Despite the many heroic things he’s done over the years in Marvel’s comics, Frank Castle is, at his core, a particularly deranged vigilante whose sense of justice is so extreme that the proper superheroes he often crosses paths with see him as a more of a problem than an ally.
But in this week’s Punisher #13, from writer Matthew Rosenberg, artist Szymon Kudranski, and colorist Antonio Fabela, Frank Castle takes a moment to let the boys in blue know precisely how he feels about their belief that they are like him.
After coming into some much-needed information about what Zemo’s up to, Frank ends up walking through a dark alley at night and being suddenly accosted by a squad of police officers who, after a brief moment of alarm, are stunned that they’re meeting the Punisher.
Because he isn’t busy sleeping or brooding, Frank Castle is on the hunt, this time for a very in-the-wind Baron Zemo who’s evading Frank’s detection by bouncing around New York City.
Unlike police officers, who swear to protect the public by upholding the law (even though they often do not), Frank Castle is a vigilante—which is to say, a person operating outside of the law.
The way the Punisher’s use of firearms evokes the imagery of mass shootings has made it impossible for Marvel to ignore that the character’s taken on a larger life outside of comic books where people, especially those in the armed forces and police service, make him out to be a symbol that represents them.
After a very awkward beat, Frank rips the Punisher decal from their patrol car and begins to patiently explain that whatever the hell they think they’re playing at, running around fancying themselves to be like him, is fucking immoral and unlawful.
But the reality is that Frank Castle, as a character, is an idealized, hyper violent embodiment of a kind of unaddressed rage.
Frank Castle doesn’t just “stop bad guys,” he murders people.
He tortures them in gruesome, horrific ways unbecoming of any hero, let alone a police officer, and Marvel’s other heroes tolerate him because they are all comic book characters and not real people.