Jason Aaron is no stranger to The Punisher, but a new prestige series from the prolific writer will look to take Frank Castle's status quo in an all-new direction. Not content to mow villains down with automatic weapons, Frank trades his guns for swords after he forms a new partnership with The Hand. The secretive villainous organization has crossed paths numerous times with Daredevil and Elektra, but now The Hand has its sights set on the most ruthless killer in the Marvel Universe. What brings Punisher and The Hand together? And why would Frank even agree to work with the group?
Comicbook.com spoke to Jason Aaron to find out more about Punisher, including the origins behind the project, another evil group jostling for position in the Marvel Universe, changes to Punisher's skull logo, and exactly how The Hand persuaded Punisher to work with them.
The marketing for this new Punisher series has billed it as a "definitive culmination of Frank Castle's journey in the Marvel Universe to date." When asked if this is a story he's always wanted to tell, Aaron replied that he's gotten to write Frank Castle in Punisher Max, a more adult series that came with a parental advisory warning attached to it. Punisher Max also took place outside of the main Marvel universe. The only times Aaron got to write Punisher in the Marvel 616 universe was in the Thor crossover event War of the Realms, which gave him the opportunity to put Punisher in a sword-and-sorcery type of story.
The narrator for Punisher #1 is the Archpriestess of The Hand, who have recruited Punisher to help them take out a new group called the Apostles of War. From the looks of things there's some history between the two groups. "Apostles of War are arm traders," Aaron said. "They're an obstacle in Frank's way, and as the series progresses we get to learn more about them and see their threats increase in scope."
When Punisher was announced, it was revealed that Frank Castle will have an upgraded skull logo once he joins The Hand. The skull logo has become synonymous with The Punisher, though it has also become a controversial topic after it was co-opted for political means, with the symbol being branded on police uniforms, cars, and military garments. When asked how this change was made, Aaron reflected on how he originally pitched the series at a Marvel retreat many years ago, back when they were held in person. "Punisher's evolved, and so has the symbol," he said. "What is the next evolution of The Punisher?" These are the types of questions Aaron hopes to answer as the series continues.
The conclusion of Punisher #1 reveals The Hand has resurrected Frank's dead wife Maria. It's a very chilling moment, especially when you consider the artwork by Jesus Saiz displaying Frank and Maria's wound marks from when they were attacked in Central Park years ago.
"Maria has a big impact on the series going forward," Aaron teased. "This is the first time we've really gotten to see Maria's POV. She's only been seen in brief flashbacks. Fans will get to see what she thinks about Frank's mission as The Punisher since her death."
Punisher includes scenes from the past as well as in the current day, with Paul Azaceta handling the flashbacks and Saiz tackling the present day. Each issue will swap how the flashbacks are handled. "The structure of the flashbacks will change as the series progresses," Aaron added. "There will be more of them. I knew I wanted Paul to do the flashbacks since he's from NY."
We also found out that Punisher firmly takes place inside the main Marvel Universe, which means we could see some familiar faces (Daredevil and Elektra perhaps?) pay Frank Castle a visit to see what's up with his new partnership with The Hand.
Punisher #1 is on sale now from Marvel Comics. Let us know your thoughts on the first issue in the comments!