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I Have Issues (17)

The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe

(W) Garth Ennis (A) Doug Braithwaite, 1995

This little story was my first introduction to Garth Ennis and his brand of outlaw comic writing. You would think that the guy would be a no nonsense hard ass, but after meeting him at this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth as the man is a completely polite gentleman.  There have been others to successfully tackle the Punisher but no one gets the fully rounded character the Punisher is better than Garth Ennis.  Though I really enjoyed the MAX Punisher series, I don’t think I am ever more interested in the Punisher then when he interacts with the other characters of the Marvel Universe. Much like Batman who is cool in comparison to the super powered DC heroes, the Punisher definitely speaks to the human side and portrays someone doing whatever he can to get himself on even ground to the laser blasting brick wall destroying members of the hero community. The Punisher is the Charles Bronson/Clint Eastwood of the Marvel universe. The only downside of the character is for him to interact with the good ole 616 universe, he has to be a neutered version of himself and not actually kill anyone that matters. Not so in this story which is a from the short lived Alterniverse label, where the Punisher is cut loose on the Marvel universe in a very realistic way!

We start off in Hell’s Kitchen, years ago where little Matt Murdoch (Daredevil) is getting beat up by several other kids. Grabbing the lead bully, Frank Castle pulls him back and lays a big punch on him. The bullies all run for it and Matt states that his father always told him not to fight. Frank tells Matt that if he doesn’t stand up to bullies they will never leave him alone.

“You gotta get your own back.”

Now, in New York City, Central Park the Avengers and the X-Men are teamed up to fight the combined forces of the Brood and Skrulls. Frank Castle is speeding to the park because his wife and kids were going to the park that day. 

Frank arrives on the scene as the heroes have defeated the aliens and Daredevil is admonishing them for not watching out for the innocents in the park. Captain America mentions that the attack came upon so suddenly that they did not have time to clear the area. As Frank runs up on the heroes he finds his family was killed in the crossfire. The heroes are all silent as they do not know what to say. Cyclops steps up to Frank and says he’s sorry. Frank turns on Scott Summers and shoots him right in the face blowing his brains out.

Sweeping his gun he kills Hawkeye and Shadowcat. (Later it’s mentioned that he killed Jubilee. It’s very possible the creators got the two young characters confused.) 

Wolverine attacks Frank, slicing into him and taking him down. Before Logan can go further, Colossus holds him back, stopping him from finishing the job.

Later Castle is in custody and meets his Lawyer, Matt Murdoch. Matt mentions that even though the crime he committed is horrible he may be able to get a reduced sentence, taking into account his exemplary military record and the situation of his bereavement.

In the courtroom, the Judge gives Frank a life sentence for his crimes despite Matt’s best efforts. The slaughter that Castle inflicted on the heroes is just too much to overcome any defense.

The truck taking Castle to prison is detoured and the vigilante is let out by an old man with a mangled face, one arm and walking with a cane. The man introduces himself as Kesselring and takes Franks handcuffs off and invites him up to his mansion. As the mangled old man walks Castle through the halls of his compound he tells the vigilante that he has paid substantial amount of money to have the guards bring him to his home. Kesselring explains that he used to enjoy having money but that it all changed when Dr. Doom through the Human Torch into his car during a fight. Leading him into a meeting room, Castle finds a group of several others, all with severe disfigurements. Kesselring explains what happened to them.  One had a building thrown at him by the Thing; another was attacked by Wolverine when Wolverine mistook who he was. A woman was run over by the Ghost Rider while another man was crippled by Magneto.  Kesselring explains that they were all affected by super beings one way or another and no one cares because everyone meant well and the good supposedly outweighed the bad. (When I first read this comic it was like an epiphany of why had no one thought of this before?) Kesselring offers to fund Frank to punish them all! He wants the entire super population dead, all the heroes and all the villains, everyone who ever dared to act above the law! Frank agrees and it’s off to the races from here.

Down in the sewers Spider-Man and Venom are fighting each other when in the shadows behind them you can make out a white skull symbol. Parker’s spidey sense goes crazy but he can’t react as he is still trying to combat Venom. Next barbed Tasers lash out and shock both combatants putting them down. 

Before Venom can recover The Punisher dispatches him with a full clip from his machine gun. As Parker questions why he’s doing this, Frank walks over and pops one off in Parkers face. Frank answers to the now dead Spider-Man, “cause somebody had to be first.”

Back in the battle Van, Frank asks his new partner Micro how he got mixed up in the job. Micro explains he was working combat systems in the Air Force when Doc Ock broke into the base and tore his legs off. Now here he is working the technical side for Frank’s war on the Super people.

Next we have the Hulk Rampaging and destroying everything as per usual. Frank shoots the monster with a tracking device.  Hours later the Punisher using his GPS to follow the signal and finds Bruce Banner asleep in an alley and just as he is waking up, Castle caps him.

Two weeks later, Micro has disabled all of the Kingpins security systems and Frank is cutting a swath through the criminals guards in his Skyscraper. 

Frank makes his way into the Kingpins penthouse where he is struck with a massive right hook. Destroying the Punisher’s rifles Kingpin explains that he was in full support of Frank Castle’s war on the super community and that he was even designing weapons to assist his fight. The Punisher pulls out two handguns and just fires everything at Wilson Fisk as the giant criminal lurches forward. The Kingpin falls dead on top of Castle and then the police come in take the vigilante back into custody. Another trial and Castle is again sent to prison and again let out by Kesselring. The mangled man tells Frank that it is getting harder to keep him out of jail and the progress he has made has not been enough. Frank explains that he has Kingpins advanced weaponry now and he has a plan to take out more of them at once.

Micro is flying Frank to Latveria and has masked their presence to make them appear to be the Fantastic Four in the fantasticar. Knowing that Doom can never resist playing with the FF, he is sure they will get really close with the ruse. 

The Punisher parachutes into the Castle and a short time later he is shown on the ground with Doom overhead. After a short beating where the Doctor continues to let Frank know how insignificant he is, Castle retaliates with a magnetic mine that destroys his armored weapons. The mine also sends a feedback that destroys all of the Doombots in the castle. The mine doesn't finish Doom off so the Punisher simply grabs a sledgehammer off the wall and starts pounding away at the metallic helmet of the Latverian despot until he hears a SQUITCH!


Micro and Punisher tour Doctor Doom’s castle and through all the weaponry they find the one thing Frank was really looking for… a nuke! Frank explains that guns aren't going to be enough to really make a big dent.

” It’s time to get sneaky.”

On the moon it’s the final mutant battle as Magneto, Apocalypse, and Mister Sinister have joined all the evil mutants together to battle the X-Men, X-Factor, and X-Force. 

Each side assumes the other side was the one to start the conflict but before either can react, the nuclear bomb goes off and takes all the mutants out in one fell swoop! All except one.

Wolverine is drinking himself into depression as he can’t believe all his teammates died on the moon while he was following a wild goose chase in Japan. He can’t believe everything has gone so wrong in two years. 
The Avengers fried in a transporter that was tampered with, someone flooded the Vault and killed all the villains being held inside.  He points out that Captain America the only surviving Avenger is investigating but he hasn't made progress and now they have found Mister Fantastic dead in a dumpster. The Punisher approaches Logan and explains that he is the one who sent him to Japan while he killed all his friends, because he had something special for him. Wolverine goes into berserker rage but Frank slices into the mutant’s throat with a knife. For a second Logan can’t breathe, but his neck heals and he charges the Punisher who uses his momentum to throw the mutant through a fence. Wolverine calls Frank a psycho for killing all of his friends. Logan slices into Frank’s hand, and Frank grabs Wolvies arm and stabs him with his own claws and he tells him that they killed his family and they said sorry,

"but sorry doesn't cut it!"

Frank then throws Wolverine into a power generator that fries him from his adamantium bones.

Three months later and mid-battle, The Punisher unloads his machine gun to which Captain America is blocking every bullet. As Steve Rogers moves in he knocks the Punisher to the ground and tells Frank that he knows that all of his weapons are out of bullets and that he needs to give up.  Cap asks Frank what happened to him. He knows he was once a good soldier and he doesn't understand how he could have gone wrong.  Frank mentions Vietnam to which Steve knows nothing about and he still doesn't get it. Frank pulls out a gun that he stashed at the scene, one that the brilliant strategist and leader of the Avengers did not know was there and shoots Rogers in the head when he doesn't see it coming.

Back in Kesselring’s compound he and the others are toasting his success. Castle explains that nothing he does is to be cheered about; it just needs to be done. Frank tells them that only Daredevil remains and once that’s done he is done. Kesselring takes exception to this and tells Frank that he belongs to them and that even after Daredevil is dead, more superheroes will be born and he needs to be ready to kill them to. Frank ignores the man and when Kesselring pulls a gun on him, Frank turns and shoots him down. Castle then tells all the others to never contact him again because if one does he will find and kill them all!

In the battle van Frank tells Micro that after Daredevil he should get really far away and find something else to do with his brain. Scoping out the scene of Hell’s Kitchen, Punisher doesn't see Daredevil behind him. Matt tells Frank that this is where it all began. Frank doesn't know what he means and tries to get him with an Uzi. Murdoch deftly leaps above the blast and comes in with a flurry attacks, knocking Frank off the roof.  Frank lands on a car and Daredevil leaps down after him. Castle charges and Matt knees him in the jaw knocking him down again as he demands Frank give it up. Matt explains that good and bad he murdered everyone and still his family isn't coming back. Frank says they were all arrogant and wanting to change the world their own way with the attitude that it was too bad if anyone wanted anything different. Even after all the murder, Matt explains to Frank that he knows he can’t be all that bad, he knows a good man is somewhere in there.  He begs him one more time to let it end and offers his hand to help him up. “Like Hell!” the Punisher screams as he pulls Matt down and stabs him in the heart. Daredevil pulls off his mask and Frank is shocked to see his childhood friend and lawyer as his latest victim. Matt explains that, “there is always someone behind the mask, but not anymore because he killed them all. 

Frank looks down at his Skull shirt and says to himself, “just one more.” Frank then points the gun at himself and pulls the trigger.

This comic was released in 1995 to almost no interest but was then re-released in 1999 after Garth Ennis started his Punisher reboot. 

A reboot that revived the character from the over saturated mess it had become in the 90's. 

Yeah that happened.

No matter what your opinion on heroes killing villains this comic serves a great story that could never exist in the regular Marvel Universe but does the great character of the Punisher justice.

By. J. Ryan Buck(

Previous installments here


  1. I bought the original back in the day. One of my favorite stories. Helluva lot better than the recent "Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe"

  2. Nothing touches Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe.

  3. That Archie crossover is actually a really good comic. People like to judge the concept by its cover, but its good stuff if you actually read it.

  4. I hope these keep coming because I don't plan on buying any until they start to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Puck, Vivisector, Valeria Richards...

  5. Caliber_Winfield_69420BoobiesDecember 5, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    Yeah, which pissed me the fuck off because NO ONE can kill The Punisher. He's too smart, and too big of a bad-ass. There's no one he hasn't defeated. From forcing the Hulk to ingest C4 and blowing it up to take him down, to trapping Wolverine under a steam-roller and blasting him in the face with a sawed-off, no one in all of comics could touch my boy Frank.

  6. Caliber_Winfield_69420BoobiesDecember 5, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    I don't know if you take requests, but if you do, Punisher MAX: The Slavers. Hands down, without a doubt, my all time favorite story ever. The Punisher burning alive human traffickers? I'd take that every day of the week and THREE TIMES on Sunday.

  7. Does anyone know of a place online where I could buy all the back issues of the original (I think/like early 90ish) punisher comics. I used to love them as a kid and collected them up until the multiple part story where he turns black. In addition there was the punisher:war journal and the other one where he fought the mob or something. I would really love to get a complete collection of the early 90's punisher stuff. I just got old and stopped reading them but man would I love to get them again. If anyone could point me in the right direction that would be awesome

  8. Nice article. I bought this when it first came out. Scary to think it was so long ago now.

  9. My favorite MAX Punisher storyline is still Up is Down and Black is White. Never have I read a story that made me want to see the bag guy get dismembered more! What Nicky Cavella does to Franks families corpses just instantly makes you want to see Castle take everyone out!

  10. They are pretty damn entertaining!Check out ebay to get a large block of them and then you can go on Midtown comics to fill in singles. That's what I do anyway.

  11. Screw Wolverine's emo bi kid

  12. I loved Frankencastle.

  13. No one can kill the Punisher? I'm sorry, but Superman could kill the Punisher without blinking twice.

  14. Try

  15. Caliber_Winfield_69420BoobiesDecember 6, 2012 at 5:09 AM

    No he couldn't. The Punisher would either know he was about to battle Superman, and make some kryptonite bullets, or he'd know Superman was coming for him and create some sort of trap.

    He's too damn good.

  16. Caliber_Winfield_69420BoobiesDecember 6, 2012 at 5:09 AM

    Yeah, so did Deadpool in a round about way, but it was bullshit.

  17. Caliber_Winfield_69420BoobiesDecember 6, 2012 at 5:21 AM

    Yeah, that was a great story. Especially with Pittsy's sister, also lovingly referred to as Frankencunt by O'Brien. Nicky was definitely a guy you wanted to see get it, and I also dug the side story with O'Brien and Frank. Really, Garth Ennis couldn't write a bad Punisher story. Especially when Leoandro is the artist, his work is perfect.

  18. Caliber_Winfield_69420BoobiesDecember 6, 2012 at 5:32 AM

    Since you're a fan of The Punisher, Jobber, thought you might dig seeing my collection...I think it's either 2nd or 3rd biggest in the World. But that's probably not saying much since I don't think there are too many people out there with a Punisher obsession.

  19. Though I do love both characters (Superman more so) I do agree with you there, if Punisher is going after Superman then Superman is dead. Easy as that.
    Plus it's comics! Sure Superman could probably snipe Castle with heat vision from the moon, but it's more fun to see lesser powered (or no powered I guess) characters find creative ways to take down the big guns and anyone should be able to take anyone in a creative medium, that's why Mark Waid says that Batman could take out Galactus.
    And I do mean in a creative way, not like the Spider-Man/Firelord fight which was Spider-Man punching Firelord like 50 times. :/

  20. I have to admit, I completely forgot about that one as I was just about to suggest how nothing could top Sergio Aragon├ęs Massacres Marvel.

  21. Caliber do you have the full set of punishers that started in 1987 and went to 1995? I guess they made 104 issues. Thats the one I want.

  22. Hey quick question for anyone on here who knows about comics. So after reading this article I remembered how much I loved the punisher as kid and decided I wanted to get the series. I used to have a ton of them but they are gone or at my parents house on the other side of the country or something.

    So after calling around a few different places I found a shop in El Cajon (just east of sd) that said they could help me out. They have the entire 104 issue set from the 1987 series (the one I loved as a kid) as well as the full 80 issue run of the punisher war journal which ran at the same time and I loved as well. They also have the entire punisher war zone set (which just started right as I stopped reading comics but I remember the first few issues were pretty bad ass) which is 41 issues. So in total that is 225 issues of punisher comics.

    So my question is roughly what is a fair price for that set? I couldn't really find anything comparable online. I found some blocks and individual on ebay but nothing to give me an idea of the price. I'm not buying them to try and make an investment, I just want to have the whole set to read and maybe let my friends read or whatever. The guy at the store gave me the price they would charge and it was in the 4 figure range. Is that a total rip off? Is it a fair price? Does anyone know what the value would be?

  23. What would you guys recommend to read for post 1995 punisher?

  24. I remember being in grade school and getting an issue of punisher war journal where he went to mexico to check out a movie they were making about him and the star (who was totally a knock on dolph lundgren I think) and the director where making snuff porn inside a train cab so he killed them all. What a fucking bad ass comic book

  25. Caliber_Winfield_69420BoobiesDecember 7, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    I don't. Collecting the comics isn't a huge priority for me, funny I know. I collect the graphic novel collections, and I own every 1st issue of every Punisher run.

    I went into a used book store around here, and on a wim I decided to check out the comic book section. There I found a Punisher 2099 number 1, and I was stoked. So I paid my 75 cents for it, and when I got home I realized that it had been signed by the inker, good day at the office for me.

  26. Caliber_Winfield_69420BoobiesDecember 7, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    Check out , you gotta sign up to use it, but it only takes a moment. I'd say anywhere from $700-900 or so would be fair for all that.

  27. You might be better off just getting them a little at time. Your not going to read them all at once anyway. I mean it might cost more in the long run but it's a lot to drop that much at once at least IMO. Plus they may come out with a digital set or the whole collection on a disk someday and it would be a room saver as well as cost effective. Wow did I just suggest digital over the physical books? Man i'm getting soft.

  28. I bit the bullet and bought them all. It was a bit more expensive than 900 (1350 for everything) but holy shit am I stoked. Gonna read the war zones first since it's my least favorite of the 3 but I am just giddy about having the whole set to read. They gave me some free toys and t shirts and a 140 dollar gift certificate so that was cool too.


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