WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Punisher #16 by Matthew Rosenberg, Szymon Kudranski, Antonio Fabela and VC's Cory Petit, on sale now.
In the current war against Baron Zemo, Frank Castle has been pulling aces out of the hole at every juncture. Lately, though, he finds himself on the receiving end, only to be saved by Black Widow, Night Thrasher and Moon Knight, as they too want to take the villain out of the New York street scene.
Still, Frank wants weapons only he can control, which drove him to recruit a certain flaming vigilante for the task at hand. As the fight finally comes to an end in The Punisher #16, this soldier turns out to be Frank's favorite partner, and it's none other than the Ghost Rider, Danny Ketch.
Frank insisted Danny enlist, even knocking him out and kidnapping him from his bartending job because the Ghost Rider was going to be the trump card to finish the assault on Zemo. And make no mistake, it's a brutal war as Zemo's pseudo-Hydra legion, as well as his new Thunderbolts, prove to be formidable opponents. However, Frank hatched a separate plan. He knew full-well how to use Danny alone in a mission that'd also benefit the Punisher greatly when it comes to going dark and staying off the radar.
Zemo flees to Kingpin's tower to get safe haven from Wilson Fisk. Widow and company are mopping up the remaining soldiers on the ground, but Frank makes it clear only Danny can accompany him for this endgame. And so, the duo race through the battlefield, killing whoever remains, all so Danny can drop Frank off to kill Zemo once and for all. It's quite a bloody affair as Frank cuts his way to Zemo, aiming to rescue Rachel Alves (a dear friend) as well. Ghost tries to intervene but the Punisher is in no-holds-barred mode. He wounds Zemo's lackey and chops off Zemo's arm.
It all ends with a rooftop confrontation where Zemo's taken off the board by someone other than Frank, leaving the Punisher pissed as hell. Frank starts going off the rails and then becomes more incensed when Kingpin calls in one of his perks as mayor of NYC: superhero protection. Nick Fury Jr., Luke Cage, the Winter Soldier, Quake and Hawkeye form a barricade around Fisk so Frank can't get to him for aiding and abetting Zemo. They make it clear until he's proven guilty, Fisk is innocent.
Frank decides he needs some sort of vengeance and throws a sword at Kingpin, only for Luke to block it with his bulletproof chest. In the heat of the moment, Widow uses her blaster and knocks Frank off the building, leaving the us assuming he fell several stories to his death. However, from the flames on the side of the building, we can easily put two and two together.
When Nick and Widow meet later on, they discuss the death of the Punisher, only for Nick to admit Hydra agents are still being slaughtered. He tells her he knows Frank's still alive and that Danny was the get-away vehicle all along. Widow doesn't confirm anything, and while it doesn't seem she was part of the plan, clearly, Natasha is on Frank's team -- whether or not she likes to admit it.
We don't see Frank or Danny as the issue ends then and there, but Frank made it clear in the pair's previous conversations he wanted a fun Punisher at his side. He even offered a bargain: Danny would get to hit him with the Penance Stare in exchange for his services. And through their buddy-cop exchanges, it became clear that Frank enjoyed the sassy Danny as a partner because he's just as flawed, has no sense of self-righteousness and, ultimately, loves a wild plan. That's why he's literally Frank's ride-or-die as writer Matthew Rosenberg and his creative team bring this particular run to an end.