Around the time “Archie Meets the Punisher” was released in 1994, I was about eleven years old. I bought Wizard magazine and would buy just about every comic that came out at the time. I bought “Super Pro” and “Dark hawk” and even at the impressionable age of eleven I looked at the cover of “The Punisher Meets Archie” and thought to myself “Are you effing kidding me?” In all of the comic characters in all of the world to cross over they decided to cross over the most violent psychopathic anti-hero in the comics universe with the most inoffensive yet addictive cult comic book of all time to meet for a storyline that’s too heavy for an Archie comic book and too light hearted for a Punisher comic book.
These characters go together like Freddy Krueger and the Brady Bunch (patent pending) and on the page it’s just as ridiculous as it seems. How they tricked John Buscema and Archie Comics to go along with this idea if even for a one-shot premise, I’ll never fully wrap my head around it, but it’s truly a reprehensible crossover that put every other crossover to shame, even the horribly ill-conceived “Superman/Wildcats.” The crossover in the nineties reached its ultimate nadir with “Archie Meets the Punisher,” a little smug wink wink nudge to the fans features two very lengthy introductions from Archie and Punisher creators who proclaim “We know this is stupid, we did this as a joke.”
So why should I waste my time reading it if you confess it was all just a pointless exercise in absurdity? Damn you nineties! The plot is just about as ridiculous and absurd as you can imagine it would be and works as any typical crossover would. It’s immensely lazy and it takes fifty three pages to remind us that it’s just a lazy hack job intent on cross marketing and preying on two sets of gullible fan bases. A criminal who happens to look like Archie decides to go in to Riverdale to start his own crime syndicate.
The Punisher follows him in to the town with his assistant and manages to pop off a bunch of horrific one-liners while always inflicting punishment on his villains that are sanitary enough for the comics of Archie. So while he always gets rough and tough with them, you won’t see him dunking anyone in to a tank of piranhas. The Punisher seems about as misplaced and annoyed by everything here and is basically toned down enough to allow the Archie characters to not run whenever he’s near them, so we’re forced to watch the Punisher walking through Riverdale in a sleepy haze and… engage Miss Grundy in a dance, all the while indulging us in cameos by Josie and the Pussycats.
“Archie Meets the Punisher” just goes through the motions turning this in to an Abbot and Costello scenario quite often with Archie and Jughead coming face to face with the deadly Punisher, and the Punisher smacking them aside to catch the villain who conveniently looks like Archie. The entire intent toward this one shot is mixed and often muddled. It’s a joke. No it’s an experiment. No wait–it’s collaboration. No it’s a surrealist piece of pop art. No it’s a brilliant crossover we’ve yet to appreciate. No… it’s a cheap and lazy attempt to grab money from people convinced this is something worth reading. It’s not. It’s really not.