Frank Castle was once a marine who fought for his country and the men beside him, but once he became the Punisher, he took a darker path.
There was a time that Frank Castle was a soldier; a talented and versatile marine and special forces operative whose commitment and instincts made him a force to be reckoned with. But when his family was killed, Frank Castle died with them. In his place was the Punisher, a killer who used all that training, knowledge, and skill in a brutal campaign against criminals. While many of the most popular Punisher stories have gone back to explore Frank’s military background, one thing is for certain: he is no longer a soldier, and he knows it.
In Punisher #5 by Greg Rucka with art by Marco Checchetto, the Punisher is still recovering from his fight with the criminal organization called the Exchange and their assassin, the Vulture. Although Frank killed the violent criminal, he was seriously injured in the process and has just barely managed to stay ahead of the authorities and others looking for him. Over 100 days since the fight, the Exchange has continued to expand their grip on the criminal underworld, while Frank has been healing in a silo out in Far Rockaway, Queens. Still healing and working on his aim without the use of one eye, Frank has a visitor in the form of an unnamed child who discovers his hideout one day.
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Having seen Frank’s arsenal and witnessed his shooting, the young man believes that he’s a soldier, peppering him with questions about his regiment. Frank’s implication of past military service strikes a chord with the young man, who reveals that he’s living with his grandparents while his parents, both soldiers, are on deployment. With older parental figures, no friends, and a lot of time on his hands, the kid believes that Frank is a soldier who’s healing from injuries he got on a mission, swearing that he’ll keep his secret before he leaves.
The young man is simply a kid looking for a friend, and he meets a stranger who he builds up to be the same as his parents. Soldiers are his heroes, and he’s so ready to let his imagination fill in the blanks for Frank’s backstory that the Punisher barely has to say anything for the boy to admire him. While Frank’s other supporting characters celebrate and deal with their issues around Thanksgiving in their own way, the young man returns with Thanksgiving leftovers for this lonely soldier. When Frank is nowhere to be found, the kid’s curiosity gets the better of him and he discovers a vest with Frank’s signature skull. Frank appears and tells him to go, but not before the kid calls him out for not being a soldier. In his eyes, the Punisher is no soldier, he’s a murderer, and thus an insult to his parents’ actual service.
Frank Castle is a solo act who answers to no set of rules, morals, or higher authority other than his personal vengeance; something he’s long pointed out to those who’ve been unlucky enough to work with him and survive to tell the tale. While he may often fight on the side of the angels, his aims are selfish and his methods often deplorable, with the Punisher fighting for no true aim other than to enact the vengeance from which he takes his name. Although he’s had partners in the past, there can only be one Punisher, and he holds his sacred mission with the same kind of dedication and discipline Frank Castle showed to his country and the men who fought beside him. Although the person Frank Castle was may be dead, the Punisher would be nothing without his military background, even though every kill makes the memory of that person fade more and more into oblivion.
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