In the not-too-distant future, crime runs rampant through the streets of Nueva York. With a police-state whose sole focus is “social score” and efficiency, ethics and morality are merely an afterthought. Corruption is left unchecked. Now, there is only one person who can protect “The Worthless” from an unjust system: Punisher 2099. With Jake Gallows, the original Punisher 2099, a leader in Public Eye’s oppressive regime, just who is the person behind the skull mask?
“Our every action becomes a number, rising, falling, tracked, rated, scanned, determining who gets protection.”
A cautionary tale about the abuse of technology, Punisher 2099 #1 is at its best when it serves as a reflection of our society. Through infusing this origin story with relevant social commentary, Nadler and Thompson have crafted a story that demands our examination. More importantly, it is a call to examine our society. Otherwise, this dark future could become our reality.
One of the best additions that Nadler and Thompson make to this world is the concept of “social score.” With each new post on social media, it is impossible to deny that many of us seek out our next like, retweet, or comment like dopamine addicts in search of their next fix. For many, it is hard to distinguish popularity and, more importantly, one’s worth from these numbers. Additionally, the abundance of technology that promises everyone is watching makes it difficult to escape these thoughts.
As a result, it is easy to see how one’s “social score” is an extension of these issues. In the year 2099, the belief that everyone is watching you is a reality. Every choice you make affects a number that every person can see.
What I love most about this concept is how Nadler and Thompson extend that number’s influence into the characters’ lives. Those individuals with a zero social score are not allowed to access certain parts of the city. Additionally, one’s social score determines if they will receive help from Nueva York’s police. Not only is this excellent commentary on our current class climate, but it also gives us a glimpse at a terrifying fate: a future where we are always being watched, and our information can be altered to serve the purposes of those in power. Perhaps we are already there.
“Hector Tago is dead. He got what he deserved.”
With all of Nadler and Thomspon’s social commentary, it would be easy to forget that Punisher 2099 #1 is an origin story. Centered upon Hector Tago’s investigation of a police shooting he was involved in, the officer discovers some inconsistencies in the IRIS recordings. This mystery leads him down a rabbit hole that exposes corruption at every level of the Public Eye, including that of his commanding officer, and previous Punisher, Jake Gallows. As the investigation continues to tank Hec’s social score, he must navigate the lower caste to uncover the truth.
Hector’s choice to commit social suicide by revealing the truth to the world remains true to the essence of the Punisher while also setting him apart. In the case of Frank Castle, he states that he died with his family and is reborn as The Punisher. He can no longer return to his old life. Tago also considers himself dead as his social score drops to zero, and he can no longer return to his life as a Public Eye officer. What sets these two characters apart is that Frank Castle set out of this path to punish those responsible for his family’s execution because the law was inadequate. Hector is using this mantle to atone for his own mistakes.
Unfortunately, Hector’s transformation into Punisher 2099 may be the weakest part of the story. Throughout the issue, Nader and Thomspon provide exposition for story elements, such as IRIS and scrambling masks, that may be unfamiliar to the reader. There is no mention of Jake Gallows’ time as Punisher 2099 nor is it explained how Hector Tago found the suit. I feel that these two elements are crucial to explaining Hector’s transformation. As a result, this reveal appears to come out of nowhere and is a little jarring to the reader. Answers to the question, “How did Tago know about the Punisher?” would have helped provide necessary clarity.
“We all deserve punishment.”
This issue is wonderfully illustrated by Matt Horak and Eoin Marron with Rachelle Rosenberg on colors. Horak and Marron craft beautiful images of body horror and violence. The page with the Thorites building Yggdrasil out of bodies is an image that will haunt me long after reading the issue. Additionally, the new suit looks fantastic as it doles out punishment to the corrupt police officers. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors do an excellent job of giving this story a futuristic, yet dirty, feel to the images.
Full of mystery, social commentary, and violence, Punisher 2099 #1 is an intriguing sci-fi thriller. The parallels that Nader and Thompson’s draw between our modern society and the 2099 future make the story feel real. Unfortunately, Hector’s transformation into Punisher 2099 is the weakest part of the story. Without explaining Gallows’ time as the vigilante, or how Hector knew about the Punisher, we are left with too many gaps to fill in.