WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Punisher #13 by Matthew Rosenberg, Szymon Kudranski, Antonio Fabela and VC's Cory Petit, on sale now.
In The Punisher #6, Frank Castle was branded an international terrorist after Billy Russo/Jigsaw killed innocent people while impersonating him. Castle has now escaped Bagalia and is back in New York, seeking revenge against Hydra and Baron Helmut Zemo.
However, as The Punisher #13 progresses, Zemo and Wilson Fisk make plans to do away with Castle once and for all. In the process, they revive a classic superhero team: the Thunderbolts.
Zemo and Fisk have two immensely tense meetings in which they try and figure out how to kill Frank Castle. During one of them, Zemo reveals that he has brought several hundred soldiers masquerading as troops from the United Nations to New York. Fisk, for his part, revives the Vigilante Infraction General Interdiction and Limitation (V.I.G.I.L.) task force.
That anti-vigilante law enforcement group was short-lived, first appearing in 1992's Punisher #73 and making its last notable appearance in 1995's Punisher War Journal #76. Backed by the mysterious Trust, the brutal group provided a major challenge for Castle when it faced off with him.
After these two reveals, Fisk holds a press conference in which he introduces a new Thunderbolts team consisting of Zemo (calling himself Citizen V), Karla Sofen/Moonstone and Norbert Ebersol/Fixer, Jigsaw, Chen Lu/Radioactive Man and Ghost. As the issue closes, Fisk threatens Zemo, telling the Baron he'll kill him if he fails. In response, Zemo reminds Kingpin that he now has an army in the city.
First appearing in 1997's Incredible Hulk #449, the Thunderbolts have a pretty complex history. The team started performing heroic deeds after the Avengers and Fantastic Four seemingly died fighting Onslaught in the 1996 event bearing the powerful psychic villain's name. The group was, in reality, the Masters of Evil pretending to be heroes.
The original team was led by Baron Zemo and consisted of Erik Josten/Goliath, Abner Jenkins/Beetle, Melissa Gold/Screaming Mimi, Fixer and Moonstone. However, many members of the group reformed over time, turning into true superheroes.
There have been several different iterations of the Thunderbolts since that initial group. The Punisher was even a member of a Thunderbolts team with other antiheroes -- like Elektra and Deadpool -- that was led by the Red Hulk.
The most recent incarnation of the Thunderbolts was led by Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier. That version consisted of all the original members, though in some cases using different superhero monikers. After a confrontation with Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil during 2017's Secret Empire event, Josten/Atlas, Moonstone and Fixer re-joined the villainous group and helped Hydra take over the United States.
Although they've amassed a stunning force, The Punisher #13 leaves off with the question of whether Baron Zemo and Kingpin can actually cooperate long enough to take down Frank Castle. They've definitely got him outgunned, but the two egocentric villains might just find their own worst enemies are closer to home than they thought.
The Punisher #14 hits shelves Aug. 7.