-year absence from monthlies (having last penciled Daredevil #282 in 1990). As was customary during this period, this new #1 issue sported a gimmicked cover – a die-cut image of the Punisher firing off an automatic weapon which also folded out to expand the visual (and another firing gun).

But what about inside the comic?

Perhaps no Marvel character symbolized the excesses that would doom the comic book industry in the 1990s quite like the Punisher. Originally conceived as a delusional bounty hunter adversary for Spider-Man by Gerry Conway in the early 1970s, Punisher had grown into a hugely popular anti-hero that was inserted into titles and one-shots across the Marvel universe. Best capturing how mindlessly the character was marketed is an anecdote in Sean Howe’s tell-all book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. According to Jim Starlin, Marvel execs told creative, “If the Punisher appears in a panel with another character, that character should be killed within the next few pages by either the Punisher or someone else. If the Punisher appears with any object, it should be destroyed in an explosion as soon as possible.”

True to form, War Zone #1 opens with a rogue informant in the Punisher’s self-declared war on the Carbone crime family dying in a hail of bullets, while two police officers (one critically injured) look on helplessly. The uninjured officer threatens to bring Punisher in, but he calmly walks away from the scene, unrepentant. This is the tone that is more or less maintained for the entire book, and I assume the entire series (even for the sake of research, I don’t think I have the patience to read all 41 issues of War Zone to verify this).

Punisher_WZ_01

And there’s your rub with a Punisher comic, especially during the “chromium era” of Marvel comics. If you checked out this issue to see pretty JRJR/Janson pictures of over-indulgent bloodshed, and the brandishing of weapons so extreme, even the staunchest defender of the Second Amendment would probably rethink his position, then War Zone was for you. And considering how over-saturated the comic market was with Punisher during this time, I imagine a lot of people devoured this story up and asked for seconds and thirds.

In an attempt to read this with more of a critical eye, the comic’s biggest flaw is that the Punisher is just not a likeable protagonist – even from an anti-hero standpoint. We know from the onset that he’s out for vengeance based on what happened to his family, but the character just cruises from scene to scene, shooting first and rarely ever asking questions. The only character who seemingly attracts any sympathy is Punisher’s sidekick Microchip – a computer whiz “Q” type – who tells Castle that vengeance isn’t enough and he needs professional counseling to deal with the death of his son. And Punisher becomes even less likeable in that moment (if that’s even possible) because he’s more concerned with whether or not Micro sold out their partnership to his shrink.

Punisher_WZ_02

Adding further to War Zone #1’s mindless excesses is the appearance of another mega-gun toting vigilante, Shotgun (a creation of JRJR and Ann Nocenti’s during their run on Daredevil), who raises the comic’s body count after shooting up a bunch of Carbone mobster’s on an island. Punisher and Shotgun would go on to work in tandem as the series continued. Again the creative team fails to give me a single reason to identify/care about this guy beyond the fact that he’s brandishing a comically large gun.

Punisher_WZ_03

On a somewhat redeeming note, War Zone #1 does present what I have to believe is a comic book first – torture by popsicle – proving, as Castle notes, “it’s not how much it hurts, it’s how much you think it hurts.” I actually really appreciate Punisher getting the upper hand on some D-level goon without resorting to a pair of machine guns.

Punisher_WZ_04

Still, popsicles alone do not a story make. I will say again that the art in this issue is actually really awesome to look at, especially if you have a gun and bullet fetish, but the story is so flimsy and Punisher is such a creep, in retrospect it just makes so much sense to me that by 1995 the Punisher gravy train would run dry and the bulk of his titles would be cancelled.

Verdict: Gimmick

47 Comments

Can someone do a find/replace on “War Journal” in this piece and change it to “War Zone”? Two different comics, although I can understand how you’d be confused…

Agree, this is a gimmick. Honestly (Frankly?) The Punisher just doesn’t have enough going to rate more than 1 series, and even that has often struggled.

A correction: Quite a few times the article refers to War Zone#1 as War Journal#1. The original War Journal#1 was actually quite decent, though I never read War Zone #1, since it came out during a period where I wasn’t reading Punisher (plus I don’t like pricier fancy covers and particularly during that era wasn’t a big fan of JR JR.).

The Punisher used that popsicle torture in the Thomas Jane film too. Cool.

Rollo Tomassi

May 24, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Nope. Wrong. War Zone #1 is Good.

Good. I didn’t buy it at the time but it’s certainly a well written and drawn comic. The Punisher is a character just as worthy of holding four titles as Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Wolverine, or Green Lantern – if he’s written correctly. People who say he isn’t haven’t read any of his good stories.

There are no bad characters, only bad writers.

The Punisher is a creep?

What would you prefer him to be doing with the criminal scum? Skipping through the daisies and braiding each other’s hair? He’s a psychopath with PTSD surrounded by the scum of the earth. He’s lost everything. He’s not Spider-Man.

Notorious-Byrd-Brother

May 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Absolutely disagree with the verdict here…that issue was superb, and the scene depicted above where Frank questions Micro is just as chilling and repulsive now as it was when it was first published. Looking back it was kind of getting into many years earlier on Ennis’ take where The Punisher was totally removed from human emotion, and to say that it makes him `unlikeable’ is totally missing the point. I also find the cup of coffee with `Dad’ written on it extremely sad and tragically funny at the same time.

I actually had this issue signed by John Romita Jnr endless years ago, so maybe I’m a little biased in my love of it! :)

@Jimmy

Well, Spider-Man is a big of a jerk right now himself with Otto in control and I think Superior has been fantastic because even though Otto does awful things as Spider-Man, there’s an idea that there are consequences to his actions. The Punisher, in the bulk of the stories I’ve read, including this one, and especially in the 90s, had no depth of character… but that’s just my opinion, and I’m glad there are people on here who are defending Castle as it at least justifies the character’s popularity.

On a larger note, sorry for my brain fart about War Zone/War Journal. The story in question here is clearly War Zone. I’m trying to get this fixed.

In terms of the “no bad characters” argument, the problem is, that in some cases, to make a character decent, you have to change them to such a degree that you’re basically creating a new character anyway. Take for example Black Zero. The thing that readers don’t like about him is that he’s a villain who supposedly destroyed Krypton, an idea mostly ignored subsequently. Now you could improve him by removing the “destroying Krypton” aspect, but since that’s his defini9ng characteristic, if you take that from him you’ve basically created a new character anyway.

The Punisher, however, has a stronger basic concept than Black Zero (there is a bit of wish fulfillment to the Punisher, even if we’re repulsed by the wish) and consequently some writers have done some interesting things with the character.

Going to have to STRONGLY disagree on this one. The first arc on War Zone is probably the single best cannoninical Punisher story pre-Welcome Back, Frank. Ennis himself has said that Dixon’s work on the title was interesting reading that still holds up.

This is the tone that is more or less maintained for the entire book, and I assume the entire series (even for the sake of research, I don’t think I have the patience to read all 41 issues of War Journal to verify this).

After Dixon leaves (and before he comes back) it turns to the kind of generic 90s anti-hero crap that makes everyone not-the-least-bit-nostalgic for pre-Ennis Punisher.

The popsicle scene used in the movie actually comes from a comic. Neat.

Interesting how JRJR’s artwork has changed over the years. Here, I get a heavy Frank Miller vibe from his stuff. Could be the Klaus Janson inks doing that.

I hate to say it, but these days, all of JRJR’s characters look either too stiff or like they’re made out of rubber. I don’t get that feel here. Whatever happened to that guy?

akkadiannumen

May 24, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I couldn’t disagree more. Dixon was firing on all cylinders. Romita was simply perfect back then. You completely missed the point of the story, particularly during the final conversation with Micro. Frank is a severely damaged individual. His soul is in shreds. He’s barely hanging on to his sanity (pretty much ever since he lost his family and it only got worse since then) and Microchip is his only human connection, his friend, not just his partner. He’s even more of a wreck than Linus but he’s learned to keep it inside and only lets it loose when he’s killing. He’s unable to reach out and comfort his friend and it hurts him. How does he show it? After Linus leaves, he fires a weapon and destroys some stuff. And then he goes back to killing criminals. Without Linus he starts taking more and more chances.

“Again the creative team fails to give me a single reason to identify/care about this guy beyond “. You’re not supposed to. He’s just another killer, only he works for the government. He knows Frank and he shares his objectives in this particular case. That’s it. He’s a bit of a deus ex machina, I suppose. He blows Frank’s cover, rescues him from certain death and joins him for the final battle providing some much needed firepower.

Man, I love JRJR’s old stuff. It’s got a thing. A weight to it.

I was watching the old Comic Book Greats series hosted by Stan Lee and featuring the Romitas. they talk about Shotgun. I always thought the term ‘Die-Cut’ was intentionally put there when it was used on a book like the Punisher. Like it wasn’t a real printing term, just something they made up.

I loved when Portacio was drawing Punisher.

I disagree. This book is one of Dixon and Romita’s best.

Annoyed Grunt

May 25, 2013 at 6:02 am

I love this story, but I always thought the gimmick cover was kind of lame. Not the JRJR image pictured above, but on the inside of the die cut cover they just reprinted a couple images from the pages inside.

I really liked that issue and the next 4or 5 that followed it. Its not great by any means, but it was a somewhat more realistic take on the character years before Garth Ennis did it to perfection with Punisher MAX.
In my eyes Frank is supposed to be an unlikable creep. He was that way in the MAX run too. The bottom line is that he is a sick sick individual and a monster, he just happens to focus his psychosis on people who may deserve it, instead of killing randomly. To me, thats the interesting thing about him. He is a monster that does a lot of good, almost by accident, in a very evil way.
So sad that MAX is over. LOVED that series. He just works so much better apart from the 616 universe.

The whole point of Frank Castle is that he does what he does because he’s messed up in the head, whether you believe it’s because he can’t get over his family’s murder, or if (like Ennis) you think he was already messed up to begin with.

(to add to the above) The point is that you aren’t supposed to sympathize with the guy even if you sympathize with what he’s doing.

That popsicle scene is one of the few from any early-90s Marvel comic that stuck with me (when I saw this issue was being reviewed, that’s the first thing I thought of). I remember thinking it was really clever and also appreciated that the writer’s chose cleverness rather than having the “hero” resorting to physical torture.

I think if I learned anything from the comments section is that this is one of the better Punisher stories. That still doesn’t change my verdict, but I appreciate everyone’s arguments all the same as maybe if I could get past my lack of tolerance for the Punisher character, I would maybe view this story differently. But as it is, I think there are plenty of more well-rounded, more interesting anti-heroes (and villains too) in the comic book universe that I would enjoy reading a story about the questionable things that they do. I’m just not at that point with Frank Castle.

The cover displayed in the article isn’t the die-cut version is it? There does not seem to be any die-cut elements to the cover displayed.

The problem wasn’t never the character, only the writers. I can name a few good writers: Mike Baron, Carl Potts, Chuck Dixon, Steven Grant, Garth Ennis and now Greg Rucka. On their own way they develop this character in a unique way.

Frank isn’t only a man with guns and for those who says that, they don’t know nothing about this character.

@MarkBlack

No, the image is just a jpeg reproduction of the cover. Couldn’t find a worthwhile scan of the die cut and my reader copy of this was courtesy of Marvel U app.

I think that cover image just ticks all the stereotypes about that era of comics – a poorly proportioned figure (the undersized head seemed to be a favourite trick), huge guns, cartridge cases flying and absolutely no clue whatsoever as to what the comic’s actually about.

I’ve not read any of War Zone but have found the collected editions of both the main and War Journal to be full of stories that are individually okay but collectively not terribly fulfilling or consistent, with the Punisher’s targets shifting all over the place and limited development. I hope that later issues improved on this or otherwise it was three titles for a character that really needed more work on a single book.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read this issue, but I recall it being one of the best Punisher stories produced at the time. It wasn’t full-on “mature readers,” but was edgier and less “superhero-y” than the other Punisher series, at least at first. (It basically became a third comic about Punisher fighting superheroes and supervillains pretty quickly, though.)

The cover gimmick was cheesy, but, hey, I can’t complain about Romita Jr.

Gotta disagree with the verdict as well. This is probably my favorite Punisher story arc of all time. It reads like something by Brian De Palma, better than any of the actual Punisher flicks out there.

This initial War Zone story arc was the zenith of 80’s classic Punisher stories which went back to the first mini-series. It established the franchise as a series of crime comics featuring a character who isn’t supposed to be likable. For veteran Punisher fans, the Carbone Family saga is the comic equivalent of Pacino’s Scarface. No happy endings or morals, just a hefty helping of vigilante justice. Any list of great Punisher crime stories would likely include the following:

Grant, Zeck, Beatty, & Vosburg’s Circle of Blood.
Baron and Portacio’s run on the first ongoing, particularly the Skid Row Slasher and Kingpin arcs.
Baron and Haynes’ Final Days arc.
Potts and Lee’s run on War Journal, especially the first three issues.
Grant, Zeck, and Beatty’s Return to Big Nothing graphic novel.
Dixon, JRJR, and Janson’s War Zone run, especially this initial six-parter.

This story arc heralded the downfall of Frank and Micro’s friendship, with Frank becoming more delusional by the moment. It led to Micro becoming an antagonist after having had his own mini-series, and eventually being killed off.

If you go back and read Baron’s run on the first ongoing, you can tell how Frank began going on a downward spiral in regards to Micro, starting with Frank’s reaction to the death of Micro’s son in issue #9. Back then, Frank still cared enough about involving others in his ongoing vendetta. But by the time War Zone #1 begins, all Frank worries about is that Micro might turn him in despite all the times Micro has saved his life. Frank is secretly feeling guilty about dragging Micro into his own madness when he learns about the shrink, but still doubts Micro’s true motives and fears that Micro might rat him out, willingly or otherwise. This tears him up internally and only continues to unhinge him from reality.

There’s a lot of character development going on from 1987 through 1992. The severing of Frank and Micro’s association had a lot to do with the Punisher being viewed as a one-trick pony from the mid-90’s until Ennis got his hands on him.

Travis Pelkie

May 26, 2013 at 2:45 am

This one has a special place in my heart, because I used it in a presentation in a junior high English class about comic books. It was my example of a gimmick cover. My copy’s actually ripped a little at the die cut. I must have gotten it fairly new, because I got into comics right around the time this book came out. Unless I used it in college in a presentation….

Hmm, unless I got it in a cheapo bin BECAUSE it was ripped….

Anyway, I remember well the Micro scene and the popsicle scene. Great stuff, in my view. Mind you, I haven’t read it again in awhile.

IIRC, however, the description you have of the gimmick isn’t quite right. The image above is a wraparound cover, with the die cut skull to the right of Frank’s face here (there are…gunpowder residue? shadows you can see here that make up the cheekbone outlines, iirc). I don’t think it folds out, but I may be misremembering. So many damn gimmick covers!

@Adam: It’s definitely a style change by JRJR. He’s no longer compatible with Janson on inks. Their recent stuff his been messy, but he’s still doing good work with Tom Palmer.

I’ve always felt that the Punisher only works well as a villain. He’s just too horrible a person to work as a protagonist, and when he used as one, the story always ends up pretty depressing. (To be fair, I haven’t read a lot of Punisher stories.)

I always hated those gigantic ’90s guns. They look so ridiculous, and I could never understand how a character without super-strength could carry them so easily. At least the Punisher himself is using normal guns in the pages shown here.
(This doesn’t apply to the gun Shotgun is holding, but what was the deal with all the rectangular barrels on so many ’90s guns? That always looked especially stupid.)

I wonder if that popsicle scene was inspired by John Varley’s Demon.

I remember linking this issue, I think mostly on a subconscious level due to the presence of JRJR who I loved on Nocenti’s DD run.
I remember how weirdly he disappeared a few issues later, and if I recall correctly it had something to do w/ the shuffle of creators due to the Image exodus?
Suddenly all these guys popped up in X-titles.
Or am I thinking of a stint he did on Iron Man?

Gonna have to join the chorus of voices disagreeing with the verdict on this one. In fact, I’d actually like to beg this site to just leave the Punisher alone. You guys clearly aren’t fans. The Greatest Stories list was just atrocious. It reminds me of how vocal Joss Whedon was about his hatred of the Punisher, only to have the character pop up in his Runaways arc just to be made fun of, which seriously detracted from what could have been a great storyline.

Obviously you’re not going to enjoy a book featuring a character you don’t like. But I personally think Chuck Dixon, possibly the best Punisher writer of all time, struck a nice balance between a cool action hero and a man who one should definitely cross the street to avoid with his first run on War Zone. I really recommend you read his first 12 issues to get an idea of how epic he envisioned the story.

A bit of a tangent, but since there’s a lot of Punisher fans here, I highly recommend a trade Marvel put out last years: Punisher: Official Index to the Marvel Universe. It gives chronologies, synopses, etc of nearly every book the Punisher (both “616” and MAX versions) starred in or co-starred in over the years (though not guest star titles or anthology books, nor stuff like Archie Meets the Punisher involving another company’s characters). A nice way to go down memory lane if you’ve read most of his adventures or learn more about adventures you haven’t read. Goes up to May 2012.

I too will join the choir of disagreeing with this one. Contrary to popular belief on this blog, Ennis is not the end-all, be-all of good Punisher stories. In fact, it really feels like his Punisher MAX run builds on Chuck Dixon’s work here.

“the Punisher is just not a likeable protagonist”
Not all characters need to be likeable. This was not aimed at kids, and once you get out of childhood, you can discover that good stories can be written about characters that aren’t supposed to be your friend. It reminds me of when I watched “Falling Down” with a group of people and at the end, one guy freaked out that “No, he can’t die, he’s the hero”. A. in grown up stories things don’t have to end happily ever after, and B. the main character isn’t necessarily a “hero”. I get the same thing from some comedies too. I’ve heard people complain about the UK The Office, because David Brent isn’t a nice guy, he’s a jerk, he isn’t likeable. Yeah the people on tv. are not your buddies that you hang out with.

@Johnny C – just for full disclosure, I am not a staff writer of CSBG. I’m the blogging equivalent of an “independent contractor” who really has no affiliation with CSBG or CBR outside of this feature, so I don’t think it’s fair to lump my opinions of Punisher or this comic as some kind of general indictment of the character by the people who write for and maintain this site every day.

With that said, maybe you have a point in that I probably shouldn’t review too many Punisher comics in the future for Gimmick or Good since I clearly have a predisposition towards the character and it’s not a positive one. For me, the Punisher always works better as a supporting cast member or the occasional shades of grey adversary for a hero, a la his involvement in the Bronze Age Spider-Man/Daredevil comics. The fact that the Punisher was given so many titles to star in during this period and the general public eventually voted with their wallets and got them cancelled due to their lack of interest/sales, gives my opinion some validity. I just don’t buy this idea that a character who’s the protagonist of his own series (and 3-4 others) should elicit ZERO sympathy from its readers. The comic book world is filled with plenty of unlikeable anti-heroes who at least give the reader a moment to CONSIDER their insane viewpoints and thus become interesting to read about and follow. The Punisher, at this point in the 1990s, was not that character for me. He’s anarchy/nihilism on steroids. But again, this is not reflective of what anyone else who writes for this blog thinks.

First of all, it pretty much does represent what CBR thinks. The character’s none too popular around these parts.

And second, the only mistake they made with 90s Punisher was pushing the anti-hero angle over the straight up vigilante take on the character, plus they just plain should not have given him so many books. It was overkill.

Fair enough, sorry if I offended (I really shouldn’t leave comments when drunk and angry.) I was just disappointed, because I’ve really enjoyed and agreed with all your Gimmick or Good’s up to this point. And as a fan of the Punisher since the early 90’s, I’m well aware that you could fill a couple Marvel omnibuses with unreadable Punisher stories. Like a lot of the Marvel cash cows of the early 90’s, he got overexposed and was often put into the hands of creative teams who didn’t know how to make him anything more than a mindless killing machine with no personality. So I’m in agreement as far as THAT goes (certainly his handling in the Round Robin story in Amazing Spiderman that you NAILED in this very column.) But I honestly think Dixon was the exception – having Castle use a popsicle to torture a guy into giving up information, for example, showed that he could bring more humor to the character and have him be more than just an unrepentant kill-bot with a five o’clock shadow (same definitely can’t be said for Ennis’ Punisher, who had his good arcs and his bad.) And as Dixon’s WAR ZONE run progressed, he introduced crooks and assassins as adversaries rather than bullet fodder: they were trying to kill Frank, and it became as much about survival as it was revenge/punishment, whatever you want to call it. Also, Dixon did a great job casting Micro as the “normal” half of the duo who has real human emotions about losing a loved one (from one of the best Punisher stories, #9 by Mike Baron and Whilce Portacio) – Castle’s reaction just shows how focused he is on the mission, how his “war on crime” is the only way he has to deal with his own loss. I mean, that’s the character in a nutshell, and you’re absolutely right: if that doesn’t work for you, you’re simply not going to like any story starring the Punisher. But bringing up that tired old “right wing NRA nutjobs must love this guy” argument really gets to me. I’m super pro-gun control; if it were up to me, screenings for potential gun owners would be as stringent as possible. But this is a comic book; us rational Punisher fans don’t go beating off to splash pages of Frank Castle blowing away gangsters with a big ass gun.

Did the Punisher turn into a gimmick at the height of his popularity? No question. But I don’t think it’s fair to group Dixon and JRJR, who seemed to really want to tell a fun and exciting story, along with a lot of the other bozos. As far as grouping you with other writers on CSBG, again I apologize but as you’re writing one of my favorite recurring series that appears on the site you have to concede that your opinions will occasionally get “lumped” in with those of other writers.

@johnnyC I took zero offense, I just didn’t want the conversation to turn into a “CSBG hates Punisher” conspiracy theory. I’m very grateful that Brian has given me this outlet but just wanted to make sure that I didn’t throw him and the others on this site under the bus by being grouped into my very own independent opinion.

And you make some solid points with Punisher WZ. Like I said, I got burned out on the character very early and it’s colored my view of him, even the for the good stories. I probably should either read more of what fans are considering the “good” stuff so I can make a more formulated opinion before doing another Punisher comic on this site.

And of course, thanks for being a fan of the column! We’ll probably disagree some more in the future, just because it’s inevitable.

Thanks for clearing things up Mark, and keeping an open mind about the character. Looking forward to your piece on X-Force #1! (or Heroes Reborn? or Image flagship books?)

[…] CBR’s Comics Should Be Good blog, where I pen the 90’s-centric “Gimmick or Good?” column, when I ripped apart John Romita Jr. and Chuck Dixon’s Punisher War Zone #1 – a comic and series that has come to be revered by long-term Punisher fans. I was flabbergasted […]

The popsicle torture scene is great.

I can totally imagine Frank, a few panels later, eating that popsicle and thinking
“hmmmmmm the sweet taste of terror…”

I enjoyed the first arc of P:WZ. it wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t the mindless “shoot-em-up” that this portrays it as. As a willing victim of the excessive “gimmick” covers of the 90’s, there are many worse offerings.

Ugh. John Romita Jr. art. Horrid, horrid stuff. Haunts my childhood memories.

Not only is this one of the best Punisher stories ever told, but it’s the comic that got me into comics when I was a kid. My grandpa took me to a now long gone comic shop where he bought me a modest stack of comics, this very issue was one of them. The Punisher’s brand of justice definitely made him stand out from say, Captian America and Batman (two other longtime favorite characters), he did things on the wrong side of the law but for the same reasons a Daredevil or a Spidey would dump a crook at the police station, a strong sense of justice that came from his loss. He’s a hero in the broadest sense of the word, but a hero still. If he does bad deeds it’s s because a bad world made him so. I had never seen a character like that when I was a kid, I was immediately hooked and still consider him the best comics anti-hero ever. He’s also the reason I easily took to characters that also tread the waters of justice/murder (Wolverine standing on a pile of slaughtered Southeast Asian gangsters comes to mind immediately).

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