Image: Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics had a Punisher problem for quite some time. The murderous vigilantes skull logo has been appropriated for years by police officers and members of the military who seemingly admire the character’s ability to act as a judge, jury, and executioner outside the legal system and still be technically called one of Marvel’s heroes — and the company may be trying to change that.
In July 2019 The Punisher #13 (by Matthew Rosenberg, Szymon Kudranski, Antonio Fabela and Cory Petit) in which the character tore his skull icon from a police officer’s car in the apparent hope of distancing him from real authority figures who took it as their ownJason Aaron’s new 13-part series Punisher sounds like it’s going to take a different approach by distancing Frank Castle from, well, himself. Here’s the summary:
“As the Punisher, Frank Castle has become the most accomplished assassin the world has ever seen. After a shocking secret prompts him to become the warlord of the Hand, he must now fulfill the Beast, a role he is destined to fulfill. Tragedy, war and fury converge as he takes on his sword and new armor with the most notorious clan of assassins in the Marvel universe. Does it mean an end for the Punisher? Or a whole new bloody beginning?”
Putting the character directly at the service of a literal demon as part of a group of evil assassins makes it seem like Marvel is doing two things here. The first is to take the Punisher away from the “everyday” world of murderous mobsters and criminals, and make his character more fantastic in nature – note that he will wield a sword and wear armor – which is what the company has in moods tried and starts earlier. He also gets a new skull logo on his chest, representative of his new boss:
Image: Marvel Comics
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The second is that it sounds like this latest series is moving away from the idea that the Punisher is a hero in any way, and questioning Frank’s long past of struggling with being seen as such — whether that’s on the pagee or in the real world stories around him. The fact that the official press release calls Frank Castle “the most accomplished assassin the world has ever seen” feels incredibly poignant. And this is what Aaron had to say about the series:
“Having written The Punisher over the years, I have always been fascinated by the character of Frank Castle. At what times was he the Punisher, even for that fateful day in the park? And how far will he go to win the war that has consumed his life? Spoiler: As long as it damn well lasts. This story is the destined next step in the dark and tragic evolution of Frank Castle, from troubled child to heroic soldier to revenge-driven vigilante… to the duly anointed King of Killers.”
Again, it is not mentioned that Punisher is a hero or vigilante, just that he is a murderer. If Castle turns into something worse than he already is, the logical next step is definitely a little more intentionally darker than the gray world he’s existed in until now. Punisher #1 will be drawn by Jesús Saiz and Paul Azaceta, who will split the duties by handling the current action and flashbacks respectively, and hits in March of next year.
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