One of the key parts of The Punisher mythos for years was that he is essentially an ordinary man consumed by extraordinary vengeance. While there have been a few notable detours along the way (like the time he was given ghost guns by angels and became Heaven’s hitman), Frank Castle as a character has pretty much always been “Batman with guns and no conscience.” However, the prime continuity Punisher (that’s Earth-616) officially now has superpowers due to the kind of weird events that are typical of the world of comic books. Specifically, Marvel’s favorite antihero has bargained his way into infernal demon powers by way of the longrunning Daredevil foe, the evil mystical ninja group known as The Hand. Here is what The Punisher looks like now:
For those that do not follow the ups and downs of Marvel Comics, The Punisher has recently allied himself with The Hand, the group of usually evil, often resurrection-happy ninjas that tend to tangle with one Matt Murdock (except when they’re being led by him, because comics have a lot of twists). The Hand worships a demon known as The Beast, which among other things, has the power to “see” the evil actions of individuals and is represented by an enforcer dubbed The Fist of the Beast. Frank Castle was convinced to work with The Hand after they promised to resurrect his dead wife, and now has been bestowed the “Five Gifts of the Fist.” One of those gifts is The Eyes of the Beast, which allows The Punisher to now see the past and future sins of those around him. Given that this is a character obsessed with, uh, punishing evildoers for their actions, this seems right up his alley.
This latest arc of The Punisher is being written by Jason Aaron and emphasizes the odd duality of Frank Castle, or, as he puts it, being a “complicated character and also the least complicated character ever.” Although his alliance with The Hand would seem to be against his stated principles of violently murdering anyone engaging in criminal activity (The Hand’s favorite kind of activity), we will have to wait and see what becomes of his sudden superpower upgrade.
The Punisher first appeared in 1974’s The Amazing Spider-Man #129 as an enemy of Spider-Man. He quickly became an anti-hero and fan-favorite character, with his grim violence and brutality setting him apart from most comic book characters of the time period. Since then, the character has become one of Marvel’s most popular and has been adapted to a number of feature films and a Netflix solo series, in which he was portrayed by Jon Bernthal. Aside from his new superpowers, the character had another radical change in the last few months, when his longtime “Skull” logo was changed after its cooption by American far-right radicals and white supremacists. The Punisher has not yet been formally introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but what with longtime friends/foes Daredevil and Kingpin entering the picture, it seems likely some version of Frank Castle will not be far behind.