A few weeks ago at HeroesCon, I was going through quarter boxes when I found a run of Punisher 2099. I bought the whole thing as soon as I saw it, and while that might just sound like a normal comic-con impulse buy, keep in mind that I was so excited that I forgot I already owned a full run of Punisher 2099. Admittedly, that might say more about me than it does about these comics, but I don't really mind having extras, because Punisher 2099 is amazing. Seriously.

As much as the 2099 books might be the definitions of 90s excess, Punisher is one of the all-time wildest, weirdest comics I've ever read. And #19, the one where the Punisher battles against a revenge-crazed sex-clone version of himself and a police robot made of solid gold? That's about where the insanity hits critical mass.

For those of you who haven't read it, Punisher 2099 was basically Marvel's version of Judge Dredd, only somehow even further over-the-top. That makes sense, too: Pat Mills, one of the people who founded 2000 AD, co-wrote the bulk of the series with Tony Skinner and artist Tom Morgan, and it seems like it might've been where he used the ideas that were too silly even for Dredd. The series is, of course, set in the dystopian cyberpunk future world of 2099, where the sinister Alchemax Corporation runs New York City, and only the people who can afford it are protected by the private police of the Public Eye.

Jake Gallows is a special ops officer in the Public Eye, and while he's frustrated with his orders to only protect citizens who've paid up, he doesn't really act on it until his own family is murdered by a psychopath who gets off with a slap on the wrist and a fine of "2.2 megadollars." You know, because it's the future. Jake decides to take the law into his own hands, largely because the police evidence locker has all of Frank Castle's equipment and his last bloodstained War Journal entry, which reads "you who find this -- I charge you to carry on my work." Thus, the Punisher is reborn.

Okay, two quick things about this: One, I've read a lot of Punisher comics, and I never imagined that Frank Castle's last moments would involve having time for leaving a note, let alone one as grammatically bizarre as that one. Two, among Jake's equipment is a) a motorcycle that can go 800 miles per hour and is also silent and is also invisible, a list of qualifications that read like something a six year-old made up to win an argument, and b) pair of "Mean Mule Turbo-Kick Boots," which means that he has specialized cybernetic equipment devoted entirely to kicking people to death.

It is the best comic you guys.

By the time we get to the events of this particular issue, Jake's been through a lot. He revealed his identity to the police psychiatrist, Kerry, who confessed her love for him and then was promptly killed in the next issue, because that's what happens to ladies who confess their love to people whose names are on the covers of superhero comics. After that, he fought Jigsaw 2099, who was half robot and one-quarter gorilla, dealt with a prison riot in his own basement, brought down a gang of illegal flying skateboard racers, and eventually killed the guy who killed Kerry in part two of a three-part story about fighting some other villain. This caused him to go even crazier and start insisting that "Jake" and "Punisher" were two dudes who shared his body like a studio apartment. And that's just in his off-hours.

At his day job, Jake has been saddled with a new partner, Goldheart, which has put a major cramp in his ability to sneak off for futuristic vigilante-ing. Goldheart, however, has a secret of his own: He's been doing his own vigilante-ing -- and occasional corpse-robbing -- in order to rebuild his entire body out of solid gold, which has attracted the Punisher's attention.

This seems, at best, fairly impractical, and after a tense stand-off, Jake decides to just come on out and ask what the hell is going on. If you ask me, that's a pretty rude way to go about things, but I imagine that the Church of Thor doesn't put a whole lot of emphasis on politeness.

When Goldheart answers, though, things go straight to "surprisingly uncomfortable."

Translation: it is definitely a weird robot sex thing.

Since Goldheart's only real crime was murdering the same crooks that the Punisher would've gone after himself, they agree to a truce and decide to just go about their lives as if nothing happened. Unfortunately, they reach this decision right as the rest of the cops arrive and decide to get two vigilantes for the price of one.

Meanwhile, across town, we're introduced to the other wrinkle in this already-bizarre little tale. As revealed on the cover, this issue features the first appearance of the lady-type version of Punisher 2099: VENDETTA! And she is basically Kate Beaton's "Straw Feminist" comic done '90s style:

The thing about Punisher 2099 is that, like Dredd, it always walks that line between self-aware satire and simple action adventure, and just when you start getting to the point where you're asking if Mills and Skinner are serious, they swerve it into the outright ludicrous. Vendetta might be the single best example, if only because she's every single terrible '90s "bad girl" cliché rolled into one and cranked up to eleven.

As it turns out, Vendetta is a sex clone sold to space-miners on Titan, because, as previously revealed here at ComcisAlliance, law enforcement on Saturn is notoriously lax. Like all of the "Venus 8 Gene-Dolls," she was designed to be beautiful but dimwitted, though after being repeatedly abused by her owner and sent in for repairs, she manages to do her own modifications:

This entire thing would be monumentally offensive if it was done with even an ounce of sincerity -- and probably walks that line either way. Even though it's wildly over the top, there are plenty of comics that did (and continue to do) similar setups with absolutely no hint of irony. It starts to sound a little like satire when Vendetta's abilities are listed as "Aggression: PSYCHOTIC! Obedience: NONE!" -- which is almost the tagline of a '70s women-in-prison exploitation flick -- and gets a little closer when you realize she's wearing the same costume as Jake but with fishnets on top of the armor, but in the next issue, when she starts chastising the Punisher for preferring bullets over napalm because they're "so male and penetrative," it becomes pretty clear that they're goofing on the trend.

Either that, or Dave Sim had an uncredited stint doing dialogue.

Anyway, while Vendetta's running around burning people alive and shouting dialogue like "the correct use of my genetically perfect body -- killing men instead of serving them!", Punisher and Goldheart are pinned down by the cops. Goldheart has been identified, and he decides that the only way out of being turned back into a mindless machine is to go out on his own terms, charging the humans while dishing out bad sci-fi killer robot dialogue to play on their fears while giving Jake a chance to escape:

Jake, however, suddenly learns an amazing and hilarious anti-racism moral, and decides that despite his initial mistrust of "'chines," maybe we're all the same underneath. It doesn't matter if your skin is white, or black, or made of the gold stolen from human corpses and melted down to replace your unfeeling robot limbs. All that really matters is how much you want to kill criminals.

And then it gets even goofier.

So just what is "seventh generation hardware?" I'm glad you asked, dear reader, because it turns out that this is a broad category that includes both actual sentient robot policemen and f**king motorcycles.

So that's how the Punisher got his sidekick, a talking super-fast invisible motorcycle. And honestly, I'm not sure what I like better: The phrase "All Guns And Thrusters," which I am seriously considering having printed up on business cards, or the fact that the 2099 version of the Punisher mirrors his present day counterpart, who hung out with a tech expert called Microchip, by getting a sidekick who is an actual microchip. It is amazing.

And also like one step away from full-on slash fiction.

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