The Idea Of The Punisher Killing The Marvel Universe Is Ridiculous And Impossible

Frank Castle became The Punisher the day his family was killed by criminals, and has since embarked on a war fueled by a need for bloody vengeance.1995’s The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe by Garth Ennis and Doug Braithwaite explores a different possibility, namely what would have happened if superheroes were inadvertently responsible for the death of the Castle family. Unfortunately, the story comes across as problematic, misrepresenting every character involved and painting a picture of utter impossibility, even within the realm of Marvel Comics.

In the story, Frank Castle learns about a massive battle taking place between superheroes and alien monsters at a nearby park in New York City. Rushing to the scene, Frank surveys the wreckage and devastation of the battle. The X-Men, Captain America, and Daredevil are all on the scene, with the Man Without Fear questioning the other heroes as to why they couldn’t have ensured the safety of the innocent bystanders in the area. Cyclops and Captain America give noncommittal answers, stating that they didn’t have time to clear the area.

All Frank receives from the heroes is a weak apology as he discovers that his family is among the casualties of the battle. He responds by opening fire on the heroes, managing to gun down the majority of the X-Men before he is stopped by Wolverine. Castle is arrested for his crime, but instead of jail he is transported to a secluded mountain retreat. Inside he meets a collective of people, all of whom have suffered injuries or lost family to the actions of superheroes. This group encourages Frank to continue his work of "punishing" superpowered individuals for their thoughtless behavior.


Throughout the course of the story Frank, now the Punisher, systematically kills over 500 heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe, including members of the Avengers and Fantastic Four. He kills Spider-Man and Venom in the sewers of New York City, he throws Wolverine into an electric fence where he burns to death, and he puts a bullet into the head of an unconscious Bruce Banner.

The story ends with the Punisher facing off against Daredevil, the one hero who was sympathetic enough to understand his pain. Undeterred, Castle murders the Man Without Fear, discovering afterwards that he was secretly Matt Murdock, the lawyer who had been helping him in prison. The guilt of what he has done proves to be too much for Castle, and the story ends with him taking his own life.

The ideas and themes of The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe have been explored further since its publication in works such as DC’s Kingdom Come (by Mark Waid and Alex Ross), as well as another Garth Ennis penned series The Boys, published by Dynamite Comics. The heavy dose of realism that each of these stories tackles is what the actual consequences would be for the average person if superheroes existed.

The primary problem with The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe is that the very human Frank Castle should not be capable of terminating many of the heroes who met their ends in the story. If killing Venom was as easy as using tasers and bullets, he would have likely been murdered long ago. Since the time of the story, it has been established that shooting Bruce Banner instantly results in The Hulk manifesting, regardless of whether Banner is conscious or not. The list of impossible deaths goes on, and having the Punisher kill hundreds of superpowered beings comes across as lazy and convenient writing. Even worse, Ennis paints the heroes of Earth as callous and glib, simply shrugging away the deaths of innocents, which is drastically out of character to say the least.

This story paints the Punisher as a simple mass murderer, the very definition of what he pledged to fight against. Additionally the Punisher’s one-man war against the heroes comes across as hypocritical and misled. The Punisher is a great character in his own right, and Ennis a fantastic writer, but The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe was not a bright moment for either character or creator.

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