WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Punisher #2 by Matt Rosenberg, Szymon Kudranski, Antonio Fabela and Cory Petit, in stores now.
Frank Castle shocked the world when he sided with Hydra in Secret Empire, but in the wake of the evil, Nazi-esque organization's fall, he's making amends by taking out key members of the terrorist organization. In The Punisher, Frank has gone after its political ambition by assassinating the Mandarin, who was making a plea to the United Nations on behalf of Bagalia, a nation run by Baron Zemo.
But while Frank thinks he's meting out justice, the world powers-that-be, as well as its superheroes, continue to view him as a wild card that must be imprisoned. And so, his former friends have gone after him, hoping to bring him in before someone kills him to stop his bloody crusade. His latest journey to New York results in an elite group of Marvel heroes attacking the vigilante... but no, it's not the Avengers.
In Issue #2, Frank has crossed a line, big time, something he keeps doing with each and every issue. The "World War Frank" arc now has him going after the lesser-known Hydra faces and this brings him to Times Square. There, two operatives are spreading word of Protocol #42, which instructs all members to go into hiding at Zemo's request. Punisher walks through the crowd though, shoots one guy, runs the other down in a subway and beheads him to send a message to his enemies. It's a public assault that sees the NYPD then raid his base, only to be incapacitated. However, Nick Fury Jr. calls Frank and tells him he's sending the big guns, and the first of those is Luke Cage. That's right, Frank is facing the Defenders.
He knows he can't take the Power Man down in terms of brawn, so he uses his brain by putting a grenade down his shirt and when it blows up, he tries to run away, only to crash into Iron Fist. Danny Rand engages Frank in a fist-fight, which ends with Frank using grenades once again to escape. He's barely breathing by this time but he's covered a lot of distance. Sadly, Daredevil finds him and just before they get into combat, a group of ninjas (presumably the Hand) descend, sent by Hydra to do its dirty work and cash in on Zemo's bounty.
Now, this isn't the first time Frank has fought the Defenders, and it won't be the last. In fact, he's even fought with them, but what makes this interesting is these battles focus on the street-level grime of New York, Frank's beloved home which he's tried to protect for decades. Now, his actions have turned the entire city against him, and Frank is faced with the challenge of using his street-smarts so as to not to let warfare spill over on the streets where he grew up and fell in love. More so, he's holding back as he doesn't want to hurt his former colleagues anymore, which creates a huge inner-conflict.
Using the Defenders adds a grounded feel to the story. When he recently fought off Iron Man, the Avengers and quite a few other heroes, it felt a little too unbelievable, especially as the Punisher emerged victorious. Here, it's all about going back to the basics with Frank as public enemy number one against fellow street-level warriors, the perfect sort of arc for fans of Marvel's Netflix shows to follow. There, we saw Daredevil and Frank both opposing each other before teaming up, and that seems to be what's unfolding here.
While we may not get the Defenders and Punisher teaming up on the small screen anytime soon, well, at least we see hope for that in these pages. After all, despite their differences, all of these heroes do have New York's best interests at heart and will forever fight to save its soul, especially from the likes of Hydra.