Frank Castle aka the Punisher recently underwent a massive overhaul in terms of his character in Marvel Comics, though it is not unlike a situation he found himself in years ago, one that he completely and utterly rejected, proving that his recent relaunch won’t last very long.
In the vigilante’s by Jason Aaron, Jesús Saiz and Paul Azaceta, the Punisher becomes a warrior of the Hand – an ancient clan of ninjas who worship the demonic Beast. Not only is he working with them, but he is what’s known as a ‘Fist of the Beast’. Castle was chosen because of his previously proven killing capabilities, but with that title also comes some mystical powers that offer him superhuman strength, hyper awareness and the ability to gaze into the souls of his victims. The reason he has agreed to be the Hand’s High Slayer is because they brought back his wife, Maria, from the dead and promised to do the same for his children. So, in order to be with his wife and kids again, the Punisher became a supernatural bringer of death. While the Punisher’s latest incarnation appears to change him forever, he actually held a very similar role in the past.
In Punisher Vol. 4 by Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski, and Bernie Wrightson, Frank becomes an angel of death, working to punish evil doers in heaven’s name. The Punisher became this supernatural bringer of death because when his family died, they went to heaven, but because of Frank’s homicidal tendencies, he was destined for hell. So, in order to redeem his soul and see his family again beyond the pearly gates, the Punisher accepted his angelic position, one that offered him heightened abilities and upgraded weaponry to better carry out his heavenly task. Fortunately, the plotline didn’t last long, a fact Frank himself lampoons in the very next volume of Punisher.
In both storylines, the Punisher becomes a living weapon used by an ancient or otherworldly organization all because he wants to be reunited with his family. Given the similarities, it is safe to say that the Punisher’s second time doing this dance won’t last very long at all. In Punisher Vol. 5 #1 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillion, the Punisher explains that he once saw heaven and even became something of an angel, but also that he unceremoniously quit that job to go back to being the classic Punisher. The Punisher left the side of the angels even though it meant never seeing his family again, all because of his need to things his way, and only his way.
The Punisher is one of Marvel’s greatest killers because he has an inner desire to do so, while using the deaths of his family members as justification. While both heaven and the Hand have given him the means to carry out his dark mission with their own respective purposes behind him, the Punisher requires no extra incentive to do what he does, and he ends up hating the fact that he is doing someone else’s bidding. Frank made peace with the fact that his family is gone as their deaths, however sad, gave him the freedom to be who he truly is. The prospect of reuniting with them is tempting, leading him to work with supernatural entities for a time, but the Punisher will always go back to doing what he does the way he does it – something he did in the Punisher Vol. 5 when he turned away from the angels at the expense of seeing his family again, and something he will assuredly do by the end of the current Punisher run.