Given the cyclical nature of superhero comics, a character’s demise is rarely permanent, which is a bit awkward for the Punisher, a vigilante supposedly famous for dispatching all his enemies with lethal justice. In essence, if Frank Castle were to go around murking real supervillains like Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, they’d no longer be around to star in Spider-Man comics, so the Punisher is usually relegated to punishing ordinary mobsters and crooks - but then there’s the Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe one-shot.
This single issue, created by Garth Ennis and Doug Braithwaite, takes place in an alternate reality - and, yes, it features Frank Castle taking out just about everyone in the Marvel Universe. How does he do it? Remember, this is the Punisher we’re talking about here - he does it extremely violently, and with little remorse.
In This Reality, Frank Castle’s Family Perishes In A Superhero Battle
In most continuities, Frank Castle begins his crusade against crime after his family is accidentally taken out in a mob hit gone wrong, painting a skull on his chest and becoming the Punisher. But in the alternate reality presented in Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe by Garth Ennis and Doug Braithwaite, Castle’s family perishes in a very different matter, and it sends him down an even darker path.
In this tale, the Castle family is enjoying a day in Central Park when they happen upon an epic battle between the Avengers, the X-Men, and several alien invaders. Castle, having retired from military life and joined the NYPD, is late to arrive on the scene, but when he does, he discovers that his wife and children have been caught in the crossfire and fallen as collateral damage.
Castle Immediately Reacts By Taking Out Cyclops, Kitty Pryde, And Hawkeye
Caught up in the anguish of losing his family, Frank Castle reacts in a predictable fashion, given his reputation - with extreme violence. When Scott Summers approaches him to apologize for what happened, Castle does not accept, instead pulling out his side arm and firing several rounds into Cyclops’s face from point-blank range.
He then turns his weapon on the assembled crowd of superheroes. Most of them are able to dodge his attack, but Kitty Pryde and Hawkeye each eat a bullet. Wolverine attempts to take immediate revenge on Castle, but is restrained - and Castle is led away in handcuffs for what will presumably be a lifetime of imprisonment.
Sprung From Police Custody, The Punisher Is Set Loose On Heroes And Villains Alike - Like Spider-Man And Venom
Frank Castle doesn’t even make it to prison. Instead, he’s sprung on the way there and is transported to a remote castle in the mountains, where he meets his new benefactor - a mysterious old man with some serious facial scarring known only as Kesselring.
Kesselring, as it turns out, had also previously suffered from the antics of superheroes, with his horrific scars the result of having the Human Torch thrown at him by Doctor Doom. He’s since collected a group of other rich and powerful individuals who have a bone to pick with caped crusaders, and it’s their hope that Castle will help them create a world without superpowers.
It’s a plan that Frank eagerly agrees to. His first targets are Spider-Man and Venom, whom he finds engaged in a battle of their own. One blast from a sonic weapon later, and Spidey and Venom are rendered all too vulnerable to a hail of bullets - delivered because, as Frank puts it, “Somebody had to be first.”
Next, Punisher Takes Out A Big Target In The Incredible Hulk
The Punisher doesn’t waste much time warming up in his crusade to slay all superheroes. He doesn’t just go for a big mark right away - he goes for the BIGGEST mark. And that means none other than the Incredible Hulk.
Frank Castle devises a relatively simple scheme to take out the supposed “strongest there is.” He observes a Hulk rampage, tags the jade giant with a tracer, and then tracks him down hours later. Happening upon a sleepy Bruce Banner, Castle proceeds to blow him away before he can “Hulk out.” In normal continuity, the Hulk has survived much worse - but in this world, it seems to do the trick.