The following contains spoilers for Punisher # 3, now on sale from Marvel Comics.
In the present-day Marvel Universe, Hydra’s criminal organization is rudderless, which has a lot to do with Frank Castle’s efforts. Over the past several years, the ruthless vigilante went after Baron Zemo in New York City. The Punisher retaliated against Hydra operatives for his manipulated participation alongside HydraCap’s army in Secret Empire. It left the vigilante wanting to atone and show that he was not as vile as people thought.
Ironically, Punisher # 3 has Frank going after Hydra once more, except this time he’s got a lot more resources at his disposal to finish the job. And while he dealt them a major blow, taking down a massive faction of Hydra’s most sinister secret society came at a high cost.
In this latest chapter (by Jason Aaron, Jesús Saiz, Paul Azaceta, Dave Stewart, and VC’s Cory Petit), Frank is now the leader of the ninja organization known as the Hand and an avatar for the powerful Beast entity. Startlingly, Frank’s newly acquired bevy of supernatural powers and an emboldened army at his command made short, violent work of a secret Hydra cell. Frank then took a Hydra general back to his Japanese citadel, using his blade to torture the person.
It was all part of a sadistic session where Punisher applied his mystical stare to extract intelligence from the general’s mind, realizing that Ares was the one who hired them. The forced interrogation demonstrated Hydra has fallen from grace now that there is evidence private contractors are taking out bounties in their name. In addition, Hydra usually ignores personal vendettas in favor of larger goals. The Punisher should not be their primary objective. This is to Frank’s tactical advantage. He can bask in Hydra’s current weakness and know how much he contributed to it. His new stature within the Hand allows him to fundamentally challenge the power structures of some of the Marvel Universe’s most influential criminal organizations.
This also gives Frank new adversaries to deal with. Ares had members of his cult fail to kill Frank. However, Ares was pleased as it baited the Hand into a drawn out conflict. The Greek God of War was dealt another disappointment, however, because Frank was busy with his resurrected wife, Maria, sorting out her delirium. This insulted the ego driven Ares, and as a result, the legion Frank sent over got massacred.
Ares took all his rage out on them, hoping to send a message regarding this disrespect. The relative stalemate is sure to hurt Frank once he gains clarity over Maria’s future. His family woes aside, he desperately needs all the good soldiers he can get in order to achieve his goals. This means there will be an angry reckoning when the one-on-one showdown finally occurs. The Punisher will clearly want revenge against Ares for killing so many Hand acolytes.
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