Marvel is making major changes to The Punisher – down to retconning his entire origin story to set up his new role as a major villain in the Marvel Universe. Writer Jason Aaron (Thor) has been at the forefront of guiding Punisher through these new changes; in Aaron's new Punisher (2022) comic series, Frank Castle has taken up the mantle of the "King of Killers" of the ninja death cult The Hand and been endowed with the powers of the Beast, god of murder. However, the most recent issue of Punisher has expanded Frank Castle's story with The Hand even further – all the way to Frank's childhood.
WARNING: Punisher Comic SPOILERS Follow!
In Punisher #3, Jason Aaron (with artists Jésus Saiz and Paul Azaceta) reveals that Frank Castle actually started killing way before he was a marine in combat, or became The Punisher. Frank's first kill turns out to have occurred when he was only a child: A neighborhood mobster got into it with a local couple and ended up beating them to death in the streets – while no one did anything about it. Frank Castle's Punisher persona was already in place by his adolescence/young teen years; he put on a Captain America mask and followed the mobster home, setting him on fire and letting him run the streets while he burned to death.
The entire point of Aaron's new reframing of Punisher's younger years is to reinforce the point of this new semi-reboot story arc for the character. The Punisher is a major figure in The Hand because he is the living avatar of killing/murder – because he's always been that, by nature, and The Hand (and The Beast) have always been aware of that.
This new characterization of Frank Castle is further complicated by the mystical aspects of the story, which have brought his wife Maria back to life, in a way that makes us (and Frank) re-weigh the "tragedy" that used to define his origin against the karmic weight of his own sins. It is probably the most interesting Frank Castle has been – and Aaron manages to sidestep the utter cringe that we got when Punisher was resurrected as a divine-powered killer by the angel Gabriel.
This is also not the first time that pivotal moments of death in Frank Castle's life have been revealed to have larger mystical ties. The angel story arc had the "reveal" that former archangel Olivier manipulated events to murder Frank's family so that the Punisher's kills would fuel him. So far Jason Aaron's story of Punisher serving The Hand and its Beast is much more interesting.
The Punisher (2022) is on sale from Marvel Comics