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Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe
Punisher KTMU cover.jpg
Cover to Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe reprint. Art by Steve Dillon
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
Format One-shot
Genre Superhero
Main character(s) Punisher
Daredevil
Creative team
Writer(s) Garth Ennis
Artist(s) Doug Braithwaite
Inker(s) Michael L. Halblieb

Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe is a 1995 one-shot comic book written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Doug Braithwaite with most inking done by Michael L. Halblieb, which depicts a What If... story where Frank Castle kills every superhero and supervillain in the Marvel Universe.

Plot

Frank Castle became an officer in the NYPD SWAT team after leaving the U.S. Marine Corps. Rather than falling victim to a gangland slaying, Castle's wife and children are instead killed when caught in the middle of a battle between the Avengers, the X-Men, and a group of Brood and other aliens in Central Park. Castle arrives just in time to find his family dead, and Daredevil berating Cyclops and Captain America for their carelessness.

As Castle grieves, none of the heroes are willing to admit their fault in the deaths, until finally Cyclops attempts to apologize. Enraged, Castle begins opening fire on the assembled heroes, killing Cyclops, Hawkeye, and Jubilee. He is then attacked and wounded by Wolverine, and only survives due to the intervention of Colossus.

After recovering from his injuries (but still bearing the wounds inflicted by Wolverine), Castle is put on trial for triple-homicide. His attorney is Matt Murdock, who recognizes Castle as the man who rescued him from bullies when they were both boys (the two characters did not know each other as children in the normal Marvel universe). Despite Murdock's defense, Castle is sentenced to life imprisonment.

When the prison van taking him to jail stops, Castle finds himself at the mountain mansion of a rich but hideously disfigured old man named Kesselring. Kesselring introduces Castle to his associates, other disfigured and brain-damaged individuals, who reveal that they too were maimed in the crossfire of superhero/supervillain battles. They will provide Castle with all the resources he will need if he will destroy every superhuman on earth. Thirsting for revenge, Castle agrees and becomes the Punisher.

With the help of Microchip, a former member of the US Air Force whose legs were pulled off by Doctor Octopus, the Punisher sets about his mission. He begins by trapping Spider-Man and Venom in the sewers and killing them off while they are fighting one another. Hulk is killed while alter-ego Bruce Banner is recovering from his latest rampage.

Castle is captured on occasion (such as after killing the Kingpin), jailed for mass murder and broken out by Kesselring. During these periods he is visited by Murdock, but is deaf to the blind attorney's plea to stop the slaughter.

He later kills Dr. Doom, lures the various mutant super-teams, including the X-Men, the Brotherhood of Mutants and X-Factor, to the moon and wipes them out with one of Doom's nuclear missiles. The Fantastic Four and the Avengers are also disposed of. Veteran members of some super-groups are killed in one-on-one confrontations, like Wolverine and Captain America. It is later revealed that he has exterminated nearly all of the Marvel Universe such as Iron Man, Ghost Rider, Susan Storm, Johnny Storm, Black Panther and Nick Fury among others.

By now weary of all the killings, Castle reports to his benefactors and tells them that he never expects to hear from them again once his assignment is complete. Kesselring tells him that the Punisher's crusade will never be complete, as a new generation of heroes will inevitably rise, and must be halted. When Kesselring pulls a gun, the Punisher kills him. He then tells Kesselring's associates that their need for vengeance has made them bitter and pathetic, leaving with the threat of killing them all if any of them try to contact him. However, he then leaves to complete his assignment by killing Daredevil.

After a battle, Castle is wounded after falling off a roof. Daredevil tells Castle that he does not need to live through his pain, and begs for him to let it go. Not listening, Castle stabs Daredevil through the chest, killing him. Before he dies, Daredevil removes his mask and Castle is shocked to see the face of Matt Murdock. The Punisher makes one final kill: himself.

Impact

"The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe" was originally released with zero fanfare in 1995 and quickly fell into obscurity until years later, when Garth Ennis (who had since gone onto fame and success through his DC Comics series "Preacher") was hired by Marvel to revive the Punisher franchise. As such, secondary market demand for the special caused it to rise to $50–$60 in value. Marvel would ultimately reprint the special (with a new cover by Steve Dillon) and include it as a bonus feature for the hardcover reprinting of Ennis's initial Punisher mini-series.

See also

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