WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Punisher #13 by Matthew Rosenberg, Szymon Kudranski, Antonio Fabela and VC's Cory Petit.
Since his first appearance in 1974's Amazing Spider-Man #129, controversy has surrounded Frank Castle, who has pursued the destruction of criminals in extremely violent ways in the name of his slain family. The vigilante's signature skull started appearing on police and military vehicles in recent years, spurring controversy about whether law enforcement officers should use the symbol of a character who is, fundamentally, a violent vigilante that summarily executes those he deems guilty. Punisher #13 addresses that controversy, with Castle firmly against those in law enforcement using his symbol.
Back in New York after escaping imprisonment in Bagalia at the hands of Baron Zemo, Frank confronts and bests a Hydra agent in a knife fight. However, he's injured in the process. As Castle attempts to flee the scene, two cops stop him, and it seems the vigilante's latest spree will come to an end. Instead, the police officers reveal they're members of a group of people who believe in the Punisher's mission. They've even got a decal of the vigilante's logo on their cop car.
Frank isn't impressed. He rips his logo off the cruiser and proceeds to lecture them, saying, "We're not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave all that up a long time ago. You don't do what I do. Nobody does." He then suggests they find a better role model, like Captain America.
Angry at Castle's response, one of the officers explains Frank has started a movement and it doesn't matter if he approves or not. Castle replies with a threat that he'll come for them just like he would criminals if the officers do what he does. The two cops decide to leave, with one declaring Castle has lost his last allies in New York.
Although he certainly doesn't endorse violence against police officers, Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway has consistently voice his opposition to authority figures misusing his vigilante's symbol. "It's disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system," Conway explained to SyFy Wire in January. "He's supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can't depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way... If an officer of the law, representing the justice system puts a criminal's symbol on his police car, or shares challenge coins honoring a criminal he or she is making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law."
Conway went on to explain that, whenever police or military don the Punisher's symbol, they're siding with a criminal. He then compared the action to "putting a Confederate flag on a government building."
Punisher's confrontation with the police shows a lot of self-awareness on the part of the vigilante, who clearly understands his relationship to the law and justice. Although the comic is unlikely to put the practice to rest, where Frank Castle stands on law enforcement using his symbol is very clear.
The Punisher #14 hits shelves Aug. 7.