Recently Netflix unveiled its lasted series in the Marvel Universe, as the long-awaited Punisher made its debut. Darker, more realistic and a little grittier than some of its predecessors, what truly sets Punisher apart is that The Punisher does not actually have super powers. Frank Castle differs from his other Marvel counter-parts in many ways, but perhaps the most noticeable is that he does not have powers like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage or The Iron Fist. He is just a military man, with a checkered past and a tragic story. Yes he is an incredible fighter, but much like Batman, he is just a man.
We are first introduced to Frank Castle in the Daredevil series and begin to learn a little about his story. In Daredevil he is charged with multiple killings of gangs and mob member,s whom he believes to be behind the massacre of his family. Matt Murdock is his lawyer and develops an affinity for Frank as well as a concern about his methods. Why Frank’s family was killed is still somewhat of a mystery as Daredevil and Frank part ways, but the “why” is the very basis for the spin-0ff series.
The series opens with an almost unrecognizable Frank, working as a construction worker with long hair and a scruffy beard. 18 months have passed and Frank has seemingly killed every last person that he believes to be responsible for his family’s deaths and is instead trying to just live under the radar under a new name. He is miserable, alone and still full of anger. However, there is much more to the story. An unknown source named Micro reaches out to Frank and knows his real name and says there is more to his family’s story. After a series of very messy and intense action scenes, Frank finally meets Micro, also known as David Lieberman. Micro is a forerm NSA Analyst who was basically killed for unearthing information about military leaders who were killing civilians and using them, as well as other soldiers, as mules for their heroine business. Passing these people off as “terrorists”. Once he discovers this fact, he is framed as being a traitor and killed–or so they believe. Instead Lieberman manages to live and goes underground. As he delves deeper into the reasons his life was destroyed he discovers that he and Frank are two of the only people who can bring this huge conspiracy down. And in doing so he hopes to get back to his family. Frank’s family was killed, whereas David’s family is alive only because everyone believes he is dead.
I have to admit that I was not a huge fan of the Punisher when the series started. The show seems less super hero and more like a military-action thriller. It is dark, and there is lots of blood and killing and very gory fight scenes. Not the cool martial arts that we see in Daredevil or Iron Fist, just straight-up-shoot-you-in-the-head kind of scenes. Frank seemed dry and impersonal and I had no idea how they were going to make a series with him as the lead. But as the show evolves, and especially as he and Micro form this weird, almost bi-polar partnership, he develops into a much more likable and three dimensional character. He has a sense of humor and an honor code that is hard to see when you are first introduced to Frank, but deep down Frank is a good guy. A killer, yes. But also a good guy. How do we reconcile these two things? Can a psychopathic killer bent on murdering dozens of people for revenge still be a good guy who plays football with kids?? This contradictory image of Frank is probably what helps identify him most as part of the Marvel universe. All of these heroes are complicated people with dark pasts, vicious acts and secrets, and yet their own moral code which has them wanting to do the right thing. They are all contradictions, and yet we still find ourselves rooting for them.
Of course we are introduced to brand new characters in this series, as well as some of our favorites from the past. And without dropping any major spoilers, I will tell you that no one is truly as they appear to be and there are some shocking betrayals and twists you will not be expecting! I was a little heartbroken at some of my favorite characters. Overall, I ended up enjoying the series once I got past the violence. There is a lot of humor and character depth that we don’t always see in “super hero” shows, but which Netflix has really tried to integrate into the genre. There is also a very definite social commentary happening throughout this series on government, military service and America in general. Anyone dealing with serious PTSD issues, or who has served in the military will definitely be affected by some of the scenes.
If you enjoy intense fighting, violence, drama, intrigue and scadal, then this series will definitely be for you! But if you are looking for super hero powers, fantastical villains and an overall more comic book feel, Punisher will not be up your alley.