The current run of The Punisher has put Frank Castle to the test in interesting ways, taking him on a globe-trotting fight to outrun Baron Zemo and HYDRA. After a very violent stint in Bagalia, the series' thirteenth issue brought Frank back to New York City -- and tackled one of the most unique responses to his superhero persona in the process.
Spoilers for this week's issue of The Punisher below! Only look if you want to know!
The issue opens with Frank stopping a female HYDRA associate from getting mugged, in an attempt to get information about Zemo's location. After killing her, Frank is stopped by two police officers, who are looking for a mugger that happens to meet Frank's profile.
Once they see the symbol on Frank's shirt, their tune quickly changes, as they remark about a Punisher-themed "group" that they and other officers have. They also showcase a decal of the Punisher symbol that adorns their cop car. They claim that they idolize Frank because he does whatever he can to "take back the streets", a sentiment that they share.
Frank immediately peels off the decal and rips it into shreds, while setting the record straight on why the cops shouldn't idolize him. He argues that the cops took an oath to protect people, in a way that doesn't line up with following his methods.
The cops then get upset with Frank, arguing that he can't control if and how people want to follow his example. Ultimately, the officers are drawn away by another crime on the scanner, and Frank escapes.
While the moment will surely be seen as controversial for some readers, it does insert a pretty prominent discussion about The Punisher into the text of Marvel Comics. It's certainly no secret that some segments of law enforcement have seen The Punisher as an icon or a symbol, something that the character's creator doesn't agree with.
"I've talked about this in other interviews," Jerry Conway said in an interview earlier this year. "To me, it's disturbring whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He's supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can't depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way."
"The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice system, an example of social failure, so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they're basically sides with an enemy of the system," Conway continued. "They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol."
"It goes without saying," Conway added. "In a way, it's as offensive as putting a Confederate flag on a government building. My point of view is, the Punisher is an anti-hero, someone we might root for while remembering he's also an outlaw and criminal. If an officer of the law, representing the justice system puts a criminal's symbol on his police car, or shares challenge coins honoring a criminal he or she is making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law."
The Punisher #13 is available in stores now. Issue #14 will be released on August 7th.