Throughout the years, several writers have depicted the tragic events that led to Frank Castle’s decision to serve up vigilante justice to the criminals of Marvel comics. Over and over, readers have been shown flashbacks of the source of Frank’s suffering. The first few pages of Jason Aaron’s Punisher #1 recollect that fateful day as well, yet it’s done in a way we haven’t seen before. The death of Frank Castle’s family is played out from the perspective of the EMTs who first responded.
They desperately try to save Frank’s family as he barely clings to life. One by one, the EMTs pronounce them all dead before Frank finally passes out. The artwork by Jesus Saiz and Paul Azaceta is dark, bloody, and hopeless. As Frank fades, the EMTs ask him “Who are you?”
A full-page collage of the Punisher’s history is next, along with the various art of each era. It’s a fantastic introduction that feels much like the beginning of a dramatic movie.
The King of Killers
The strong opening is followed by something strange to say the least. The scene shifts to a warehouse in Greece full of suited goons wearing spartan helmets and doing inventory of superhuman weapons. They speak like religious zealots for some reason as well. Without context, the scene comes off a bit confusing, especially following the powerful opening of the book.
Before too long, the warehouse is under attack by a one-man army. The Punisher quickly dispatches of all but one of the thugs. From the shadows, Castle gives the lone henchman a single chance to tell him who he works for. When he refuses to comply, Frank slices him open with a samurai sword. This scene also reveals the infamous new skull logo upon the Punisher’s chest.
Tool of The Hand
As the Punisher surveys the carnage, he orders someone off page to take the weaponry and burn everything else down. Another full-page collage reveals that he’s giving orders to the Hand, the shadowy ninja clan that has often been a major antagonist to Daredevil.
The Punisher returns to the Hand’s hidden citadel where he is greeted by their Archpriestess as the “new high slayer.” He asks her if the hunters have returned, and then insists on seeing to them immediately. The Hand have kidnapped murderers, rapists, and child abusers from around the world for the Punisher to execute, which he swiftly does.
A New High Slayer
It turns out that the Punisher and the Hand are both working towards a common goal. A flashback scene provides more context as to why. As Frank was returning to his city hideout weeks earlier, he was confronted by the Archpriestess and several Hand ninjas. The priestess indicated that the first trial would be to see if he survives the encounter.
After a bloody battle ensued, the Punisher was the last man standing. He contemplated killing the Archpriestess next, but his mind was soon changed when she made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Somehow, the Hand has brought back Frank Castle’s deceased wife Maria. In the final page, Frank Castle embraces his wife.
What’s Next for the Punisher?
All in all, this was a great first issue with some surprising twists and reveals. Part way through the issue it appeared that maybe Castle joined the Hand in order to fast track his goal of ridding the world of violent criminals. The big reveal at the end indicates that he may have sold his soul to the Hand for a chance to be with his wife again. The Hand are likely using Frank for their own nefarious goals. This issue offers up just enough to keep readers intrigued as to what those goals are, and where the story will go next.