Comic: "The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe"
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Garth Ennis
Artist: Doug Braithwaite

Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Posted: 6/24/2008

Plot: In an alternate reality, Frank Castle's family is killed in a superhero battle in Central Park. Frank doesn't take the news very well, and wastes a few X-Men on the spot. The act gets him life in prison, but he is freed by a mysterious benefactor who wants him to hunt down and eliminate all superheroes and supervillains. The Punisher obliges.

Review: If guys like Batman can have backup plans in case they need to kill guys like Superman, it stands to reason that one of the most ruthless heroes in the Marvel universe should, at one point or another, start killing superbeings. Sure, many of them probably wouldn't take more than a sniper round to the head, but Garth Ennis manages to pull an interesting story out of it all the same.

Throughout the whole affair, the Punisher stays very much in character: he's not doing what he's doing as part of some greater good. He's just doing it because it's revenge. Some of the heroes/villains go down fairly easily, but the Punisher is forced to consider that maybe he might be a bit out of his league, considering that he's matching energy blasts and power armor with guns and knives. Fortunately, some of the wealthier targets give him access to better equipment, which really helps speed things along.

And when I say speed things along, I'm not kidding. Early on, the Punisher hunts down individual heroes and villains, but after a few of these, the kill rate explodes. Literally. In one scene, the Punisher manages to wipe out a huge number of heroes and villains through the sort of subterfuge that you'd think would not work on many of the gathered superbeings. Finally, by the end, the remaining figures in the Marvel universe are dealt with via a short description by the Punisher.

The story eventually wraps up with a conclusion that you'll probably see coming, but the journey is still enjoyable, particularly the Punisher's encounters with Wolverine and Dr. Doom. Artwork is pretty good for the most part, but at times, Doug Braithwaite gives the characters some very strange facial expressions that'll make you laugh yourself out of the story. It's hard to make the Punisher's raid on Fisk Tower seem serious when he's sporting his O face.

But the story itself worked. You could easily see the Punisher doing something like this, even in the Earth 616 universe. While they may not have shown him fighting ridiculously powerful heroes like the Silver Surfer, he does manage to cover the most popular superheroes in a fitting fashion. Villains too, but the main focus seems to be superheroes. And looking back, the world is probably better without them. Heckuva job, Frankie.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

per sempre vigilante
Jun 30th, 2008, 06:08 AM
Oh hell yes! Thanks for reviewing this, I heard about it once before and was never able to find it.
Sapper Whacker
Jun 30th, 2008, 09:58 AM
The Punisher's always been my favourite "Anti-Hero", and I like the sound of this particular incarnation of him. I distrust Marvel for the whole "Fighting Nazis In Captain America Suit" debacle.
Jun 30th, 2008, 12:01 PM
this sounds fucking awesome!
Forum Virgin
Jun 30th, 2008, 02:27 PM
Are you kidding? This is perhaps the worst story ever written. The Punisher is vaguely in character, if you consider him to be nothing but a mindless psychopath (like Ennis does). No one else is even close to being in character, and they have all become complete idiots. The killings are just awful. He nukes the moon? Really? Nukes the moon? Wow. Honestly, this is the only time I have ever heard anyone say this book is actually good. I'm a huge Punisher fan, but there is no way you can actually call this good. Even if you aren't looking for a serious story, just something fun to read, this won't be it.
Funky Dynamite
Jun 30th, 2008, 02:54 PM
So what is the Punisher's character, then? I've always imagined him to be a guy who kills for revenge, and this seemed like an extrapolation of that.
Forum Virgin
Jun 30th, 2008, 03:34 PM
He kills to prevent innocent people from being hurt. He is not simply a mindless killer. You could argue that innocent people get hurt during the fighting between super heroes and villains, as this story did, but you also have to take into account how many people they save. But, even if you made that excuse, in the beginning the X-Men and Avengers are fighting the Brood (I think it was them). Frank never does anything about them. He gets rid of all the heroes on Earth and leaves it open for an invasion from any outside force. That's much worse.
Funky Dynamite
Jun 30th, 2008, 04:03 PM
For his motivations, the Punisher isn't made out to be a mindless killer in the story. He goes through all the assassinations in a very methodical, Punisher sort of way (and I acknowledged that the nuke bit was a bit silly).


As for the threat from afar, I would say that overlooking the Brood, et al. was one of the things that was glossed over due to the enormity of what the title described. I used the Silver Surfer as an example because it would've taken considerable effort on his part to kill a man who can travel faster than the speed of light and is able to transmute matter at will. Even then, though, how would the Punisher have been able to take on Galactus? You could make the argument that killing a herald would give him powers, or some such nonsense, but the bottom line is that stuff like that doesn't belong in a Punisher storyline.

In short, saying that the Punisher is killing every superbeing in the Marvel universe was a bit overblown. It was really just an excuse to get the Punisher to take down some of the most recognizeable heroes and villains. I think Ennis did the best he could, given the topic.
Forum Virgin
Jun 30th, 2008, 04:18 PM
Well, I didn't mindless as he doesn't plan it. I mean mindless in the fact that he isn't thinking about the consequences, just killing.

Yeah, I don't think he would be able to take down Surfer or Galactus either, but I don't think he would be able to take out every X-Man and X-Men villain either. As the story clearly shows, Ennis doesn't let anything like logic stop him. None of this really belongs in a Punisher story. This isn't what he is about. He deals with the problems that the bigger heroes don't bother with.

I don't have a problem with Frank not being able to kill everyone. My problem is how poorly written, and, quite frankly, stupid the story is.

And it's not like Ennis was assigned this. This story was his idea. It came out in 1995 (or was it 94?) and is his first Punisher story. I believe his first story for Marvel. It probably came from his hatred of most super heroes (I believe the only one he actually likes is Superman).

A final thing for this post; If anyone is interested in reading this story, it's being re-released in August.
Space Cowboy
Jun 30th, 2008, 04:50 PM
I rather liked this one when I first read it as a kid. I don't think it withstood the test of time when I reread it earlier this year, but it was still enjoyable. I particularly liked the way he killed Spider-Man,
Little people!?
Jun 30th, 2008, 05:36 PM
The artist is Doug Braithwaite. That "unknown" there was bothering me a little haha
Funky Dynamite
Jun 30th, 2008, 06:05 PM
That was my fault. I wrote it at work and left that note in as a reminder to myself to find out who it was. Lemme just fix that now...
The Goddamned Batman
Jun 30th, 2008, 06:53 PM
Originally Posted by Brunbb View Post
Are you kidding? This is perhaps the worst story ever written. The Punisher is vaguely in character, if you consider him to be nothing but a mindless psychopath (like Ennis does).
I'm guessing you've never read Ennis's Punisher MAX series then? Because that's the best the Punisher has ever been as far as I'm concerned, and probably the best he ever will be.
Forum Virgin
Jun 30th, 2008, 07:08 PM
Yes, I have. In my opinion, it is the absolute worst.
The Goddamned Batman
Jun 30th, 2008, 08:46 PM
Wow. Granted, I never read this story Boogie reviewed here, but Ennis is one of my favorite writers, and Preacher is my favorite comic.
Jun 30th, 2008, 09:10 PM
I want to read this. Now.
ni kar'tayl gar darasuum
Jun 30th, 2008, 10:18 PM
It's a great read and probally should've been sporting a "What if", but it's definately not the worst Punisher story.
If you don't like it, just go back to watching your Dolph Lundgren dvd.
Top Pale Force Assassin
Jul 1st, 2008, 12:13 AM
JJ, I personally liked the captain america style thing simply because it showed that even Frank has someone as a hero and someone to emulate.
I thought he also looked interesting with the bullets as skull teeth and all.
Forum Virgin
Jul 1st, 2008, 12:36 AM
Hey, long time listener...uh, viewer, I guess, first time poster. I'm a huge fan of Garth Ennis' run on Punisher, which is unfortunatly coming to an end. Now I'm not denying that this is a bit out there at points, but it's a pretty entertaining read (how he kills the Hulk... why hasn't anyone in the mainstream comics thought of that?). And with all due respect, to anyone who thinks Castle kills criminals to protect the innocent, they're kinda missing the point of the comic. It's not about defending others, he kills criminals because he hates them. Just my opinion though.
And I've gotta recommend Ennis' "The End" one-shot for Punisher. Great story, and nice artwork by Richard Corben, which manages to be cartoonish but still pretty graphic.
Jul 1st, 2008, 02:12 AM
Gotta love that Punisher's satire called Big Shot that appeared on The Tick. The line "Seek professional help..." that The Tick says to him when he blasts his way into the lair of the Idea Men (first episode) doing nothing more than shooting carelessly and taking the shit out of the criminals is pure classic.
Turrican't. :(
Jul 1st, 2008, 03:59 AM
This is probably the best premise for an American comic book ever made. Besides the one where Sonic Jr. asks Antoine's dad where babies come from.
Jul 1st, 2008, 05:20 AM
Not surprised this review got such divided comments. I got this when it came out, as a guilty pleasure, seeing as I normally avoided all things Punisher. But I think this comic does create a better, more three-dimensional, view of Mr Castle than we see in some other appearances. And all those awesome death scenes! CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-SQUISH!
Clean Shaven Nerf Herder
Jul 1st, 2008, 11:54 AM
I bought this comic in a two pack with the first collected edition of Ennis's Marvel Knights version of the ongoing Punisher series, and it quickly cemented itself a place on my repeat reading pile. It reminds me of an old issue of What If? (I think it was "What If The X-Men Hadn't Killed Dracula", and what a title THAT is) in which most of the Marvel Heroes are turned into vampires by a vamped out Storm, and Frank is called in to take them down. There's a great fight scene near the end where he takes on a large crowd of vampy ex-heroes in a cathedral.
Funky Dynamite
Jul 1st, 2008, 12:35 PM
My view on the Punisher is the same as Huh's. It seemed to me that the Punisher was borne of revenge, and he just decided to keep that going, rather than settle into some kind of "protect the innocent" type hero. He hates criminals, but innocents being protected is purely incidental.

At the very least, it's just an extrapolation of that line, "it's not justice, it's punishment."
Mexican Rambo Doll
Jul 1st, 2008, 01:33 PM
I heard about this comic once like 7 years ago. My dad was talking to one of his art students and the kid was talking about it. I thought it was the coolest idea in existence but never found out the name. Thanks I-Mockery!
Jul 1st, 2008, 03:13 PM
Brunbb has never read a Punisher comic in his entire life, The Punisher doesn't kill bad guys because he's trying to save the innocent, he's killing them BECAUSE HE FUCKING HATES THEM.

"Why do you kill them?"


"Bad people, I mean."

"Because I hate them."

"Oh...I thought it might be because you wanted to make the world safe for good people"
Forum Virgin
Jul 1st, 2008, 03:43 PM
Clearly, you have never read anything not written by Ennis.

Ennis stated before he took over the book that he didn't know much about the character, and it's shown(http://www.thepunishercomics.com/art...arth_ennis.htm).

Frank got his revenge long, long ago (one of his earliest appearances, also something Ennis ignored). He doesn't kill for that anymore. He kills so no one else has to suffer like he did. It's what the character is about. Read Essential Punisher 1. His biggest rule has always been to never hurt innocent people, and he kills to protect them. He doesn't have any powers. He doesn't have the money or technology of Batman or Iron Man. He kills because it's the only thing he can do in such a world.
Funky Dynamite
Jul 1st, 2008, 04:05 PM
That interview has him saying that he understands the basics of the character: he's a homicidal vigilante with a military background. In all the different interpretations of the Punisher, that much appears to remain constant, so I'd saying knowing that much gives you a pretty good understanding of the character, as well as where to take him.

Which writer's interpretation of the Punisher do you believe to be most accurate?

Edit: Also, Ennis says right in the article that the Punisher already got his revenge on the people who killed his family. He says it in a bit of a wishy-washy fashion, but he still acknowledges it.
Forum Virgin
Jul 1st, 2008, 04:56 PM
So you can write a perfect Spider-Man because you know he's from New York and shoots web? That is a very basic part of the character that says nothing about the way he should act or why he does what he does.

I really liked Carl Potts on War Journal.

Ennis doesn't really know if Frank killed the guys that did it. He says it probably happened. He would know for sure it happened if he did basic research.
Funky Dynamite
Jul 1st, 2008, 05:52 PM
He's operating on the assumption that the Punisher got those guys, so I don't see any problem with it.

Originally Posted by Brunbb View Post
So you can write a perfect Spider-Man because you know he's from New York and shoots web? That is a very basic part of the character that says nothing about the way he should act or why he does what he does.
Throw in the bit about his uncle Ben and you've got that angle covered, especially now that his marriage has been retconned.
Forum Virgin
Jul 1st, 2008, 07:30 PM
Man, I sure wish I could find the interview with Ennis where he says that Frank never killed the guys who killed his family. I remember he was writing a story about it. It might have been The Cell. I know my word probably isn't enough for you to believe me, but it did happen.

If you were to know that Peter was upset over the death of his uncle, lived in New York, and shot web, you would just have a web shooting Batman.

Have you ever read Circle of Blood? It was the original 5 issue mini-series about Frank. It's hands-down the best Punisher story of all time.
Funky Dynamite
Jul 1st, 2008, 08:23 PM
I have not read that mini-series, no.

And you wouldn't have a web-swinging Batman with addition of uncle Ben because the story was about Peter shrugging off responsibility, not having his uncle killed when he was a kid.

And if wikipedia is to be believed, this is the backstory given to the Punisher for many a year: "When mobsters slew his family, Frank Castle vowed to spend the rest of his life avenging them. Trained as a marine and equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, he now wages a one-man war against crime as the Punisher."
Forum Virgin
Jul 1st, 2008, 11:08 PM
Just to clarify, Castle did kill the guys responsible for his family's death in The Cell, as Brunbb mentioned. But Castle clearly states at the end of the story that he's not gonna stop his literal war on crime just cause those guys are dead. I also think it's worth noting that Ennis sorta tweaked Castle's origin a bit. Originally, his family was deliberatly murdered when they stumbled on a mob execution. In The Cell, they were caught in the crossfire during a mob hit, so they were pretty much in the wrong place at the wrong time and were never intentional targets.
Forum Virgin
Jul 2nd, 2008, 12:32 AM
You didn't mention that. I was simply talking the shear basics of it and not taking that part in to it.

Okay, I had forgotten things. It's been a while. In Marvel Super Action #2, when Frank takes on the Costa's (the mob family that killed his family), at the end he finds


So, yes, he is partially is still killing for his family. However, in latter issues (and I can't remember exactly which one), he also states that he is killing to help protect other people and make sure they don't have to go through what he does. That is why he gets so upset at other vigilantes. He doesn't think anyone else should do what he does.

I was partially wrong, yes, but that doesn't mean what I said was invalid. From what I can tell simply from these postings, is that you do not have a lot of experience with The Punisher, or at least with non-Ennis stuff. I'm not trying to say there is anything wrong with that, because I can kind of relate (I love the new Thor series but don't care for old Thor stuff), but Ennis doesn't really have a good grasp on the character and the old issues really build up a different character than what he portrays.
Forum Virgin
Jul 2nd, 2008, 11:47 AM
Hey, no one said your opinion was invalid Brunbb, I was just tossing that out there. You've got a pretty fair point, cause I will admit to not being a fan of pre-Ennis Punisher (remember when he killed himself and became like the fallen angel Punisher? Ugh). I think we could have this debate about just about any comic book character, since different writers have such different takes; I mean, for example, how many times has Magneto gone from megalomaniac to okay guy just worried about the mutant race and back again?
LOVES the tubal ligation!
Jul 2nd, 2008, 05:59 PM
Wow! Thats a lot of debate about the Punisher. While I have never been big in reading punisher comics I do have to say he is one of the more kick ass Marvel heroes. Just the idea of him going around assassinating the x-men and other marvel heroes is pretty cool. But like Kybo Ren said it should probably have a "what if" in front of it.
Funky Dynamite
Jul 3rd, 2008, 01:57 AM
Originally Posted by Brunbb View Post
Ennis doesn't really have a good grasp on the character and the old issues really build up a different character than what he portrays.
Again, I must refer you to that very article you posted about Ennis: He said that Quesada wanted to throw out the extra crap that had been written about the Punisher (if Ennis was serious about there being times where the Punisher was an "agent of heaven... fighting demons and supernatural creatures", well then come on) and just get back to the basics of the character.

And I really don't see anything that would suggest that Ennis has missed any part of the Punisher (at this point, I'm no longer referring to this odd storyline where he kills the Marvel universe). The most basic definition of the Punisher's character is what I posted from wikipedia: that he became a vigilante who kills criminals to get back at the ones that killed his family. From there, as long as the Punisher is portrayed as an ex-military type who uses questionable methods in his war on crime, you've pretty much nailed the character. You can tweak his motivation a little bit and still have virtually the same Punisher.

It's not as if Ennis pulled some stunt where he retconned a big portion of the Punisher's history like with the Spiderman "One More Day" debacle. If he came in and wrote that the Punisher was against the use of firearms, then I would say that he hasn't grasped the character.
Jul 3rd, 2008, 01:57 AM
I read it. I didn't care for it at all.
Funky Dynamite
Jul 3rd, 2008, 01:43 PM
Let me say this, though: In regards to Ennis' "Born" series,


That bit I would call Ennis missing the point of the Punisher. And there maybe more examples, but I'm just getting into Ennis' work on the Punisher now.
Forum Virgin
Jul 3rd, 2008, 10:09 PM
Okay, I've been wanting to post on here for a while and I've finally taken the time to register, hooray!

Now, I've been a Punisher fan for quite some time now and while I enjoyed his pre-Ennis life, I really think that Ennis' version of the character is the one to beat. The Punisher was travelling down a pretty crappy road before Ennis took over the reins. Remember the ectoplasmic gun-toting Heaven's hitman angle that was beyond shitty and almost universally despised? And that was after most of the Punisher titles were canned due to sagging sales. That was Marvel's attempt at revitalizing the character initially.

Then Ennis came along. Ennis focused the character, cut the fat off and started almost carte blanche with his "Marvel Knights" series. His run on that was pretty good, not great and I only say this in comparison to his MAX series. Finally the Punisher got the series he deserved, the treatment he needed after years of beating around the bush.

This is the best Punisher book ever. Well, it was. It makes me cringe now when I read the latest War Journal series or see him get flatten by little girls (albeit super-powered ones)in the 616. Frank just doesn't have a home there anymore in my opinion.
Crazy dog woman
Jul 24th, 2008, 01:28 PM
Haven't read this book, but I immediately want to. :-) I did enjoy the storylines by Ennis where the Punisher fights the Russian, Daredevil, Wolverine and Spiderman, with some aid of Hulk...

When it comes to the whole Ennis discussion: Ennis has stressed in the comic several times that the Punisher is very much aware of the fact that he can't extinguish crime by killing people off... Frank said so explicitly in the human-trafficking story, that when he's killed these guys there'll just come others to take their place and human trafficking will continue just like before. There's also been stories where revenge starts to "spiral", so one revenge leads to another revenge etc. I think this goes to show that Ennis has a brain, because the idea that one could extinguish violence by murder is plain stupid.

I've only read a couple or so of pre-Ennis Punisher comics, and that was a long time ago.. But I think I recall that he had a more typical hero personality back then... But that's pretty hard to reconcile with the fact that he's a mass murderer of incredible proportions who goes around killing gallons of people all the time, so to that personality I say good riddance.

It's odd though that Ennis' Punisher was clearly part of the regular Marvel Universe to start with, but now it seems like he slid off into his own little pocket universe where no other supercreatures exist.