As readers might recall, writer Matt Rosenberg's previous The Punisher series, which saw Castle put on the War Machine armor, dealt head-on with the fallout from the 2017 Secret Empire event. After joining Baron Zemo and Hydra during their reign over the United States, Castle sought to make amends, to right the wrongs he committed while wearing the octopus-themed symbol of the evil organization. After commandeering the War Machine armor, Castle went after Zemo -- but the villain managed to escape.
Now, The Punisher #1 might be a new beginning, but it still continues the threads established in the War Machine storyline. Castle is still looking for redemption, and hes still gunning for Zemo... which may have you wondering, where does the Mandarin fit into all of this? Well, it turns out the Asian super-villain is Zemo's latest ally.
While we don't yet exactly know what he's up to, Zemo has an elaborate plan cooking, one that involves the Roxxon corporation, as well as his new partner, the Mandarin. For this plan to work, Zemo and the Mandarin need the United Nations to vote in favor of recognizing the the nation of Bagalia. But, before the vote can take place, Castle puts a bullet square in the head of the Mandarin.
The Punisher didn't go after the Mandarin because he was a cruel and dangerous tyrant that had been allowed to roam the world for too long. He didn't set his crosshairs on him because he wanted to do what Iron Man never could. He simply shot him to get to Baron Zemo. In this way, the killing of the Mandarin is different from most of the high-level murders Frank has committed over the years. It's a means to an end, and it only appears to be the opening salvo in Frank Castle's war on Zemo and Hydra. Putting the Mandarin down alters Zemo's plans, and now he has no choice but to respond to the Punisher in kind.
But it won't be easy. After all, Frank Castle just took out a country's leader, in front of the entire United Nations and on national television. There's footage of him on the scene, pulling the trigger, meaning that everyone knows he is the killer. The issue ends with Castle once again finding himself the subject of a nation-wide manhunt. Of course, knowing Frank Castle, the odds are pretty good that he isn't exactly hiding. There seems to be an unfaltering motive to every one of his actions, and it's highly unlikely Zemo's the only one who has a plan.