Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe Review
"What if The Punisher ..."
With Punisher coming to Netflix, I thought it would be interesting to dig into the character’s past with Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe
. Created by Garth Ennis and Doug Braithwaite, this one-shot follows an alternate version of Frank Castle as he mows down the heroes and villains of Marvel. Ennis stays very loyal to the Punisher character and shows a deep understanding of him.
During a superhuman battle in Central Park, Castle’s family is caught in the crossfire and killed. Upon realizing this, he breaks down and kills Cyclops and Jubilee on the spot. He is then arrested and sent to prison, where he is later freed by a secret society of people who have been brutally scarred by super-human rampages. This group charges him with the task of destroying every costumed freak out there. He spends the next several years taking out every staple of the Marvel Universe while bouncing in and out of prison.
The heart of the story isn’t found in Castle’s loss but in his relationship with Matt Murdock. Ennis begins the story by setting up the fact that Castle and Murdock grew up together in Hell’s Kitchen. Castle protected Murdock from bullies and looked out for him. This later sets up the relationship that is the focal point of the story. Years later Murdock devotes himself to defending Castle in court. He is also the only character to try and break through to Castle and get him to see reason. Murdock wants to see him saved, not punished. This climaxes in the final fight of the story where Castle decides to end his crusade with the death of Daredevil. Upon realizing that Murdock is Daredevil, Castle realizes that he has become one of them, one of the costumed monsters he wanted to destroy, and decides to take his own life.
This story is the only way any Punisher story could really end. The moral of the character has always warned against becoming the evil you seek to destroy. This rendition also highlights the vital difference between Daredevil and the Punisher (two characters that have been interwoven for decades at this point). Daredevil seeks to find justice while the Punisher seeks punishment. The fundamental difference between these ideologies is that justice assumes the possibility of redemption, while punishment does not.
It’s this same interplay that we saw with Punisher’s introduction to the second season of Daredevil on Netflix.
For every praise I can give this book, I can point out another flaw. Not the least of which is the absurd plot. The trap of a story like this is that it’s easy for the audience to turn against the protagonist. Ennis answers this with absurd set-ups that remind us not to take this too seriously. For instance, Castle kills the X-Men by trapping them on the moon and bombing them with technology he stole from Dr. Doom. This is certainly entertaining, but hardly believable. The story is tainted with these types of compromises and only skims over a darker telling that would be much more interesting.
Additionally, the book doesn’t age well, especially since the release of “Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe” five years ago. The story now feels contrived and seems to succumb to more than a few tropes. We’ve seen this type of story before, time and time again. The worst criticism that I can lay on the story is that it seems frivolous and pointless. It doesn’t redefine Frank Castle nor does it speak to a new take on the character. Ennis has written a fun story, but it isn’t really anything more than that. The book just reads like a tame version of a really good Punisher story that is trapped in the minutia of being inoffensive filler.
The art holds up well, although some of the colors feel a bit dated. I can’t really pinpoint a specific issue with it, but I also can’t find anything amazing about it. At times, it draws up some very good imagery, but it can also feel like you’re looking at a Lethal Weapon movie. Overall the art just seems to fit and it feels like an iconic portrayal of the characters and the world at large.
To wrap this up, I do recommend that you read this book, but with the caveat that it serves better as a fun intro to the character than a watershed book that will forever define him.
- Fun Story
- Interesting characterization
- Easy Read
- Feels dated
- Story is lacking depth