As Secret Empire heads toward its conclusion, the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe will have to cope with the consequences of their actions during the Hydra takeover of the United States. Ant-Man, Odinson, Deadpool and others must live with the knowledge that they worked with super-fascists, even if it turns out they did so reluctantly. There’s one Marvel character, however, who jumped at the chance to join Hydra, apparently without any qualms or paranormal coercion: Frank Castle, aka The Punisher.
Castle’s reveal as an agent of Hydra came as somewhat of a surprise, but the fact that he’s willingly working for the organization is even more shocking, although when you stop and consider it more closely, you can see his reasons for doing so. He’s so often portrayed as a hero and power fantasy that it’s easy to forget how his brand of vigilante justice differs from the real heroes of the Marvel Universe, and how reprehensible his level of retribution truly is.
Castle doesn’t look up to many people, but on the short list of those he does admire is Steve Rogers. It’s a theme that’s frequently revisited when the two interact, most notably in Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War and in the aftermath of Rogers’ death in Matt Fraction and Ariel Olivetti’s Punisher: War Journal. When attacked by Rogers in the former series, Castle refused to fight back against the ultimate ideal of an American soldier. And following Rogers’ death, The Punisher adopted his own take on the Sentinel of Liberty’s uniform in honor of his hero, although his methods might not have been Cap-approved.
Frank Castle is a U.S. Marine, through and through, and if Captain America comes calling to say his country needs him, then Castle is exactly will answer that call. Rogers’ new approach to keeping America safe through control and fear could seem appealing to Castle in the sense that they’re on the same page, finally. If it means The Punisher gets free rein to do what he does best, well, that’s just an added bonus.
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