WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Cosmic Ghost Rider #5 by Donny Cates, Dylan Burnett and Antonio Fabela, on sale now!
Reluctant father figures are rather common in Marvel Comics. Wolverine has made a career out of being a role model for several young X-Men, despite probably being the last person in the world any of them should look up to (but would Jubilee be as plucky as she is if it weren’t for Logan's influence?). This theme has also bled into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with characters like Tony Stark and his shaky relationship with his de facto ward, Peter Parker. But sometimes characters decide to impose themselves as vessels of authority, and often the lessons they pass down to their quasi-adopted children are not always for the best. In the case of Frank Castle and Thanos, they are downright catastrophic.
Cosmic Ghost Rider #5, the final issue in the wonderfully insane miniseries by Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett, is a prime example of good intentions leading to the worst possible outcome. Throughout the series, Frank Castle, who is now bonded with the Spirit of Vengeance, tries to teach baby Thanos that there is more to life than the endless cycle of murder and destruction. And how does Frank covey this message? Well… he pretty much teaches by way of demonstrating said murder and destruction. You could say the Punisher’s parenting style is more "do as you're told" and less "lead by example."
After confronting an adult version of Thanos, who has adopted the Punisher's methodology of distributing justice to the nth degree, Frank Castle sees his tutelage has created a version of the Mad Titan that is just as bad as the genocidal mad man he was hoping to divert from existence. The world is enslaved, or, at best, under tyrannical rule. This realization leads Castle to do the most rational thing: Obliterate Thanos' face in front of his younger self. That might seem drastic, but this is the Punisher we're talking about here. Annihilating the opposition is pretty much the guy's default answer.
In doing so, the example Castle sets for the young purple lad he absconded with (let's just call it a kidnapping, really) is the most dire lesson Thanos could ever learn: Murder is the answer to most problems. Yeah, we know that's super horrific, but again, this is Thanos. The ironic tragedy of trying to nurture Thanos away from his murderous impulses to only give him a lesson in how to kill is not lost on Frank Castle. When Death herself confirms this sad twist of fate, Castle can only lament his futile quest and look to the future. As strange as it sounds, Cosmic Ghost Rider has been a tragic tale of irony punctuated with outlandish humor, one where Frank Castle winds up being the butt of the joke.
The whole ordeal does explain why Thanos is so good at killing (the guy is like the Michael Jordan of planetary genocide). Before he became the Rider, Frank Castle had been at war for decades. His tactical expertise and complete lack of empathy for his enemy had turned him into a perfect killer without the help of enhanced strength or some other fantastical element (except for a deal with death). On a macro level, Thanos did very much the same thing. While the Mad Titan's targets were not exactly sorted for any specific reason, the efficiency with which he disposes them is as laser-focused and effective as Frank Castle's war on crime. It's actually rather creepy seeing the parallels between these characters.
So, what does this mean for Thanos? Honestly, at this point, so much is going on in the universe it's hard to tell. As far as we can tell, Thanos is going to keep on being the murderous monster he has always been. And the same can truly be said for Frank Castle. Intent certainly matters when it comes to the actions of heroes and villains. When their respective body counts are examined, though, the poor souls who make up their numbers don't care about intent.