Comic Book / The Punisher MAX

"It's Omaha Beach. Wounded Knee. Rorke's Drift, The Killing Fields, the first day on The Somme. World War Three in North Jersey. And only now, pouring automatic fire into a human wall — do I feel something like peace."
Frank Castle, The Punisher #1 (2004)

When you take a Darker and Edgier Marvel Comics character like The Punisher, and make him even Darker and Edgierer, you get what is collectively called "The Punisher MAX".

Much like the original comics, the MAX imprint version of Frank Castle became a vigilante when his family was gunned down by mobsters in 1976. What sets him apart from his mainstream counterpart is that this version, written almost exclusively by Garth Ennis for four years, features no superheroes and is deeply rooted in more disturbing forms of crime — including but not limited to: The Mafia, Irish terrorist cells, Eastern European slavers, corporate tycoons and real life wars are prominent. It is also considerably less funny than the mainstream Marvel series, though they are touches of dark humor here and there.

The Max series is written much more consistently than the mainstream version, due to being almost entirely shaped by Garth Ennis' vision of the character. This series is also notorious for its moral absolutism, which readers either loved or hated.

Beginning in February 2016, to coincide with the character's resurgence in popularity (thanks in no small part to the character being featured in season two of Netflix's Daredevil TV show), the series is now being released in Complete Collection format, making it the perfect way for new readers to discover the series.

Main Series
  • The Punisher (later renamed The Punisher: Frank Castle) — Running from 2004 to 2008 with #75 Issues, it was written by Garth Ennis, then Gregg Hurwitz, Duane Swierczynski, and Victor Gischler. The final issue was an anthology written (in order) by Tom Piccirilli, Gregg Hurwitz, Duane Swierczynski, Peter Milligan, and Charlie Huston
  • Punisher MAX — Ran from from 2010 to 2012 for twenty-two issues. Written by Jason Aaron, artwork by Steve Dillon, it introduced The Kingpin, Bullseye and Elektra into the MAX Universe.

  • Born #1-4 (2003) by Garth Ennis
  • The Punisher Presents Barracuda #1-5 (2007) by Garth Ennis
  • Untold Tales of the Punisher MAX #1-5 (2012) by (in order) Jason Starr, Jason Latour, Megan Abbott, Nathan Edmondson, and Skottie Young

  • The Punisher: The End (June 2004) by Garth Ennis
  • The Punisher: The Cell (July 2005) by Garth Ennis
  • The Punisher: The Tyger (February 2006) by Garth Ennis
  • The Punisher Annual (November 2007) by Mike Benson
  • The Punisher: Force of Nature (April 2008) by Duane Swierczynski
  • The Punisher MAX Special: Little Black Book (August 2008) by Victor Gischler
  • The Punisher MAX: X-Mas Special (February 2009) by Jason Aaron
  • Punisher MAX: Naked Kill (August 2009) by Jonathan Maberry
  • Punisher MAX: Get Castle (March 2010) by Rob Williams
  • Punisher MAX: Butterfly (May 2010) by Valerie D'Orazio
  • Punisher MAX: Happy Ending (October 2010) by Peter Milligan
  • Punisher MAX: Hot Rods of Death (November 2010) by Charlie Huston
  • Punisher MAX: Tiny Ugly World (December 2010) by David Lapham

Related Comics
  • Foolkiller: White Angels (2008) — Frank guest stars in half of this miniseries, helping Foolkiller deal with a supremacist group called the White Angels.
  • Fury: My War Gone By (2012-2013) — Frank appears in the arc set in The Vietnam War, and Barracuda appears in the one set in Nicaragua.
  • Wolverine MAX (2012-2014) — Set in a gritty and realistic world that obviously isn't the main Marvel Universe, the final issue reveals that Wolverine's claws were provided by a crime family that wanted him to take out the Punisher.

Feel free to check out the Character Sheet. Contributions are greatly welcomed.

These comics have examples of:

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    A to C 
  • Action Girl: Deconstructed in the Ennis issues. There are a couple of sympathetic pop-feminist "strong ass-kicking female character" violent women, but they are deeply screwed-up individuals and die violently. Not that the male characters are any better.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The series as a whole can be considered one for Frank Castle's entire mythos. Most of the story arcs are just a set of "hardboiled" crime stories with only Frank Castle (and an Ennis take on Castle's backstory) to make it "Punisher," which works very well. (In The Slavers though it works too well, especially when you can see the Downer Ending coming a mile away.)
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Elektra (the old flame of Daredevil in the mainstream universe) and The Kingpin's wife, Vanessa Fisk, are a couple.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Seeing as how this is a Darker and Edgier take on the Punisher and the Marvel universe as a whole, this is to be expected.
    • The most obvious would be Frank Castle. Here, he is presented as a glorified serial killer who uses the deaths of his family as an excuse to satisfy his bloodlust. It gets to the point that he is only a "hero" on the grounds that the men he hunts happen to be worse than he is.
    • Elektra. In the main MU, she was at best a morally ambiguous assassin who took a wide variety of jobs for the right price, but always upheld some sort of code. Here, she is far more amoral. Killing on a whim, and even hog tying a man and bringing his family along so they may watch him be beaten to death.
  • Affably Evil: Barracuda, despite being a treacherous Psycho for Hire and even a self-admitted cannibal, managed to reach status through being the ever-optimistic, constantly cheerful source of Black Comedy. He not only got better after being shot point-blank by Punisher at the end of his first arc, but even starred in his own mini-series, which was unprecedented for MAX villains.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: O'Brien explicitly states that this is the reason she has the hots for Frank. She loves a man who shares her passion for killing the fuck out of those who deserve it.
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: One of the many factions present in New York's criminal underworld. They make a brief appearance at the beginning of Up is Down and Black is White, where Frank uses them as bait to wipe out the second half of their coke dealing operation.
  • Alternate Continuity: A separate and vastly different continuity from the mainstream one. Completely devoid of superheroes, and filled to the brim with more "conventional" bad-guys. It took a bit (around the release of The Cell or Mother Russia) for this to be concretely established, though, resulting in oddities like the events of early stories such as Born and In the Beginning being brought up in things like Civil War Files and Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe
  • Amazon Brigade: Averted by the five Mafiosi wives in Widowmaker. With the exception Shauna, none of the other wives have any combat experience.
  • Androcles' Lion: George Howe in "Valley Forge, Valley Forge", or at least what his hapless "minder" ends up thinking happened. When the colonel was a regular soldier in Vietnam, he was rescued by a Special Forces raid that inspired him to enter Special Forces himself; the lieutenant realizes at the end that one of the participants was none other than Frank Castle.
    • In the penultimate issue of Widowmaker arc, Castle is rescued by a woman who explains that she saved Castle because Castle killed her brutal mobster husband who beat and raped her and let his friends do the same.
  • Anti-Air: Mother Russia has an interesting variation on this. At one point, when Frank needs to deal with some Russian conscripts guarding a nuclear silo, he dispenses them by using an anti-air gun. Major carnage ensues.
  • Anti-Climax: The Punisher's fight with The Heavy/Jigsaw in "Girls in White Dresses". After all the buildup they have a three-page fight scene that ends with Frank just sorta knocking him out a window and onto a passing freight train.
  • Anyone Can Die: Although not readily apparent at first, the moment that Microchip, one of the most well established characters in the Punisher mythos gets his cranium blown off. From that moment going forward this trope is milked for all its worth. As no side character regardless of plot significance or character history is safe from death. Suffice it to say, if you don't want dying to be on the agenda. Then you really shouldn't be in this series.
  • Arc Words: The series has a habit of doing this quite often. A number of times they'll even name the arc after the words in question.
    • First The Tyger, he reminisces on the night where he prepares to make his first kills in his war on crime. He muses that after his identity comes out, "they'll blame it on the war, and they'll be right, and they'll be wrong". Most of the comic then divulges a scarring childhood event in which a close friend of his is raped and then commits suicide. As Frank prepares to take revenge himself, he sees the older brother of his friend viciously beat the perpetrator before setting him on fire. A later part of the comic has two all-black pages filled with speech bubbles, detailing the paramedics' arrival on the scene of his family's shooting and the horror of it all, and the doctors talking to him later in the hospital and telling him that none of his family survived. Returning to the present, Frank coldly snipes a group of mobsters and thinks "They'll blame it on Vietnam. And they'll be right, and they'll be wrong."
    • "Up is Down, and Black is White"
    • The Barracuda arc gives us: "What's the only thing more dangerous than a Barracuda?"
  • Armchair Military: An extremely prevalent trope employed during Garth Ennis' run. Expect to see any high ranking military officer not named Nick Fury to be depicted as a clueless, inept buffoon who, despite their rank, has never seen any real action.
  • Armored Closet Gay: Invoked in the most disturbing way in Up Is Down and Black Is White. One scene shows us just how close Nicky Cavella and Rawlins really are. When the latter attempts to "persuade" the other by "going down on him". After the deviant act is done, Cavella warns Rawlins not to tell a single soul about what took place between them.
  • Artistic License Military: Thanks to a great deal of research on the writer's part, this series is one of the rare comic books that actually manages to avoid this trope... for the most part. As they are a couple of details that lapse into this.
    • The ranks of Nick Fury and George Howe are a bit unrealistic. Despite the years of service that both men have put in, they only hold the rank of Colonel, even though in real-life thirty years is typically long enough for a real world officer to reach the rank of General. In Howe's case it's possible that he was an enlisted man who gained an officer's commission later in his career; thus explaining why he doesn't hold a higher rank. Nick Fury's case is an especially egregious example; as he is mentioned as having been the director of SHIELD at some point, when in reality he would have to hold the rank of General to command an organization that large.
    • Frank Castle's military rank is another curious example. The Valley Forge arc, identifies Frank as a "21 year old Captain in April 1971", during his final tour in Vietnam. The idea of someone so young holding an officer rank of that caliber is quite hard to believe. Granted, it's revealed in Fury: My War Gone By (also written by Ennis) that Nick Fury himself put Frank up for Captain the year before; considering how much authority and respect Fury had in the military even back then, Frank reaching this rank at such a young age isn't too out of the question.
  • Asshole Victim: In one case, a man actually manages to get the drop on Frank and drugs him into a stupor, then kicks the shit out of him while he was helpless. If that wasn't enough, he also talked down to the Punisher like he was a pet or a small child. Finally, when he's ready to untie Frank, he explains that he's also given him a slow-acting poison that will kill him in six hours, and that he wants Frank to kill some people for him. "I don't have the antidote. I don't know where it is. My associates do. You'll get it when the job is done. Kill me, you're just killing yourself. Understand?" The Punisher nods, and the man is too stupid to realize that Frank is just confirming that he understands, nothing more. Once he is untied, the Punisher immediately breaks the man's neck. Frank: "Won't waste time looking for the antidote. Probably doesn't exist." Asshole Victim, indeed. The guy was practically begging for what he got.
    • It's safe to say that every individual who Frank gets his hands on had it coming.
  • The Atoner:
    • Frank's mission against criminals is partially motivated by his failure to protect his family from being gunned down. Frank feels that he sacrificed his family, as the voice he heard in Vietnam (the Devil? the Grim Reaper?) kept hounding him about a never ending war, which when the North Vietnamese Army overran his base he accepted to save his life, only to be told his family would be payment.
    • The second MAX series reveals Frank to be this in a bigger, more disturbing way than ever thought. The reason why Frank continues to wage his war on crime is to punish himself with a life of endless suffering. He feels he deserves this because it is revealed that shortly before his family was killed, he had made a decision to divorce his wife and leave his kids with her, because his time in Vietnam had made life outside the battlefield unbearable for him. The fact that he was willing to toss aside his family in favor of his bloodlust sticks with him.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Zig-zagged.
    • Played straight with Frank Castle and Wilson Fisk; the former was a Captain in the USMC during his final tour of duty in 'Nam, the latter is a Mafia Don, and both are definitely among the more lethal characters in the series.
    • Brutally Subverted with the eight Generals. Despite their ranks, not a single one of them has ever seen any real combat before. And they all immediately cower in the presence of someone like Nick Fury.
    • Ditto for Barracuda. The man was a Sergeant Major in the US Army, and is every bit as hardcore as Frank Castle.
  • Ax-Crazy: Given the nature of Frank's work and the world he lives in, he tends to run into these quite often.
    • From the Slavers we have Tiberiu Bulat. The horrifyingly, racist, and sadistic old man, who at one point Frank even calls, "a sick old fuck who still thought that he was a soldier".
    • Russian General Nikolai "The Man of Stone Zakharov.
    • Later on we are introduced to Barracuda. A man who thoroughly enjoys his acts of extreme bloodshed, and sadistic slaughter, to the point that he makes the other examples on this page look fairly well off by comparison.
    • In Welcome to the Bayou. We are introduced to the Geautreauxs. An insane inbred hillbilly cannibal clan that is entirely made up of Ax-Crazy lunatics.
    • Lastly we have Bullseye, who appears to have the lead as far as ax-craziness goes. While most MAX villains in the series are depraved sociopaths, Bullseye on the other hand is genuinely insane.
  • Badass Army: In stark contrast to the amoral Marine unit that Frank Castle was stationed with at Valley Forge Firebase. His previous Force Recon Marine Unit plays this trope perfectly straight: they're depicted as a clandestine team of elite, and efficient consummate professionals, diligently carrying out covert operations behind enemy lines.
    • In Man Of Stone the squad of SAS operatives stationed at Afghanistan exemplify this trope. They're so hardcore that they nearly wipe out an entire squad of Nikolai Zakharov's Black Sea Marines without suffering a single casualty on there end.
  • Badass Boast: Yorkie Mitchell, answering a captured Irish terrorist (who murdered a friend of Yorkie, the father of the kid Yorkie brought over) as to whether he's MI-6:
    "By way of the SAS, by way of the Parachute Regiment. Feel free to start screaming your head off."
    • At one point Microchip has to deal with Roth. A surly associate of his in the CIA who is giving him all sorts of grief, and questioning his ability to take down the Punisher, and doing so in front of all of his colleagues. How does Microchip respond to this? By taking him by the balls (quite literally), and telling him this:
    Microchip: I think you've gotten the wrong idea about me, Roth. First of all, I'm not what I look like. But that must be all too apparent right now. Second of all, my name is Micro, not Fat boy. The third thing is that I worked with Frank Castle for ten years. I helped him kill over 800 people. Anyone who knows him better than I do is long dead. I hacked computers to help find him targets. I customized his guns and ammunition. I put him in the right place at the right time to kill the maximum number of people; without me the body count for those ten years would be a fourth of what it is. I turned a lone gunman into a killing machine that runs at optimum efficiency. Because of me, what he does can truly be defined as war. So when you watch him rack up a 42 dead and 7 wounded—that ratio pretty much tells you all you need to know.
  • Badass Grandpa: While this isn't as prominent in the mainstream universe thanks to Comic-Book Time, in MAX, Punisher is drawn to look like the fifty-to-sixty-year-old man that he is, and his age is mentioned from time to time.
    • Taken to even greater levels with Pittsy. The fat, balding, sixty-something year old, short tempered, foul mouthed, he-man women hating tough little son of a gun, who at one point, comes damn near close to actually choking the life outta Frank.
    • Nick Fury, definitely qualifies. The man looks like he's pushing Eighty, and he's still scary enough to have the other Generals walking on eggshells whenever he's around.
  • Badass Longcoat: Frank wears one quite nicely.
    • Nick Fury wears a buttoned up version.
    • Subverted with Rawlins, although the coat he wears is badass. Himself however? Not so much.
  • Bad Boss: Nicky Cavella. He treats his mafia goons as cannon fodder whenever he goes after Frank, which eventually leads to his capos abandoning him.
  • Bait the Dog: In General Zakharov's first appearance, while there's some whispering of his reputation and he does use the We Have Reserves trope (though he was trying to dislodge terrorists from a nuclear silo), Zakharov in the end did stop a nuclear confrontation and showed way more patience with The Starscream than he had a right to. Later, when we see him again, we find out just how he fought in in Afghanistan.
  • Bar Brawl: In Mother Russia, while at a bar in Siberia. Frank and a Delta Force operative need to kidnap a pair of Russian guards with the intent of stealing their uniforms. They decide the best course of action is to use a good old fashion bar brawl as a cover for their kidnapping. It works, and the ensuing brawl sends seven men to hospital and another one to the morgue.
  • Berserk Button: Frank has several. His family is one, his illegitimate daughter is another, and God help you if he finds out you're a human trafficker. In general, violence against women tends to be this, and at one point a group of widows (of gangsters killed by Frank) attempt to use this against him, by luring him into an ambush under the guise of a fake human-trafficking operation... it almost works.
    • It's even called out in the "Up is Down, Black is White" story. A mobster digs up the graves of his family and pisses on them. When it's shown on the news, a diner patron says simply "That... that guy is gonna go fucking berserk..." Cut to picture of Frank in the same diner. Tranquil Fury doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In a flashback it is revealed that a young Colonel Howe was imprisoned by a cabal of ruthless Viet Cong troops that planed on butchering and likely cannibalizing him. Only for a squad of Force Recon Marines to spring into action. Completely vaporizing the Viet Cong and rescuing Howe in the process.
  • Bigger Bad: In the "Slavers" arc, there's the Moldovans, the people who supplied the girls for the Serbs' sex trafficking ring. Although Frank sends them a video of him killing Tiberiu Bulat with a warning to never come back to New York City and has it delievered by the Corrupt Cop working with them (who disappears afterwards), Frank never goes after them personally.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: Perhaps the definitive example of this trope in popular media. New York as a whole is depicted as a rancid squalor, filled with Pimps, hookers, Mafiosi, crooked cops and just about every other vice imaginable. And overall, not the ideal place to live.
    • In Kitchen Irish, Frank mocks the idea of gentrifying Hell's Kitchen. Calling it "Clinton" and making it trendy to yuppies hasn't done anything to make it safer.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Just like the rest of Garth Ennis' adult oriented work. The bad guys are usually the epitome of psychotic evil, but morally speaking the good guys aren't anything to write home about either, as they generally tend to be a bunch of murderous sociopaths themselves.
  • Black Comedy: This is a Garth Ennis series where talking about. Are you really surprised to see this trope here?
  • Bland-Name Product: Played with.
    • In Kitchen Irish, Maginty is seen with a "Ped Ef" box, but oddly enough, they have no problem mentioning other brands such as UPS by name.
    • Many of the cars in the series greatly avert this trope. As the logos for TOYOTA, JEEP and others are are all displayed.
    • Also averted in the case for many of the Firearm manufactures. In fact, the Springfield Armory logo on Frank's M911 is very visible in one panel.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: In Frank's climactic confrontation with Elektra, he keeps her from using her sai by shooting it out of her hand, severing off several fingers from her hand in the process.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Unrestrained by the standards of previous runs, this series takes full advantage of the possibilities granted to them by the MAX label.
  • Blood Knight: Deconstructed to hell and back with Frank Castle. In the Born mini-series it's explained that he was born Frank Castiglione, and changed his name to Castle because there was a limit on how many tours a solder could serve in Vietnam, and he wanted to go back for a third. During this third tour, Frank starts hearing a voice in his head egging him on to greater and greater feats of violence against his enemies, and taunting him with the fact that wars end, and eventually he would have to stop. The voice is never specifically explained, but it offers Frank a "war without end, for a price. All you have to do is say yes". Frank ignores the voice until it goes away, and goes about his mission. Later, his camp is overrun by 'Cong... while another soldier has ordered a napalm air-strike on the camp itself. As the bombs fall, the entire camp is incinerated as Frank says "YES". After the battle, all the Vietcong are dead, Frank's skin is covered in third degree burns, and he is standing in the middle of the bombed out camp, wielding a M16 with the butt smashed after bludgeoning several soldiers. The next scene is him coming out of the gate at an airport stateside, months after he has healed from his injuries. He goes to hug his family, when the voice returns for the first time, and says "Hey Frank... remember that price I talked about? Enjoy your time with them while you can."
  • Boisterous Weakling: The vast majority of criminals seen throughout the series are tough talking, gun happy street hoods... but when they go up against Frank Castle, a trained battle hardened soldier with military experience. They're in way over their heads. It's even lampshaded in the first issue.
    Frank: Most wiseguys are one part street-smarts to two parts muscle. Enough to terrify the mooks that owe them money, not much more. Out of their element they're children. Little children, groping in the dark.
  • Book Ends: The series begins with a panel of Frank looking at the tombstone where his dead family lay. The final panel of the very last issue shows the Castle family grave with a new tombstone featuring Frank's name alongside his family.
  • Boom, Headshot: The series has a real affinity for these. In fact, the first man who we see Frank kill is a hundred year old Don, whose brains get ventilated by the Punisher, while at a mob party.
  • Breakout Character: Barracuda, his popularity eventually gave him his own mini series.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: In the first arc, capo Larry Barucci tries to endear himself to Nicky Cavella, Pittsy, and Ink by impersonating a Boston accent. The response?
    Pittsy: What're you, some kinda fuck?
    Ink: Huh.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: In Kitchen Irish, Finn Cooley and his crew are laying low in a local Irish pub, trying not to draw attention to themselves. When all of a sudden a drunken boor blows their cover and has the entire bar give a toast to them for fighting for their "dear Ireland". Which inadvertently attracts the attention of the Punisher, who gets them at gun point. Then in the middle of all this the River Rats show up... And all hell breaks lose... Which conveniently provides Finn and his crew a chance to escape out the back kitchen. Once in the back kitchen, they find the drunken idiot who caused the whole ordeal and see that he has shat his pants.
  • Brits with Battleships: Elements of the British military make occasional appearances every now and then. Most notably with the character of Yorkie Mitchell. The former SAS commando turned MI-6 agent. As well as lance corporal Andy Lorimer, of the British Parachute Regiment.
    • Later on in Man of Stone, a pair of SAS troops are tasked with protecting a pair of ex-Taliban members at the behest of the CIA.
  • Broad Strokes:
    • The first Punisher MAX series in relation to the Garth Ennis' Marvel Knights series. The MAX series started immediately after the Knights series ended and though it takes place in its own continuity characters from the Knights series like Jen Cooke, Yorkie, and the Russian (in a one-panel flashback) make appearances in the MAX series with events from the Knights series referenced, while superheroes who were in the Knights series (Spider-Man, Wolverine and Daredevil particularly) presumably don't exist.
    • The presence of Microchip and the Heavy/Jigsaw imply that even earlier stories may be quasi-canonical, as Micro mentions working with the Punisher for nearly ten years, and it's clear that the Punisher and the Heavy have had previous run-ins, going by their statements about and reactions to each other.
  • Brick Joke: In one issue, Nick Fury, who had previously gone on a rant about how smoking had been banned in public areas, said that he was going to "fuck every hooker I can find before some cocksucker bans that too." An issue or two later, he's seen in a large bed, with three women sleeping next to him.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday:
    • In the final issue of Ennis' run, Castle is outmaneuvered and captured by a Special Forces unit. Turns out that its commander, Colonel Howe, owes Frank his life - he rescued a teenage Howe from a Viet Cong camp during the war. To Castle, it was just another of his countless deniable operations. To Howe, it was the most important moment in his life - the reason he joined Special Forces in the first place. This is why he volunteered to take Castle alivenote , and upon discovering that the generals who ordered the takedown were bastards, he freed Castle and let him kill them all, which led to a moment where Howe only left him a single handgun and eight bullets to do it. Castle simply gave the eight generals eight Pretty Little Headshots and walked away.
  • Call-Back: In the Kingpin arc, we first see Rigoletto slamming his fist down on a table and yelling "Goddamn Punisher!". In the Homeless arc, after Frank begins his final rampage, we see Kingpin doing the same thing.
  • Cannibal Clan: The Geautreauxs; the insane inbred hillbilly family that Frank has the unfortunate chance of running into during the "Welcome to the Bayou" arc.
  • The Cartel: It was inevitable that these guys would eventually show up.
    • In Punisher: Little Black Book Frank uses a High-Class Call Girl to help him get close to Carlos Ramirez. An ex-Cuban commando who decided to flee to Miami where he promptly killed the leaders of two rival gangs and took over their drug operations.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: Given the basic premise, no one is safe from death. Recurring characters like Barracuda and Yorkie Mitchell are safe for maybe three arcs.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: For a man who claims to hate superpowered heroes, Garth Ennis, certainly has a knack for writing human characters who are capable of feats that are well beyond what any normal human is capable of. Notable examples include.
    • Frank himself obviously; the man is pushing sixty, and he's still the most dangerous human to ever walk God's green earth. Able to tolerate ludicrous amounts of punishment that would have killed a lesser man. Manages to successfully fend off Delta Force operatives half his age, and at one point, he even single-handedly holds off the Russian Army.
    • His enemies are every bit as superhuman as he is. Especially Pittsy, the pint sized, fat, balding, wife-beater wearing goon who takes Castle to his limits. In their first encounter he manages to get his hands around Castle's neck, and like a rabid pitbull, refuses to let go no matter how badly Frank tries to shake him off. Had it not been for Microchip intervening, then Frank very likely would have been choked to death. Pint-Sized Powerhouse indeed.
    • Barracuda, is even more freakishly superhuman. Not only can he take ungodly amounts of punishment, but he can dish it out as well.
    • In the Welcome to the Bayou arc, we have Earl. The enormous, Psychopathic Manchild, who easily thrashes Frank in their first one-on-one encounter, and is later seen wrestling an alligator for fun.
    • Basically if a goon is able to go Mano-A-Mano with Frank and not end up a red smear. Chances are, they fall into this trope.
  • Christmas Episode: Are you surprised to see this here? Yes, as dark and edgy as the series may be The Punisher MAX X-Mas Special written by Jason Aaron serves as one of these. In it, Frank Castle decimates the Chicago mob during the titular holiday. Made more notable by the fact that this one shot story predates Jason Aaron's "official" run on the Punisher.
  • CIA: The Central Intelligence Agency has a strong presence throughout the series. The first arc deals with them trying to recruit Frank into a black ops unit so he may help them track down terrorists. What's more both Kathryn O'Brien and William Rawlins started off working for the agency before they went rogue.
  • Cigar Chomper: Much like his mainstream counterpart, the MAX version of Nick Fury is never seen without smoking one his signature cigars. Although his peers at the military base would wish that he wouldn't.
    Unknown Military Officer: Colonel, there's no smoking in—
    Fury: Fuck off and run the film, sonny.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: As is the case with most of Garth Ennis' adult oriented work. The swearing in this series really is something to behold. At times the gratuitousness of the vulgarities veers into the realm of self parody. Case in point:
    Russian Thug: FUCKING COCKSUCKER. Fucking faggot, fucking pig shit, get up and fuck with me some more.
  • Coitus Ensues: Played for Laughs; with Castle and O'Brien.
    O'Brien: I've been in jail for eighteen months. When we get through here, you want to go jump in the sack?
    Frank: (completely deadpan) Sure.
    • And again in Man of Stone.
    O'Brien: You cold?
    Frank: No.
    O'Brien: You lonely?
    Frank: No.
    O'Brien: You want to jump my bones anyway?
    Frank: Sure.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Frank often resorts to nasty torture of those working for his target du jour or otherwise connected to them.
    • Subverted in the Kitchen Irish arc. Frank goes to interrogate a member of the I.R.A., and the reader is treated to pained screams... which were caused by Frank ripping the other man's bandages off. The threat of "real pain" is more than enough to get him talking.
  • Cold Sniper: Castle himself. His second tour of duty in 'Nam was spent performing sniper work and recon. Its never said exactly what went on (and the men he led on his third tour only knew rumors too "ghoulish" to be true) but Microchip knows about it and apparently it was when he first started to love violence.
  • Cold War: Although the series takes place in the 2000's, a majority of the characters have agendas rooted in conflicts that took place in the Cold War. Specifically the Vietnam War, the Troubles, the Soviet-Afghan war among others.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: The MAX line has a lot of characters looking like famous "cool" actors in real life.
    • Frank himself is a beefy Clint Eastwood in the first arc; this is particularly evident when he's held prisoner by Microchip.
    • Paul Budiansky is Samuel L. Jackson.
    • Budiansky's CSI friend is Tommy Lee Jones (and he hates CSI.)
    • Colonel George Howe is Morgan Freeman.
    • From The Punisher Presents: Barracuda, Big Chris Angelone is Christopher Walken.
    • Castle's CO in Born is William H. Macy.
    • According to Garth Ennis's script for issue #37 (which has since been taken down from its original spot in the Comic Book Script Archive by Marvel) Nicky Cavella's physical appearance was based on Andy Garcia, and John James Toomey was based on Puff Daddy.
    • The Valley Forge story arc features one Delta Force commando who's a clear dead ringer for Tom Selleck. Hell they even share the same first name!
  • Comic-Book Time: Explicitly averted. Frank fought in and is described as a product of the Vietnam War. In the MAX series, he ages appropriately, and is drawn as a beefy 50/60 year old man...while the main continuity just tries not draw your attention to it too much.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Rawlins (the CIA agent who was responsible for putting together the false flag terror cell that was deployed during the Punisher's mission in Mother Russia) is blackmailed into dealing with the Punisher at the same time Nicky Cavella returns to also deal with the Punisher. The two happen know each other and team-up to kill Frank, only to have their plan botched by Kathryn O'Brien, who happens to be Rawlins's ex-wife who had coincidentally escaped from prison at the same time her ex-husband was assigned to kill the man who she and her team had attempted to recruit during an operation that was crashed by her ex's ex-lover/accomplice Cavella. Wew.
  • Cool Guns: Hmm... Where do we begin?
    • First we have Frank's dual custom Colt 1911's.
    • Next we have his trusty M60, which dates back to his days in Vietnam. Future stories see him replace the pig in favor of the more modern and reliable M249 SAW.
    • During flashback's to Frank's time in Force Recon. We can see him and his fellow commandos armed with old school CAR-15's
    • Given the criminal element of the series. It's no surprise that the Uzi and it's many variants show up frequently in the hands of criminals.
    • In the same vein as the aforementioned Uzi. The AK and it's many variants get plenty of screen time as well.
    • In Mother Russia, when Frank and a Delta Force commando are blasting they're way past security in a nuclear silo, they are both seen using a pair of AKS-74u's. Frank even gets to dual wield a pair of them later in the arc.
    • General Nikolai Zakharov wields a classic Soviet era Makarov pistol as his main sidearm. Appropriate, considering the kind of character archetype that he is meant to represent.
    • The G36 shows up a number of times throughout the series. Usually in the hands of some bad guys.
    • Special mentioned goes to Frank's signature Vietnam era M16.
    • The MP5 gets to have plenty of appearances throughout the series. Appart from frequently showing up in the hands of criminals, it get's to have a number of notable appearances in the following arcs.
      • First, the MP5K variant is seen in the hands of SAS commandos guarding an ex-Taliban member in Afghanistan.
      • Then, the same variant appears once again in Widowmaker. This time in the hands of the vengeful widows seeking revenge against Frank.
      • Then, in Valley Forge, Valley Forge, the Delta Force operators sent to apprehend Frank all wield MP5's
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Garth Ennis' really has it in for these guys. A pair of these serve as the main antagonist in the Barracuda, arc.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover for Force of Nature oneshot shows Punisher fighting a monstrous sperm whale at the middle of a sea. While he does kill a whale in the comic, it is an offhanded accident.noticed them walking away, leading to the three escaping by hiding in a nuclear missile.
  • Country Matters: Garth Ennis, has absolutely no problems using the word, employing it as frequently as possible, in what has to be the most liberal use of the word you will ever find in any mainstream comic out there. In fact, the Kitchen Irish arc features an aging Irish gangster who throws the word around like it were confetti.
  • Cowboy Cop: Deconstructed with Detective Budiansky in "Widowmaker." He disobeys orders and kills a teenaged school shooter to save a gym full of kids but while the media loves it the department does their best to punish him for it, sending him to therapy where a condescending therapist implies that he sees himself as a this trope, which he denies. He himself feels no remorse for what he did but wonders if that makes him similar to Frank. Near the end of the story his wife is attacked and he tries to take the law into his own hands but rather than being a Dirty Harry-esque badass he is simply acting out of rage and helplessness. In the end a brief encounter with Frank proves to him that they are nothing alike.
  • Crapsack World: The series is a good example, with even the hero being a decidedly dark gray in a black and gray world. Of course, it helps that it's basically our world with a few vigilantes in it.
  • Crossover: With Foolkiller of all people. Where Frank shows up to team up with the titular Mercenary, and help him take care of a white supremacist group.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Frank himself was probably at his most brutal in the "Slavers" arc. With the monstrous slavers smuggling women into the US to be sex slaves, including an hours-long gang rape on each slave to start out, you don't really feel for them at all when Frank, among other punishments, throws a woman who oversaw this horror into shatterproof glass enough times that finally the frame bends enough for the pane to fall out and she plummets to her death. Or when Frank gets information from a slaver by disemboweling him and hanging his intestines from a tree while still attached. The interrogation is implied to begin at sunrise which makes things worse when Frank casually mentions in the next issue that it took him until NOON to bleed out. You can view the last one here. Now let it haunt you're dreams.
  • Crusading Widower: Garth Ennis took this concept in an interesting direction during the Widowmaker. In that arc several wives of high-level mafioso Frank Castle had brutally murdered come together to take vengeance on Frank. Unfortunately before Frank can come up against the potentially morally interesting decision of how to deal with them, they are interrupted by another Mafia widow. This widow is thankful to Frank for killing her husband, an abusive bastard who beat her nearly to death and had his friends rape her, and has nothing but contempt for the other widows (the leader of whom is her own sister) who cruelly abused her. Thus this apparently exonerates Frank of any blame or responsibility.
    • He's not really absolved so much as the story pointing out how selfish and self-centered the widows are, crying and moaning about the loss of their husbands, nevermind the fact that their husbands were vicious killers and the money and lifestyle the women enjoyed so much was funded by brutal crime.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Unsurprisingly, Frank tends to hand these out to however is dumb enough to think that they stand a chance against him.
    • The first issue sees Frank vs the Cesare Crime Family. The end result? 42 gangsters dead, and seven more in critical condition. While Frank is left completely unscathed.
    • Later on in Kitchen Irish, we have Frank vs the River Rats. Although the River Rats do manage to temporarily gain the upper hand on Frank, all it takes is for Frank to chuck a grenade their way, and pretty soon the River Rats cease to exist.
    • Amusingly at one point, Frank himself is on the receiving end of one of these, when he goes toe to toe with a Mongolian super-agent who promptly thrashes him with ease. That is until Frank is roused by the memory of his dying daughter, he methodically stands back up, grabs the agent by his leg, and swings him around as if he were a ragdoll. He swings the poor bastard around so much that his leg eventually snaps off like a chicken drumstick.

    D To G 
  • Dark Action Girl: On the rare occasion that Frank encounters a female adversary, odds are she will likely be this trope. Notable examples include.
    • Polly of the River Rats. And Brenda Toner of the Westies.
    • Elektra, the Kingpin's most lethal enforcer and an extremely formidable fighter, who manages to beat Frank half to death.
    • Arguably Jennifer Cesare qualifies as a rare heroic example. Thanks to her dark past and sociopathic nature.
  • Darker and Edgier: Obviously. The Punisher was already one of Marvel's more mature and adult oriented characters. This series takes that basic idea and pushes it as far as humanly possible. Taking full advantage of the "adults only" nature of the Max label.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • It's rare for him to make a joke, but when he does, Frank shows he's got a very dark and cynical sense of humor.
    Cop: Any time you wanna finish that, big man: you an' me, wherever the fuck you like...
    Frank: I'm not really dating right now.
  • Deconstruction: The entire series is pretty much a deconstruction of the entire Punisher mythos, and really the whole "avenging vigilante" archetype as a whole. Frank, while still sympathetic is not really out to avenge his family but is driven by a combination of blood lust and guilt, the concept of a badass Psycho for Hire is thoroughly debunked and the majority of them are just repulsive sadists, and the ones who aren't are genuinely insane and not the least bit appealing, the majority of the Old Soldier types have been driven psychotic by their experiences, and there most certainly is no such thing as a Noble Demon.
  • Death by Irony: Used for dramatic effect in the conclusion of Barracuda. Where a yacht carrying a group of morally bankrupt "pool sharks" (i.e. people who use deceit and manipulation to con others out of their money), end up getting devoured in a literal pool of sharks.
  • Deep South: Welcome to the Bayou, sees the Punisher going on a cross country road trip from Brooklyn to New Orleans to deliver some "cargo". On his way there he stops by a local gas station, run by some hicks, to refuel. Once there he quickly realizes that something seems, off about the place. Naturally he decides to investigate. What follows is a series of bizarre and unfortunate events, that include: cannibal clans, alligator wrestling hillbillies, and a sexy crazy chick in daisy dukes.
  • Defcon Five: In Mother Russia, the moment "Operation Barbarossa" starts going south and the resulting massive Russian casualties (courtesy of The Punisher) threaten to cause an international incident that could possibly kick start World War 3. The Generals behind the operation are understandably shitting themselves in fear. Fury, on the other hand casually tells them to go to Defcon Four if it makes them feel any better.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The one shot special ''The Tyger, set in the 1950's, very much reflects the attitudes that where common place during that period in time. Such as the townsfolks callous indifference to a rape victims suicide. As many of them attributing it to insanity as opposed to trauma. With Frank's father even rudely stating that rape victims "should learn to keep they're legs closed".
  • Dented Iron: Becomes a plot point in the second MAX series, in which the physical and sometimes emotional toll of waging a 30+ year war on crime has on Frank is explored. Frank goes through an increasingly ruthless Rogues Gallery worth of foes including The Mennonite, MAX!Bullseye, MAX!Elektra, and finally, MAX!Kingpin, getting more and more irrevocably battered after dispatching each one, with the last one culminating in a long, drawn out, excruciating Mutual Kill.
  • Depending on the Artist: Although Frank is consistently drawn to resemble a man in his sixties, a few of the later artist took some liberties with this design aesthetic. This is most noticeable in Six Hours to Kill, where Frank suddenly looks thirty years younger.
  • Depending on the Writer: In mainstream comics, it varies how much Frank fights to help innocents and how much because he likes killing, as well as how sane he is in general. This gets downright meta in the "Bullseye" arc, where Bullseye nearly drives himself crazier trying to figure out Frank's exact motivation.
    • Born, puts a stunning twist on Frank's origin: Not only was it never about vengeance for his family, he (unwittingly) caused their deaths. What happened was that in Vietnam, he'd grown to love war, both because a) he was really good at killing, and b) he liked being able to punish wrongdoers. He made a deal with a mysterious entity (the Grim Reaper according to the author's note) that once the war in Vietnam ended, he could have his own war which would never end... for an unspecified price. It was only after he returned that he learned that the price was his family.
    • The last four Max arcs muddle things even further. It turns out that the aforementioned deal with the Grim Reaper was just a possibility, and that avenging his family was still on the table (although that too was only a possibility). Then in the story arc Frank, Castle himself denies both explanations and gives the "punishing himself", rationale given by previous authors (which at the time was mostly an attempt to keep the moral guardians at bay).
  • Destination Defenestration: In The Slavers, when Frank goes after the second ringleader of the sex slave operation, he corners her in her office. And since windows are made out of reinforced glass. He proceeds to methodically break the window by throwing the woman face first into the window until the frame gives and defenestration is achieved.
  • Dirty Commies: General Zakharov and his men were this in the worst kind of way during the Soviet-Afghan War were. From gathering up entire villages and forcing them off the ledge of a cliff, to callously murdering an infant while her mother screams in horror. You really don't get any dirtier than with him.
  • Dirty Cop: Given the nature of the series, it was inevitable that one of these would show up sooner or later. The Slavers from the arc of the same name have one of these on their payroll. Who they use to help them keep taps on the goings-on of the NYPD. However, they aren't as common as one might expect. In fact the majority of the cops in the series aren't "dirty" so much as they're just... well... Assholes.
    • Larry Lacarda, from the Barracuda arc, is a particularly slimy example.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: In Barracuda, one of the whistle blowers behind an illegal corporate scheme reveals that this was a common occurrence in one of his bosses many festive "parties".
    Si: There was a hooker OD'ed at a party, but we never heard anything more about it.
    • The Slavers arc deals with the subject and all of its terrible implications.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Zakharov and Dolnovich get bitten back in the worse way by Smug Snake Rawlins after attacking his groin several times, wiping blood on his shirt, and generally kicking him around. Granted, Rawlins is such a bastard that they probably would've gotten a knife in the back regardless, but at least don't give the guy ammunition.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Inverted in "Mother Russia". Frank catches his partner doing something he shouldn't be doing. His partner shouts "Back off! Don't make me fuck you up!" Frank just kicks him in the face and knocks half his teeth out.
  • Doom As Test Prize: In the "Kitchen Irish" arc, a very misanthropic elderly Irish-American gangster leaves what is rumoured to be a hoard of treasure to various separate Irish gangs in his neighborhood, giving each of them part of the geographical location in the hope that they'll kill each other over it. After much violence and death, the survivors finally do decide to get together and go to split the hoard peacefully. Whereupon it turns out to be a huge bomb that explodes and kills them all. Leaving them just enough time to read the word "CUNTS" scratched into the plastic explosive charge.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted: Nicky Cavella was raped by his aunt when he was very young, presented as a serious issue instead of a point of humor.
    • Teresa (Pittsy's sister) also tries it, but is violently scorned (possibly because of Nicky's previous experience).
    • Jenny Cesare ends up screwing Frank while he's handcuffed and just beat her sister to death with a baseball bat, highlighting just how far gone she is.
  • Downer Ending: Let's just keep this short by saying that there are no happy endings in this series.
    • The Slavers, is the perfect example of this trope. All Frank really achieved is a few more corpses and a little bit more of his own humanity chipped away. The horror still continues, no one is redeemed. And just to rub it in, the few girls that Frank did manage to save either went back to hooking, died, or are stuck as psychological train wrecks. But you wanna know what the worst part is? It's based on real-world crimes.
  • The Dreaded: Frank, obviously. For every reason you might imagine. Once, during a meeting involving all of the major crime families in the city, the very mentioning of the Punisher's name is enough to have the entire room go "arctic".
    • At one point in the Slaver's arc, a hardened mercenary from the Balkans immediately drops to his knees and starts sobbing, and praying at the mere sight of the white skull.
    • General Zakharov, seems to have earned this reputation thanks to the many atrocities he committed during his tour in Afghanistan. The mere sight of him is enough to illicit an Oh, Crap! look from Rawlins.
    • Subverted with Nicky Cavella. Although he certainly seems to think that he is this. In reality, the reason the other capos in his gang don't want him around isn't because they think that he's terrifying. They just find him and his tactics revolting.
  • Drugs Are Bad: A recurring theme throughout the series is showing the self-destructive effects of narcotics, not to mention that anything involving drugs is a very good way to piss Frank off. In the miniseries Born, half of the Marines at Frank's base are strung out on Heroin. In the first arc, Microchip reveals that the CIA sell narcotics on the side to help fund they're covert operations. This is the info that more or less seals Micro's fate. And in The Slavers arc, the Romanian gangsters keep their girls doped up to help make them more "manageable".
  • Due to the Dead: After being tasked to take down the Punisher, Nicky Cavella digs up the remains of Frank Castle's family, urinates on them and sends the proof of the deed to the news so that Frank will come after him.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: The eyes of the children who where used in an illegal pornography ring. The sight of it is enough to send a shiver down the spine of Frank.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Quite prevalent in this series actually.
    • Frank was a Vietnam era Force Recon Marine, meanwhile his old British friend, Yorkie Mitchell, is MI-6, by way of the SAS, by way of the Parachute Regiment.
    • Nick Fury, was a US Army Ranger, who, according to Frank had "set fire to half of Asia long before I had boarded a plane to Da Nang".
    • Frank's Arch-Nemesis Barracuda, is an ex-Green Beret, who worked with the CIA in various black ops missions in Latin America, during the 1980's.
    • Later on in Valley Forge, the final arc of Garth Ennis' run, when a cabal of crooked military Generals want Frank out of the picture for good. They have to send Delta Force operatives to get the job done.
  • Elite Mooks: Frank spends the majority of the series running rough-shod all over the usual rank-and-file mooks. That is until he comes up against Tiberiu and his boys. A pair of hardened war veterans from the Yugoslav Wars, who use effective squad tactics, hold their guns properly, maintain discipline during a firefight. And at one point even force Frank to flee for his life.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: In Punisher: Born, Garth Ennis makes his own supernatural upgrade part of Frank's backstory: During the battle of Valley Forge, an enigmatic voice gave him the choice to either die in battle or be its agent on Earth. This entity is implied to be Death Itself, and it apparently guides The Punisher's hand.
  • Enemy Civil War: The basic premise behind Kitchen Irish. Four different criminal groups come to New York in order for them to get their hands on 10 million dollars in inheritance. And each of them tries to kill the other one.
  • Epic Fail: During the "Slavers" arc, Frank attempts to ambush the hired guns for the slavery ring. Frank has forgotten, however, that these are not the usual street punks with poor aim and no tactics. These were hardened soldiers from the Yugoslav wars. Frank was nearly killed.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Italian mafiosi, Russian mobsters, South American drug lords, Eastern European human-traffickers, Chinese triads, street gangs of every ethnicity, terrorists both foreign and domestic, mercenaries and assassins from all over the world...Frank's bullets don't discriminate.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Played perfectly straight with Leon Rastovich. The convicted ringleader behind a child pornography ring that was busted. He betrayed a lot of his partners for a lighter sentence, but no matter what the prosecution offered him, he never turned on his mama. Who was actually suspected of providing Rastovich, with the children, for his operation. And when Leon is released way ahead of parole, the first thing he does is stop by his mama's place for some dumplings. Thankfully, in an act of Laser-Guided Karma, the Punisher eventually gives both of em' a shotgun slug to the face.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Frank himself arguably qualifies, if you accept Ennis' version, in that he knows he's a monster and has a strict code against harming innocents.
    • During the Widowmaker arc, one of the widows brings up the way Frank dealt with the slavers, including throwing a woman against a reinforced glass window for half an hour. The widow says she herself might have gone at it for an hour.
    • This is the reason behind why Nicky and his crew were exiled to Boston. The moment the Mob learned of the methods that Nicky and his enforcers used to "send a message" to the Triads, they immediately had Nicky and his boys kicked outta New York.
    • The series actually deconstructs this trope quite a bit, showing that for all the self-proclaimed morals, what the characters are actually doing is trying to convince themselves that their actions are justified because there's someone worse out there, so they cant be all that bad.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Played perfectly straight with all of Frank's flashbacks to Vietnam. In which every helicopter shown happens to be a Huey. Later on in Kitchen Irish, Castle even boards a stationary Huey as he lies in wait for some Irish hoods to show up. Musing to himself about how "it's been a long time since I've killed someone from a Huey".
  • Every Man Has His Price: Completely averted with Frank. No amount of money will deter him from killing someone who is on his list. Everyone in the mafia and all other organized crime syndicates know this, which is why trying to buy Frank off is never discussed. Offer him a bribe and he'll just kill you and take the money anyway, using it to fund his war on crime.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Averted with Martin Vanheim, who was about to give a little girl a poison to stabilize the supervirus in her blood. A few arcs later, his squadmates refuse to believe he'd go with it.
    • Played straight in the Barracuda story arc, where an honest cop refuses to take a bribe from Larry Lacarda.
  • Evil Versus Evil: This is more or less what the conflict between the Russian and US military in Mother Russia, comes down to. One side is depicted as a nefarious institution that is secretly harboring an experimental super virus. And the other side is depicted as a greedy institution who want to get their hands on said super virus. Naturally, neither outcome is good for the world.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Nick Fury, obviously. The one accessory that he is always seen with, regardless of whatever version he is.
    • Later on, after having had his eye ripped out by the Punisher, Rawlins begins wearing one.
  • Eye Scream: The series is kind of in love with this trope. Examples include: Castle gouging out Pittsy's eye during a fight, ripping out Rawlin's eye during a torture secession, stabbing Barracuda in the eye with a penknife. And many many more excruciating examples.
    • In Jason Aaron's first arc, an unfortunate mook winds up having his skull squeezed until his eyes pop out of their sockets. If that wasn't nauseating enough, readers are treated to several panels of him fumbling around with his eyes dangling by the optic nerve. He eventually manages to get them back into his head just in time to run into the The Punisher.
  • Excrement Statement: Nicky Cavella digs up and pisses on Frank's dead family, in order to anger him. This puts Punisher in the Tranquil Fury mode, and he starts what is basically a world war against the New York crime families, even worse than his normal behavior. It gets so bad that the civilian authorities are crippled about what to do, they can't comply with Frank's demands because it would be akin to negotiating with a terrorist, but they can't just do nothing and let Frank cause a genocide.
  • Extreme Melee Revenge: Delivered with frightening results In The Slavers. The arc sees Frank Castle violently flinging a ruthless perpetrator against a shatter-proof window over and over until the panel pops out of frame causing the perp to fall to her death. The perp in question, in case you were beginning to feel sorry for her, was one of three ring leaders behind a sex trafficking slave ring, responsible for the murder of an infant to torment the mother, and even worse things to the other captives.
    • In Mother Russia, we have Castle taking a vicious beat down from a tiny Mongolian super agent. When the Mongolian smacks a six year old girl that Castle was intent on rescuing, Frank finds the strength to get back to his feet and grabs the Mongolian by his leg, using it to swing his head and upper body into desks and walls until there wasn't much left. Only stopping after he realizes that he's scaring the poor girl.
    Frank: I'm twisting his leg off like a drumstick when I realize I'm frightening the poor kid.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Almost completely averted. No matter how tough and cold blooded they've been portrayed throughout the story, almost all the villains break down and cry and beg for their pathetic lives when the chips are down, even The Kingpin! The only characters to avert this are Pittsy (who pretty much kept going after he should have died), Zakharov (who just told Frank to finish it), Ink (who rarely spoke at all), and Bullseye (who went out with a smile no less!)
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The second series applies this trope to Frank's war on crime in general, with a common theme in the series being Frank's inability to effect any lasting change on New York's crime scene, where there is never an end to the criminals no matter how many Frank offs. MAX!Nick Fury, who is revealed to have shadowed Frank for much of his war, laments at the end of the series that Frank murdered, suffered and ultimately, died all for nothing... only for the next page to show that Frank inspired hordes of people to stand up for themselves and kick criminals out of their neighborhood.
  • False Flag Operation: A truly horrific example occurs in the Mother Russia arc. When a cabal of crooked generals devise a plan to keep the Russian government from discovering the US military's involvement in an illegal operation that involves stealing a biochemical agent from a Russian nuclear silo base. They have a team of homegrown Arab terrorist they secretly trained for taking out targets inside enemy countries hijack a passenger plan and attempt a suicide bombing in Moscow. All in an effort to fool the Russians into believing that Al-Qaeda is behind the operation.
  • Fan Disservice:
  • Farmer's Daughter: In the Welcome to the Bayou story, Frank runs into one of these (on a gas station in the middle of nowhere, but the idea is the same), who is a) dressed in far-too-revealing clothes and b) "crazy as a shithouse rat". Turns out her family are inbred cannibals, and her role in the group is to serve as a distraction.
  • Fast-Roping: The Mother Russia arc depicts a squadron of Russian commandos using this tactic to enter a missile silo base via an empty elevator shaft. With the goal of eliminating a terrorist unit that has infiltrated the base. Unfortunately for them, the "terrorist" waiting for them happens to be Frank Castle. Who just happens to have rigged the aforementioned shaft with a shit-ton of explosives
  • A Father to His Men: In the in-universe book titled "Valley Forge" (which is featured in the arc of the same name by the way), John Chadwick from the US Army tank battalion is a perfect example of this. Along with being one of the better representations of a military figure in a Garth Ennis story.
    John Chadwick: If I'm proud of anything, it's that my men all made it home. That was more Walt Mayne's doing than mine, but of what I did do, I'm proud. Because the war wasn't worth it, you see. Not one life. Not your brother's nor anyone else's. Not ours, not theirs. It wasn't worth a single human life.
  • Finger in the Mail: The tactic used by hardcore gangster Maginty. He has Tommy Toner, leader of Irish mob outfit the Westies kidnapped, and has bits and pieces of his body mailed back to his wife Brenda, in an effort to intimidate his gang. It works for the most part... except on his stone-cold bitch of a wife Brenda, who is unimpressed by this.
    Brenda: For anyone doesn't know what's in those boxes, it's bits of Tommy Toner's body. ... Now I know what you're all thinkin': Whoa, sendin' someone's scalp an' dick an' arm same-day delivery, that's fucked up. That's scary. Whoever's doin' this, it ain't someone we ever wanna fuck with. Bull. Shit. Bull fuckin' shit. Anyone could do this, absolutely anyone, an' getting you all spooked like this is exactly what they wanna fuckin' do...
  • Fingore:
    • In the In the Beginning arc, villain Nicky Cavella puts a gun to the Punisher's head when the Punisher is tied up and pulls the trigger. The Punisher dodges the shot and bites off several of Cavella's fingers.
    • Big Jesus in Homeless arc smuggles a razor blade under his fingernail.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: In Widowmaker, a mob widow recounts the time that Frank used a flamethrower to burn her husband alive.
    "Him an' all the guys, he just burned 'em right up — I mean what sort of person does that to someone...?"
  • Friend to All Children: The one truly redeeming trait about Frank, is his affinity for children and his paternal instinct to ensure their safety, no matter the cost. The shining example of this is in Mother Russia. Where Frank is tasked with retrieving a little Russian girl whose blood contains an experimental supervirus and is being held captive in a nuclear silo base. After they escape (in a nuclear missile no less), he boards the pickup submarine and refuses to let anyone approach her, resulting in the virus decaying until it's unusable. When Frank is greeted by a large Army unit and the General behind the operation, the soldiers are understandably iffy about shooting him. Then Nick Fury (who gave him the mission in the first place) stands next to Frank, challenging the soldiers to "fire whenever they're ready", after seeing this act of defiance, the soldiers promptly give up.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: More often than not most of the more dangerous and savvy criminals that Frank faces off against have some sort of military background that make them a force to be reckoned with.
    • The Slavers from the arc of the same name are hardened soldiers/war criminals from the Bosnian war.
    • Barracuda, the badass hitman and Frank's arch-nemesis is a former Green Beret.
    • Interestingly, Frank himself qualifies. He went from being a Force Recon Marine to a cutthroat Vigilante Man within a matter of years.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: In one particularly creepy moment, a pair of prison slags prepare to gang up on O'Brien while she is showering, with the intention of raping her. Luckily O'Brien manages to successfully fend them off, doing so while soaking wet and completely nude.
  • Gag Penis: Horribly, horribly subverted in Naked Kill one-shot: the Guy is known only by the dimensions of his member when he's not aroused, and his employers use it to the fullest extent in their Snuff Film enterprise (he splits the girls open). Needless to say, revenge was had when his destined victims ripped him apart.
  • Gangbangers: Along with the mob, they are shown as one of Frank's most common adversaries. Depicted as a pair of uncouth, and undisciplined hooligans who pose very little threat to Frank. And are more often than not on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Gangsta Style: Subverted. A gang member fires at Castle like this multiple times, but misses every shot. Frank calmly says "They put the sights on top for a reason" before downing the gangster with pinpoint accuracy.
  • Gangsterland: New York City's overall depiction. Just about every major crime syndicate imaginable has some sort of foothold in New York's criminal underworld. From the Italians, the Triads, Russians, Irish, to even the Armenian Mafia. Basically if you can think of any sort of real world crime organization, odds are they will inevitably make an appearance at some point.
  • Gas Station of Doom: In Welcome To the Bayou, Frank runs into one of these during a cross-country "road trip" to Louisiana. Which turns out to be a front for an inbred Cannibal Clan.
  • General Failure: The over-arching cabal of crooked Generals take this to an entirely new level. Being a group of incompetent idiots who have never seen any real combat, having ascended through the ranks entirely through mundane service. By the time the final arc takes place, the Generals end up opposing Frank Castle for the sole purpose of saving their own asses from the massively bad decisions they've made throughout their careers. There's even a scene where Nick Fury whips the head general half to death with his belt for his stupidity during one military operation. The entire group is eventually slaughtered by Castle.
  • General Ripper: General Nikolai Zakharov built his reputation on this. He was at his worst during the Soviet-Afghan War, were his monstrous actions earned him the nickname: "The Man Of Stone". His various atrocities include gathering up entire villages and forcing them off the ledge of a cliff, to callously murdering an infant while her mother screams in horror. In fact his actions were so bad that the Soviets had him fired for his actions.
  • Genius Bruiser: Frank is this both in the regular Marvel universe and in the MAX universe, but in the MAX universe his internal dialogue really highlights how carefully he plans, both before and during a fight. He's always planning for contingencies, keeping an eye on escape routes, and has back-up plans for his back-up plans. When things go really sour and he's forced to go hand-to-hand, even then he's cool and collected. Several incidents of him being very outnumbered in unarmed combat show him planning everything even while fighting; from attacking the strongest people first, keeping everyone in front of him so they get in each other's way, to inflicting very painful injuries rather than simply killing because he knows several people laying on the ground screaming in pain will distract and intimidate the ones he hasn't gotten to yet, dealing with female attackers just as harshly as males, etc.
    • His arch-nemesis Barracuda is an even better example. Trained as a Green Beret, the tough bastard is every bit as intelligent and resourceful as he is strong and durable. Able to find his way out of numerous tight spots, he even successfully masterminds a plan that leads to the capture of The Punisher
  • Genre Blind:
    • Maginty, who is otherwise one of the most clever villains in the comics, cheerfully walks into his hideout without an armed escort after mentally torturing a Retired Monster and leaving him in the room by himself. It's a good thing his Mooks came back to check on him—of course getting his fingers sliced off by said murderer didn't do much to dissuade him from walking into Nesbitt's Batman Gambit, making him doubly Genre Blind.
    • Notably, Nicky Cavella is told in no uncertain terms that his plannote  is fundamentally flawed without killers actually capable of exploiting the supposed opening.
  • Genre Savvy: In Six Hours to Kill story, Frank is drugged unconscious and upon waking up, is told by a hired mook that he'd been given a poison that would kill him in six hours, and he would only be given the antidote if he followed orders. Mook: "I don't have the antidote on me. I don't know where it is. Kill me, you're only killing yourself. Understand?" After being released from his bonds, he immediately breaks the mooks' neck and tosses the body aside. Frank: "Won't waste time looking for the antidote. Probably doesn't exist. I've got six hours to kill. May as well get started." Frank then gathers all his guns and commences killing every criminal on his list, not even thinking about who his poisoners wanted him to kill until much later.
  • Genre Shift: Although the series does consistently remain a vigilante action story for the most part. There are a few arcs that briefly delve into other other genre's. Most noticeably, Mother Russia is essentially an R-Rated James Bond thriller that happens to star Frank Castle, and Welcome to the Bayou is a hillbilly horror flick. Complete with a Gas Station of Doom, and a lonely cabin in the woods.
  • Gilligan Cut: Barracuda starts threatening Frank's daughter with O'Brien by nicking her skin with a knife. The next page shows Frank in a hospital, plaster casts and bandages everywhere, and mentioning that he can't remember what happened (he then starts putting together what happened from his wounds).
  • Gilded Cage: After Wilson Fisk becomes the Kingpin, he refuses to leave his tower out of fear of the Punisher. In the last arc, he reflects on the fact that even though he supposedly owns the city, he's basically become a prisoner in his own home.
  • Gorn: One of the advantages of being on the MAX label is that the artist gets to detail every bit of blood and gore throughout the series in extremely graphic detail. Every severed head, every headshoot wound, every charred carcass is illustrated with glorious and at times nauseating levels of detail. Case in point.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Unsurprisingly averted in the Max comics, in many, many glorious ways.
  • Grenade Launcher: Frank's signature M16 is commonly seen outfitted with a M203 grenade launcher attachment.
  • Gun Accessories: Frank's many weapons, particularly his signature M16 assault rifle, are commonly depicted with all manner of accessories. Ranging from scopes, suppressors, flashlights, underslung grenade launchers and etc.
  • Gun Porn: Not only is there plenty of depictions of guns, but Frank knows weapons like no one's business. He practically makes it a sub-genre, as evidenced in the Christmas special:
    (A single shot is heard way off in the distance)
    Man: What was that?
    Frank: M-25 sniper rifle with a .303 Winchester cartridge.
  • Gutted Like a Fish: One of the ring leaders from the Slavers arc ends up with his abdomen slashed open and his guts wrapped around a nearby tree.
    • A similar fate befell Nicolas Cavella when he thought pissing Frank off (by digging up and desecrating his family's bodies) was a good idea. He takes a bullet to the gut for his troubles, and is left in the wilderness to die of infection or blood loss, whichever comes first.

    H To M 
  • Hannibal Lecture:
    • Frank doesn't do this often, being The Stoic, but he completely destroys the last shreds of dignity Nicky Cavella has with one.
      Cavella: Either I walk outta here or I blow the little fuck all over you. It's your call.
      Castle: You won't shoot him. You're a coward. ...Psycho rep only takes you so far. After that, you've nothing. Hurt the boy and you die bad. You know that. But there's a part of you that still thinks that if you let him go, you've got a chance. And that part of you just won't shut up.
    • Frank's S.A.S. pal Yorkie is the master of these. He'd probably have the Trope Namer weeping for forgiveness after a few minutes with him. In a Double Subversion, Barracuda laughs off one of these after killing Yorkie, but true to form his dying speech echoes in his head at a most inopportune moment and gets under his skin — allowing the Brit to punk him from the grave. (It's possible that Yorkie did it in the hopes that this would actually happen.)
      Yorkie: He's going to kill you. Not over me. You're going up against him, so he'll kill you. Because you're a joke, in spite of it all... and he's the most dangerous man who ever walked this Earth.
  • Hero Antagonist: The role played by Colonel Howe and his Delta Force commandos in Garth Ennis' final story. In it, Howe and his men are tasked by a cabal of crooked Generals with taking down the Punisher. However, Howe is depicted in a far more sympathetic light than his decadent superiors.
  • The Hero Dies: In the second MAX series, Castle himself is killed. Even then, though, he manages to finish off what he started. And inspires hordes of vigilantes to continue his work.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: This is the central theme of the series. All throughout the comic we watch Frank operate as an uncompromising engine of vengeance in a Crapsack World. He's fully aware that his "war on crime" has damned him to hell and there's no hope of redemption. He just doesn't care.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Dolnovich used this trope on Rawlins to give him a last-minute attempt to come up with the Batman Gambit of his life. Notably he didn't even want to let Rawlins live in the first place and even tried to shoot down the latter's attempt to save his life.
  • High-Class Call Girl: In the Little Black Book one-shot story, Frank uses one of these as an accomplice to help him get close to a Cuban drug lord so he can... well... do what he does best.
  • Hillbilly Moonshiner: In Welcome to the Bayou, when the Geautreauxs decide to have a good ol' fashion redneck hoedown. They all get shit-faced on some homegrown moonshiner. Which, incidentally gives Frank and his accomplice Nigel some cover to try and escape.
  • Hillbilly Horrors:
    • This is pretty much what the Welcome to the Bayou arc is all about. In it, we get to see Frank Castle going up against the Geautreauxs. A Cannibal Clan full of gator-raising racist hillbillies.
    • The second issue of Untold Tales of the Punisher MAX starred a slightly deformed family of redneck drug traffickers who gradually turn on each other as they debate what to do (kill him, sell him, keep him as a bartering chip, etc.) with the captive Punisher.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: When Alice is describing her unfulfilling sex life to Dermot.
    Harry doesn't fuck me. He just has me bend over on the bed while he stares up my ass and jerks off. Before we were married, he used to shake my hand afterwards and say "Thank you for a wonderful evening." You know who else was into that? Hitler.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Played perfectly straight in Man Of Stone. When Kathryn O'Brien goes to execute one of the Taliban leaders responsible for gang raping her, she shoots him dead with a silenced pistol while he was out in his balcony. The gunshot is so quiet that it fails to alarm anyone. Not even waking up the underage bride sleeping in the Taliban leaders bed.
  • Hookers and Blow: In the Barracuda story arc, Whistler-blower Si, reveals that the moment his company Dynaco broke big, these sort of parties became the norm.
    Si: The parties, man. The parties we had were the stuff of legend.
  • Hopeless War: What Frank's one-man war on crime comes down to unfortunately. He knows that he will never be able to have any long lasting effect on crime no matter how many capos or drug dealers he kills. Best exemplified at the end of The Slavers arc, where even after dealing with the heads of the human trafficking operation, the slavery ring in New York doesn't stop, it just gets more "sophisticated".
  • How We Got Here: The Barracuda arc begins, with Frank aboard a boat, looking over what has to be hundreds of people being eaten alive by sharks. The story then cuts back to show how he ended up there.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: According to Nick Fury, SHIELD has gone from being one of the most powerful intelligence agency's in the world into a joke of an agency filled with rank and file amateurs. Or as Fury puts it:
    Fury: Whole agency's been a fucking joke for years. They put the fucking accountants in charge—then they wonder why the CIA beats us to the punch everywhere from Indonesia to Iraq.
    • Russia in general is depicted this way. They went from being a world superpower to a second rate federation within a matter of years; with an out of control crime rate and a laughably ineffectual military run by inept commanders. Who are incapable of defending even a nuclear missile base. Let alone from a pair of covert para-military operatives.
    Vanheim: This is a nuclear missile base, don't these people follow any sort of procedure?
    • The fate of the Westies. At one point they were one of the most powerful and influential crime families in all of New York... that is until the Cesare Family moved in, shortly thereafter they went to pieces. With half of them either moving out of Hell's Kitchen, or snorting their sorrows away on coke.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Half of the dialogue of a supporting character in the Girls in White Dresses arc consists of different terms for methamphetamine.
  • Hypocrite: Frank himself, but it's not revealed until issue 16 of Punisher MAX, where it's revealed that he had decided to divorce his wife and leave his kids with her in order to satisfy his bloodlust. Way back, in the fourth issue of the original MAX series, Frank had told Microchip how he had almost killed his neighbor because said neighbor had left his wife for another woman. Ultimately, Frank proved to be no different from his victim, with both of them willing to abandon their spouses to satisfy their own lusts.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Hardcore mobster Nicolas Cavella earned his reputation in the Cesare Family as follows: during a sit-down in a Chinese restaurant with an overconfident Triad boss named Joseph Kai, Kai is eating a dish and arrogantly telling Cavella that he and his crew won't back down in the face of the Cesare Family, claiming he has three strong sons backing him up. To which Cavella retorts with, "two strong sons", and informs him that he and his two henchmen had arrived early and replaced the kitchen staff, and that the boss' youngest son, "never made it home from school". It's then revealed what happened to the boys body. Cue the horrified expression on the Triad boss' face as he realizes what he just ate.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Averted in the case of The Slavers, when Frank loses his self-discipline and breaks his cover by attacking a 'straggling' gunman, alerting his fellows... who are infantry veterans, aim down their weapons' sights, and use small unit tactics such as (effective) suppressing fire and flanking. End result: although he's able to swim away, non-powered gunmen actually defeat Frank Castle in combat and force him to flee for his life.
    Frank's monologue: I saw straightaway it had been a mistake. These boys weren't ghetto trash like I was used to, the kind whose will you break in the first ten-seconds of a firefight They were soldiers ... [splash page of Frank being hit] The end came even faster than I'd figured.
  • Implacable Man: Pittsy, Barracuda and the Mennonite all manage to nearly kill Frank by virtue of the fact that they're really, really, really tough. See Made of Iron down below in case you need any examples of just how durable these three are.
  • Improvised Weapon User: Naked Kill oneshot involved Castle assaulting an office building that was being used for snuff films. Security was ultra-tight, so he couldn't bring guns inside. Instead, he ended up killing the guards one by one with increasingly bizarre and brutal uses of office equipment. He started with pens and pencils, worked his way up to computer monitors as blunt instruments, staplers to the eyes, smashing a man's head to pulp in a copier machine...
  • Inexplicably Awesome: General Zakharov's, right hand man The Mongolian, is pretty much this trope personified. Of all the character's in the series, he get's zero backstory, name, or any sort of explanation behind how he and Zakharov met or how he became his henchmen. Nor how this diminutive super agent possess immense fighting prowess, great enough to thrash both a Delta Force operative and The Punisher.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted with extreme prejudice. In fact, it seems like the series goes out of it's way to avert this trope whenever possible. Notable aversions include:
    • Frank Castle's children, Lisa and Frank David Castle. The former was shot in the belly, while the latter was shot through the mouth.
    • The fate of Joseph Kai's youngest son. See I'm a Humanitarian below for more details.
    • In The Slavers one escaped victim recounts the time when a pair of slavers sent her an email... that included an image of her babies lifeless corpse.
    • Wilson Fisk's 8-year old son has his throat slit by Don Rigoletto. Fisk realizes that he doesnt really care that his son is dead. Unfortunatly for him, the death of their son also set his wife Vanessa against him, which would eventually result in his downfall and gruesome death.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: Bullseye to Frank; just take a look at this internal monologue as he watches Frank slaughter his men.
    Bullseye: You do not kill like any man I have ever seen, Frank. You're more like a force of nature. An earthquake or a tidal wave. A tornado. Watching you kill is like watching Rembrandt paint, or hear Mozart conduct his 9th symphony. You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, Frank Castle. I think I'm going to cry. Thank you, Frank. Thank you for being you.
    • Then later when talking to Kingpin about the encounter:
    Bullseye: I saw him in action. Let me tell you, it was... it was something to behold. I do apologize, but it appears I'm going to pleasure myself now.
    • Apparently this extends to O'Brien as well. In one scene after they have successfully slaughtered half of Zakharov's men, the two of them stand over the carnage and have this exchange.
    O'Brien: I'd like to fuck you right here and now, you know that?
    Castle: Everything in moderation.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Subverted in the finale to the story arc Up is Down and Black is White, where Frank gives Nicky Cavella a slow and agonizing death by shooting him in the stomach, and leaving him in the middle of a forest.
  • Interservice Rivalry: In Long Cold Dark, during a ferocious firefight between Frank Castle (a former Marine Force Recon officer) and Barracuda (ex-Army special forces) who had abducted Castle's infant daughter, 'Cuda chides Frank's marksman abilities asking where Frank learned to shoot, to which Frank coolly responds with: "That would be Khe Sanh. Spring of sixty eight. You fucking Army puke".
  • The Irish Mob: Seeing how this is a comic book dealing with crime, set in New York, and written by Garth Ennis, (who is Irish-Irish mind you) an appearance by the Irish Mob was pretty much inevitable. More specifically, they show up in the Kitchen Irish arc. Which deals with the last remnants of the Irish Mob duking it out in the newly-gentrified Hell's Kitchen.
  • It's Raining Men: When Frank and a Delta Force operative need to sneak into Siberia. They do so by HALO jumping out of a commercial plane. Later on they up the ante by HALO jumping out of a nuclear missile.
    Frank: If the thought of it seems crazy. You weren't crazy enough to begin with.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: This was already a staple in most of The Punisher's incarnations but this version is much more overt about him committing it. For example, The Punisher: Force of Nature one-shot had a page with Frank monologuing about torture as well as the threat: for some the threat is enough, some never break, and some just pass out. One of the villains even says that he figures that the Punisher would simply "shut down" if he were tortured.
    • In The Slavers, Frank needs to get information from one of the titular Croatian slavers and realizes that, hard as they are, "what I would need to do to such men would be...extreme." So he drugs the guy, cut a hole in his belly, pulls about two feet of his intestines out, and drapes them on a tree branch in front of him. And that's where he starts.
  • Joker Immunity: Averted with extreme prejudice. Most villains are lucky if they make it through a single story arc alive, let alone two. The only antagonist who comes closest to playing this trope straight, is Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin. Who manages to survive the most arcs.
  • Just Following Orders: Nick Fury asks Frank to participate in "Operation Barbarossa" because he won't do this. His partner Martin Vanheim tries to use this excuse for trying to kill Galina but Frank kicks the shit out of him and is able to shame him into better behavior. Frank himself qualifies in a strange way. In becoming The Punisher he assigned himself a mission and justifies his vigilante activity through that. In "Mother Russia" he is assigned a different mission and does things he wouldn't ordinarily do, like beat people up unprovoked and kill soldiers who are just doing their jobs.
  • Karmic Thief: Frank takes all weapons and money he finds on his raids for himself. When the cops bust all of his safehouses in Punisher Max, it is revealed that he had over eight million dollars in cash and enough guns to arm a small country.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Frank's murder of Microchip, his former sidekick. Microchip was killed because he was turning a blind eye to government-funded drug operations to get his dough, making it a Kick the Dog moment for himself as well. He was also given the chance to escape. They were holed up in a warehouse awaiting an attack from the mob. Frank told Micro to run but Micro decided to stay. Apparently he didn't quite understand what Frank meant.
    • After rescuing a not-so-corrupt corporate executive from retaliatory gang rape for threatening to blow the whistle on a scheme, Frank shows an alarming amount of callousness towards the victim, telling him 'I bought you eggs and bacon—two days is more than enough to get over this'; unusual since he's usually more sympathetic to female rape victims... although his indifference comes back to bite him in the ass later.
    • Dolnovich, a loyal, level-headed hardass... who kills a reporter who wrote an unflattering book about his boss. Even then, he probably didn't deserve to die believing that his only son was going to be raped to death by his Smug Snake killer.
  • Kill the Poor: This is more or less what Dynaco's scheme comes down to. They plan on blacking out Florida in order to increase they're stock, not caring for the destruction it will most likely cause. And it's implied that the lower class will be the ones who will suffer the most from they're plan. This quote pretty much sums it up best.
    Dermot: If we really had blackened out Florida, do you think anyone here would give a shit? About street lights in Tallahassee, or granny's life support? We do it quietly and carefully, the stock goes sky-high, they get a return on their investment. They are business people: What they care about is doing business.
  • Knight Templar: The question is not "How far?" The question is "How fast will he get there?" In the MAX series, for example, Barracuda kidnaps the daughter Frank had with O'Brien. He reacts...violently. Frank often has flashbacks to his children's deaths. He wakes up in the hospital with no idea what happened, but the skin doctors found under his fingernails and the flesh between his teeth jog his memory.
  • Laser Sight: The cover of #2 depicts Frank being targeted by hundreds of these. Naturally, Frank is completely unfettered by this.
  • Leave No Survivors: One of Frank's most common tactics during his multiple tours of duty in Vietnam. Ultimately subverted, as it's strongly hinted that Frank's aggressive patrolling tactics actually provoked the NVA assault on the Valley Forge Firebase.
  • Left for Dead: In the MAX continuity, you CANNOT count on this trope to save your bacon. One particularly noteworthy example was when Castle drove Cavella out to some abandoned woods and shot him low in the gut with the intention of slowly killing him over several hours/days while he walked away. Perfect setup for Cavella to come back, right? Well, just to shoot down any ideas of him returning some mooks talk about how they found his corpse with the eyes eaten out. Just as well, as Villain Decay had wrung out any threat he had to begin with.
  • Let the Past Burn: In the final Punisher Max arc "Homeless", after the death of Frank, Nick Fury takes a flamethrower to the house where the Castle family used to live and where Frank had been staying during the events of the arc. By doing so he hopes to put an end to the tragedy that made The Punisher once and for all.
  • Little "No": Frank is pretty much made up of these due to his taciturn nature, along with Blunt "Yes" and Flat "What.". One example does stand out from his Vietnam days, when his team attacked an enemy camp to rescue some downed pilots. By the time they got there, there was only one pilot left alive. This exchange immediately followed:
    Soldier: "Just the one, Captain."
    Castle: "Bring him."
    Soldier: "Prisoners?"
    Castle: "No."
  • Lock and Load Montage: Commonly done whenever the artist want's to get across that Frank is getting ready to kick some serious ass.
    O'Brien: That's an M60. That was an M60 that he just put in the trunk of that Subaru...
  • Loony Fan: Jenny Cesare from the Widowmaker arc, definitely comes across as this. After seeing Frank shot by the women she is targeting she saves him and takes him to her apartment. Even though she tends to his wounds, Frank can't help but feel a little bit like her prisoner, but Jenny does nothing to stop him from leaving, and the reason he can't leave is because his gunshot injuries. So he patiently listens as she describes what was done to her, and sympathy for what was done to him. Believing her and Frank to be kindred spirits. Jenny then has two requests: his shirt and jacket so she can become the She-Punisher and kill the women responsible for her pain, and that Frank stay until she finishes what she started. Frank begins to feel more and more like a prisoner, and that Jenny would stop him even if he could leave, before passing out and ending up handcuffed.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The results of Frank using an anti aircraft gun on some very unfortunate Russian soldiers.
    Frank: Pure overkill. Twelve-point-seven millimeter Soviet Dushka's just like our fifty cal. Really designed to be used on aircraft. You use it on people— You turn them into paint.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Castle is one seriously tough S.O.B. So much so that his ability to take almost superhuman levels of punishment lapses into another trope altogether.
    Frank: That's a rib gone. Not broken. Gone.
    • Barracuda and Pittsy (especially Pittsy) all take enormous amounts of damage that would leave normal people nothing more than a greasy smear on the pavement.
    • For example Pittsy ends up getting stabbed, shot at, beaten, has his eyes gouged, his fingers broken, and ends up getting impaled on a friggin' steel fence. But does this faze him? Fuck no! Through sheer hatred and incredible strength of will, the little bastard keeps on going. It's only after he gets his face blown the fuck off by a shotgun slug that he finally succumbs to his wounds, but not before freaking Frank the hell out by taking a few more steps in his direction.
    Frank: His next step's a reflex action.
    [Pittsy keeps walking towards Frank]
    Frank: So's the next one. Got to be.
    • In the finale to Punisher Max Frank gets stabbed, shot, and beaten half to death by Elektra (to the point where his face is described as looking like "a swollen wad of hamburger" by Nick Fury), shot multiple times by The Kingpin's goons, and endures a savage beating by Fisk himself, and still manages to kill him in the end, only succumbing to his wounds much later.
    • The Menonnite from Aaron's Punisher MAX took a knife boot right to his crotch and still kept coming. It took an electrified security system and a falling safe to kill him.
    • Barracuda may be the most extreme example of this trope in the entire series. In his first fight with Frank, he has one of his hands cut in half, takes a blade to the eye, gets garroted with frickin' barb wire, and he still manages to overpower Frank. Later on in the story, he ends up getting shot at point blank with a shotgun, and he still somehow survives. In their final encounter together, Frank has to empty out an entire AK-47 clip into Barracuda, just to make sure that he's dead for good. What's more, we later learn that as a child his hand was burned on a grille by his alcoholic father, who told him to be "as hard as the motherfucking earth itself". Seeing as how Barracuda went on to become a nigh invulnerable giant, we can guess that he followed his old man's word to the letter.
    • The irony of this trope is that Garth Ennis hates powered superheroes, yet at the same time he plays up all the human characters as if they had a superhuman ability to withstand unfathomable levels of pain.
  • MacGuffin Super Person: In Mother Russia, we have Galina Stenkov. A six year old Russian girl who caries an experimental flesh eating super virus in her blood stream, but she is immune to it due to being pumped full of antidotes by her now deceased father. Currently she is being held in Russian captivity with the Russians intending to use the virus in her blood as a potential biological weapon. However the Americans have similar plans for her in mind and kick start a daring rescue mission called, "Operation Barbarossa".
  • The Mafia: Ever since a mob hit was responsible for the deaths of his family. The mafia has remained one of Frank's most constant and hated enemies. The very first arc opens up with Frank crashing the birthday of a 100 year old Don Cesare, and promptly blowing his brains out. He then calmly walks out on to the patio and waits for the mafiosi to follow him. Only for them to discover that Frank is waiting for them with his M60 in hand. Carnage ensues.
  • The Mafiya: Elements of the Russian mafia make appearances every now and then. Most notably in the beginning of the Mother Russia arc. Which starts with Frank tailing a convicted felon from the Russian mob who for some unfathomable reason (which we later learn about) was let out way ahead of his parole date.
  • Mle Trois: The climax of In The Beginning essentially boils down to a giant all out war between the CIA, Cesare Family, and every other crime syndicate in New York. All of whom are trying to get their hands on Frank with the intention of either killing him or recruiting him.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: It's stated that the first time Punisher killed a woman, he lost a lot of his supporters (that she was already tried and imprisoned and no threat to anybody may have had something to do with it. It's not specified.)
    • Averted for the rest of the series, Frank Castle doesn't give a damn what your gender is. If he has you in his sights, you're pretty much screwed.
    • For example in the 'Kitchen Irish' arc the first of the River Rats to die is a woman.
  • Mercy Kill: In Frank's third and final tour in Vietnam, his squad captures a female Vietcong soldier and begin wondering aloud what to do with her. One Marine takes it upon himself to pull a rape-train on her, only to be stopped half-way when Frank shows up and shoots the girl in the head. Later on, Frank sneaks up on the Marine who had the sick idea and drowns him as he was washing the blood off his face. After another Marine who witnessed both events asks Frank why he did it. Frank justifies the former by saying that if he'd kept the girl alive, she would have been put on a helicopter and interrogated by intelligence officers. Who would've raped and killed her anyway, not to mention that if he had shown mercy to the enemy then he would have lost the trust and respect of his platoon. As for the latter event involving him drowning the Marine responsible, he justifies that by simply stating: "I wanted to punish him".
  • Mildly Military: As with most depictions of the US military during the Vietnam War. Frank's Marine Firebase suffered from a seriously bad case of this. Most of the Marines stationed there are unwilling conscripts, commonly seen out of uniform, failing to salute senior officers, and half of whom are stated to be high on heroin. Suffice it to say, when a US General inspects the base, he is not impressed by what he sees.
    • Justified later on with the Delta Force commandos. As all of them are self disciplined soldiers who don't need to worry about NCO's telling them to bathe and shave.
  • Military Maverick: He may be getting old but Nick Fury certainly hasn't lost a step. The man is at an Air Force base for less than a week and he already has the place running just how he likes it. "No smoking" rules be damned. Not to mention he is shown constantly telling a cabal of Generals where they can stick it, and receiving no repercussions for doing so. In fact at one point he even delivers a nasty beating to a particularly slimy General with his belt, and threatens anyone who tries to intervene. Warning them that "if anyone tries to stop me, then you're next!" Oh, and he gets away with that to.
  • Missile Lock-On: When Frank allows himself to be taken hostage aboard an enemy Mil Mi-24 gunship in order to get closer to General Zakharov. His Russian captors are soon in for a rude awakening when they hear the familiar sounds of sirens alerting them that they are in missile lock...
    Russian Pilot: Jesus Christ! We're in missile lock
  • Mob War: The birth of The Punisher came when his family was killed in a botched mob hit during one of these. We also learn that the men involved in the mob hit are all long dead.
    • In Up Is Down Black Is White, we learn that Nicky Cavella's banishment to Boston came when his attempts at "intimidating" the local Triad boss backfired spectacularly. Instead of frightening the Triad boss into submission, all he really did was piss him off and kick off a war between the Cesare family and the Chinese Triads.
  • Mook Horror Show: The annual follows the POV of an arsonist, being pursued by the Punisher through Manhattan. It never once gave the Punisher's perspective; he was presented as simply an unstoppable force that the criminal just couldn't get away from.
    • Earlier than that the CIA was treated to a very literal horror show when they witnessed Frank massacre dozens of mobsters via satellite. Even Frank's old buddy Microchip is shaken up by what he's seen.
  • Mooks: Mobsters, slavers, gang-bangers, drug dealers, Irish hoods, bikers, terrorist, contract killers, insane-hillbilly cannibals, corporate business tycoons, and other types of bad guys tend to die in droves whenever the Punisher swings into action.
  • Monkey Morality Pose: When Fisk has Elektra kill his board of directors, she cuts three of them in a way that corresponds to the pose.
  • Morality Chain: Frank's family was this to him. In his origin story Born, set in 'Nam, he says to a fellow soldier that they might be his "last chance" to be something other than a killer.
    • The Mennonite's terminally ill wife appears to be this for him.
  • Moral Myopia: The five widows who band together to kill the Punisher can't seem to fathom why the vile, murderous criminals they married could deserve their deaths. At one point they even acknowledge that the Punisher targets monsters and psychos, approving of his treatment of the sex slavers and even thinking he went easy on them, but refer to his murder of their husbands in terms of innocent victims targeted for no reason by an amoral killer.
  • More Dakka: In the event that Frank wishes to completely and utterly annihilate his enemies. Then you can rest assured that he will bring along his trusty M60/M249 to help him get the job done. Most notably demonstrated in the very first issue, when Frank uses a M60 attached to a tripod to disintegrate a gang of capos.
    • Barracuda one ups Frank in this department. In the beginning of Long Cold Dark, when 'Cuda lures dozens of gangsters from dozens of different gangs into one hotel room, he annihilates every single one of them with his M60. All of them
  • Must Not Die a Virgin: There's an in-universe book called Valley Forge, Valley Forge (which appears in the arc of the same name by the way) written by the brother of Stevie Goodwin, the young Marine who served and eventually died under the command of Frank Castle back in Vietnam. At one point, the author states that he was reasonably certain that his brother lost his virginity before he left for Vietnam. Stating that he was grateful that his brother hadn't died a virgin, if he had, it would have hurt him that much more.
  • Mutual Kill: In the penultimate issue #22 of Jason Aaron's run, both Frank Castle and Wilson Fisk mortally wound each other, though both keep going for a horrifying long. With Fisk making it to his tower before being locked out and finished off, while Castle made it part of the way back to his family's abandoned house/his last hideout before expiring.
  • Mysterious Past: In the MAX continuity Frank's military history started out as a mystery, with only the events of his third and final tour being detailed (in Born) and the rest being Noodle Incidents. However, lately that changed with Garth Ennis gradually filling in the blanks.

    N To R 
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Writer Garth Ennis seems to have a knack for coming up with these. Barracuda, The Man of Stone, and of course The Punisher.
  • Never Live It Down: Invoked. The general who'd come up with the terrorist plot after getting his face wrecked by Nick Fury. Characters in the story repeatedly bring up his humiliating beating and he reacts predictably in each case (i.e. sniveling).
  • The New Russia: A bit of a running theme throughout the series is the drastic changes that Russia has undergone in the past several years. Including the downsizing of the military, the rapidly increasing crime rate, and the abandonment and subsequent collapse of Communism. Some of the Russian characters cope with it well, others? Well... not so much.
  • Ninja: In Jason Aaron's final run, we are introduced to this continuity's version of the Hand. The shadowy cabal of assassins who Fisk employs to help him get rid of the Punisher. Although we don't get to see that much of them, what we do know is that they have been around for over 17 centuries.
  • No Name Given: The Mongolian. Zakharov's creepy, mute, right hand man is never given a proper name. In fact he never even says a word at all.
    • Ditto for Ink. Nicky Cavella's equally creepy mute henchmen.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: At one point, corrupt generals tried siccing special forces soldiers on him, figuring that Frank Castle couldn't bring himself to kill American soldiers... he sure didn't, but he didn't go quietly.note 
  • Nominal Hero: Frank's only interest is in killing people he thinks are bad. He'll save innocent lives when he can but he doesn't care about what happens to them afterwards. The only time he is actually interested in saving people are when children are involved and in "The Slavers," where the alternative is to let the police handle the girls he rescues, which would result in them being deported and enslaved or killed.
  • Normally, I Would Be Dead Now: Frank Castle simply WILL. NOT. DIE. The tough old bastard gets shot in the side of his chest, point-blank, with a shotgun. After acknowledging that one of his ribs is "...gone. Not broken, gone.", he gets into an extended fistfight with the man who shot him, tosses him out of a window, and carries on. It seems like you can't finish any story arc without Castle experiencing some near-fatal damage.
    • The Punisher's Nemesis Barracuda is the same. Shortly after meeting the Punisher, 'Cuda gets the fingers on his right hand chopped off, his eye stabbed out, and his teeth broken, not to mention later shot in the chest and hurled off a boat into shark-infested waters. Barracuda survives (he explains this by claiming he grabbed onto the back of the boat and got towed to shore), and comes after the Punisher again, and later tortured by having his nutsack clipped to a car battery, shot several times, blown up, his nose ripped off, before the Punisher finally kills him by chopping his hands off with an axe and shooting his head to bits with an AK-47. As Punisher had noted, "Barracuda was dead when you shot him to bits and shot the bits and burned them. Anything less just left that nagging doubt."
  • Not in Front of the Kid: During the Mother Russia arc, Frank and Delta Force commando Martin Vanheim are attempting to covertly flee from a nuclear silo base with a six year old girl in tow when they are met by a pair of unsuspecting guards. Vanheim, in a state of panic, preemptively opens fire on them, swearing up a storm all the while. Frank quickly chews out his overtly anxious comrade for jeopardizing the mission and swearing in front of a child.
  • Not Wearing Tights: Unlike his mainstream Marvel counterpart, this version of Frank Castle is never once seen wearing his iconic black and white tights. Instead he opts for a more practical leather outfit complete with a Badass Longcoat as his choice of attire. In order to better fit the series' more "realistic" aesthetic.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene:
    • The Punisher: Born mini series reveals that this happened all the time during Frank Castle's third and final tour in Vietnam. From Marines executing incapacitated enemy combatants, using overtly cruel attack methods, to one of the Marines actually having a bag full of human scalps that he keeps as "souvenirs". And that's not even getting in to the part were they tried to gang rape a female enemy...
    • All of the above examples pale in comparison to what General Zakharov got up to in Afghanistan. In the Man Of Stone arc, a British journalist calmly describes to Frank the sort of "tactics" that Zakharov would routinely employ against the Afghan fighters. The most infamous of these was the way he decided to goad the local Afghan rebels out of hiding. He did this by gathering up the entire population of a local Afghan village and had them forcibly thrown off a cliff one by one, much to the horror of the Afghan fighters. But the crowning moment would have to be when an Afghan woman begs Zakharov that he spare her infant son. How does Zakharov respond to this woman's plea? By taking the infant into his hands, and chucking the baby off a cliff. The scariest part is that we later learn that he did this to another six villages.
  • Off Model: In Long Cold Dark, there was quite a few illustration errors by fill-in artist Howard Chaykin. The most obvious being Barracuda's shapeshifting height. As he goes from being a 7 foot tall giant to a five foot dwarf. Thankfully Chaykin was eventually replaced by series regular Goran Parlov.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The closest Castle has ever gotten to doing one of these was when he was fighting Pittsy, a balding fatso of at least 60 years old. Halfway into the fight, he tore off Pittsy's bandage where he received an Eye Scream and broke his fingers. Pittsy gave him a Cluster F-Bomb in defiance and popped all of his fingers in place, ready to fight. Frank looked on in disbelief.
      Frank: Asshole's been eating his spinach.
    • Happens again when at the end of the arc, where Pittsy comes walking toward him, with part of the fence he was impaled on before Frank landed on him after a two-story leap out a window still sticking through him. Frank shoots him in the face with a shotgun, and the man falls after following a few more steps. Frank is left staring at the corpse, trying to convince himself the man is actually dead and those last few steps were reflexive.
    • Other than the usual reactions of villains to realizing the Punisher is here, one guy in "Six Hours to Kill" gets one when his sister's message (Frank has their geeky mook's phone, meaning he can find them) finally gets through.
  • Omniscient Morality License: Frank seems to know without fail whether any given person is a criminal who deserves death or not... or he's just extremely good at self-justification. This could be a trait he has as Death's avatar, an aspect of his character Ennis introduced.
  • One-Man Army: Frank, obviously. When General Zakharov is preparing for their rematch he acquires two military choppers and an incendiary bomb and can only hope it's enough to take him down. It's not.
    • Barracuda is every bit as unstoppable, and strategically brilliant as Frank. In one scenario he masterminds a meeting in a hotel between all of New York's major underworld players, in a guise to goad The Punisher into showing up, knowing that Frank would never miss this kind of opportunity. Once Barracuda has everyone in place, he makes his grand entrance into the hotel room floor, armed with an M60 and a sneering Slasher Smile. Cue Barracuda annihilating every living thing in the hotel room until only he and Frank remain.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted; since MAX is set in a more realistic universe than most Marvel books, Frank is noticeably impaired by severe injuries. Of course, in such situations he doesn't stop fighting, he just starts fighting dirty. The less strength he has to call on, the more creative he gets in his combat and interrogation methods. Barracuda once succeeds in putting him in traction - less than three days later, Frank's got Barracuda's nuts wired to a car battery, "and the world was a beautiful place." Less than three hours after that, Frank's burying a fire ax in Barracuda's chest (after removing both his arms).
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Lampshaded in a conversation between disfigured IRA bomber, Finn Cooley and his partner in crime, Michael Morrison, an American gun runner of Irish descent (who fakes an Irish accent when talking to Finn). At one point Finn literally has to tape what's left of his face to keep it in place. When Michael asks if it slips, Finn casually replies 'Like your accent?".
  • Papa Wolf: In Long Cold Dark, Castle's vengeful nemesis Barracuda targets Frank by kidnapping the daughter he unknowingly had with Kathryn O'Brien. When finds out, he is pissed, to say the least, and at one point he spends an hour running electricity from a car battery through 'Cuda's genitals in retribution.
    • Let's not forget the beginning of the arc, when 'Cuda actually gets the drop on Frank and handcuffs him to a chair, then reveals his daughter and holds a knife to her, Frank goes into full-on Unstoppable Rage and has to piece together the following events by examining his injuries in a hospital bed.
    • In the first arc, Castle is conversing with one of his hooker informants. He's glaring at a pimp, who's guarding over a young girl. He asks his informant how old the girl is. She says the girl is about 13 and mentions that she's been doped up. Castle then walks over to the pimp, grabs him by the hair, pulls him into the alley, and emerges from the alley alone.
    Frank: Tell the new guy to watch himself. [walks off]
    Old Hooker: ...that was not my fuckin' fault.
  • The Paragon: At the end of the second MAX series, Frank becomes this in a dark kind of way. His latest skirmish with MAX!Kingpin has proven fatal for the both of them, and after over 30 years, Frank Castle's war is finally over. As MAX!Nick Fury cleans up the carnage left by Frank's last battle, he muses that Frank's war was ultimately useless in the big picture. Cue news reports of citizens across New York banding together in Punisher-themed gear and exacting vigilante justice on local criminals. Even Fury had to crack a smile.
  • Parental Substitute: During the events of Mother Russia, Frank acts as a father figure to Galina. The six year old Russian girl who he is tasked with returning to the States. Although he tries to keep his emotions at bay, you can tell that Frank grows close to the child. Going out of his way to protect the child and even getting the little girl some ice cream! Which makes their eventual break up all the more heartbreaking.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Ever since Castle's family was slain in a mob hit, this has become Castle's entire MO. Exactly how far he is willing to go with it depends on the situation.
    • The Slaver's is one of the more infamous examples of this trope. In it, Castle is battling a group of war criminals turned human traffickers who do horrible, horrible things to their captives. When Frank gets his hands on one of the three ring leaders behind the operation, he douses the bastard with gasoline and burns him alive. And he films the whole thing. Let's just say Frank spends the rest of the arc, finding other "inventive" ways to dish out payback.
    • The other two ring leaders were also disposed of in very graphic ways. The daughter was thrown against a shatterproof window face first multiple times till the window frame broke, making her do a swan dive many stories high. Her brother ended up getting drugged, dragged out into the wilderness, had his stomach slit open, and hung from his own entrails on a tree branch. Then Frank 'woke him up before letting him bleed out.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: Nicky Cavella's cross-eyed hecnhman, Ink, got his nickname when he killed a guy by shoving a pen in his eye and into his brain.
    Larry: Stabbed him in the neck?
    Nicky: Stabbed him in the eye. Just kept goin' till he hit brain.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • A typical moment would be when Punisher's Berserk Button is smashed and he discovers women smuggled into sex slavery. He rescues them then as they speed off he hands a detonator to one of the captives, telling her to blow up the ship and the slavers.
    • In his final appearance, Nick Fury finds Frank had written I'm sorry on the walls of his old house (for failing to save his family.) Fury then pets the dog by using Frank's flamethrower to burn the house down and drive away the police raking over old wounds.
    • Bullseye, of all people has one of these moments when he pulls Vanessa Fisk aside (after she had just been kicked out by her husband) and advises her to abandon her plans for revenge, and try to move on, lest she become a monster like him. This leads to Bullseye going off on a tangent about how his life has devolved into nothing but severe neurosis that he keeps at bay through killing, which is the only thing that makes him feel functional and alive.
    Bullseye: I'm glad we had this talk.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Pittsy, dear lord Pittsy. The tough little bastard punches well beyond his weight, and is one of the few characters in the entire series to give Frank a run for his money, and came damn near close to actually killing Frank on more than one occasion. Not only that but the little guy is every bit as durable as he is strong.
  • Plot-Powered Stamina: After shrugging off shotgun shells and sniper rifle bullets for years, in "Widowmaker" Frank takes a nine mil from a suppressed MP5 at considerable distance, and apparently it went right through his chest, creating a hole in his back that according to Jenny, "was too big for sutures, all I could do was pack it full of gauze." He spends the rest of the story arc bed-ridden, allowing Jenny to become the "She-Punisher" for a short while.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Nicky Cavella, Rawlins, the Bulats, the Generals, and Finn Cooley all drop ethnic slurs like it's going out of style. This gets Finn in deep shit when he loudly proclaims he'll "never be anyone's nigger again!" in a bar full of black guys. The Heavy/Jigsaw is pretty racist as well as very misogynistic, referring to Hispanic women as "spic bitches", "coozes", and "whores" nearly every time he opens his mouth.
  • Pow Camp: In Valley Forge, Valley, Colonel Howe recalls a nightmarish experience he had while being held in a VC pow camp. Mentioning how the VC would take each prisoner to a secluded area and then bring back the prisoners severed hands and feet.
  • Private Eye Monologue: The series is typically narrated by The Punisher, who's every bit as gritty and cynical as one would expect.
  • Psycho for Hire:
    • Finn Cooley used to be this, until he decided that this lifestyle was for the birds and that he was going to get him some sweet inheritance money. So he could ride Angelina Jolie if she'd have him, apparently. Didn't last long, unfortunately.
    • Bullseye takes this to a whole new level, with his psychotic side being even less picky about the death and destruction caused in carrying out his contracts than in his other incarnations.
  • Punch Clock Villain: The Russian soldiers guarding the nuclear silo base in Mother Russia. Most of whom are just conscripts who aren't even aware of what it is that they are truly guarding. And are only following orders till they are shipped out and stationed some place else.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Nicky Cavella and his crew from the first arc. His crew consist of himself, a near mute enforcer who can only say, "Huh," and a Napoleon-esque creep in a track suit.
  • Race Lift: Elektra is changed into being a Japanese woman, as apposed to a Greek woman who happens to dress like a ninja and use martial arts.
  • Rape and Revenge: An extremely ruthless example occurs in Jason Aaron's first arc. Where Wilson Fisk is gang-raped by five men and spends three weeks in the infirmary as a result of the vicious assault. However, instead of retaliating immediately. Fisk slowly bides his time, saving his revenge until he is released. Once he gets out of jail, he tracks down the perpetrator's wife, and has her gang-raped by the filthiest bums and crackheads he could find, taking pictures all the while, which he sends to the perp. The perp predictably goes ballistic upon seeing the photos, escapes from prison, and races back home only to find... Fisk... calmly waiting for him.
  • Rare Guns: Quite a few actually.
    • In one cover, Frank can be seen dual wielding a pair of Desert Eagles. He puts this gun to good use later on in the Slavers arc.
    • In Mother Russia, when Frank has to take care of some Russian gangsters. He uses a SPAS-12 shotgun to get the job done.
  • Rasputinian Death: Given the nature of the series, it's no surprise that this trope tends to come up every now and then.
    • The first arc, has Frank fighting Cavella's insanely tough and durable lackey Pittsy. After trading punches (and shivs) with him, Frank tosses the little guy out the window, where he lands several stories down onto a spiked iron fence, impaling him through the torso, Frank then jumps from the window and lands on the poor bastard, further impaling him. Later Pittsy (fence still jutting through him), stumbles towards Frank; who promptly blasts him in the face with a shotgun blast. Even then, Frank has to mentally reassure himself that the next steps the guy takes are purely reflexive.
    • When Frank later "meets" Pittsy's sister Theresa; he soon discovers that she's every bit as durable as her brother, and needs to empty out an entire 9mm clip into her, just to make sure she's dead.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with Barracuda. Over the course of several fights Frank stabs him, gouges his right eye out, knocks out his teeth, cuts off the fingertips of his left hand, strangles him with barbed wire, shoots him point blank in the groin, chest and face. Then tosses him into shark infested waters... which he survives somehow. When the two meet up for the last time, he blows him up with a claymore, fractures his skull with a wrench, bites off another one of his fingers, breaks his arm, bites a chunk out of his cheek, stabs him again, hooks up a car battery to his testicles for an hour, shoots him with an M-60, tears off his nose with some pliers, cuts off his arm with an ax, shoots his head to bits with an AK, then lights up his remains... just to be sure...
    • Frank himself is a victim of this trope. As he spends the latter half of the "homeless" arc, dying a slow agonizing death. In issue #21, still bloody and battered from his fight with Elektra, Frank later journeys over to his old house where the Kingpin (AKA: Wilson Fisk) and half a dozen of his goons are waiting for him. Once there, the goons quickly surround Frank and proceed to open fire on him... except... Frank won't go down... Fighting through the pain, Frank manages to kill all the goons and engages Fisk in a vicious drag-out street fight. The next page then cuts to Fisk just outside his tower, begging the guards to let him in. Unfortunately for Fisk, Frank kills him before he can retreat inside. Having killed the Kingpin, Frank then walks all the way back to his old home before finally succumbing to his wounds and dying on the streets.
    Nick Fury: Autopsy's taking forever. I asked the coroner for a cause of death and he just laughs. He's up to eight pages of injuries with no end in sight.
  • Rated M for Manly: It should came as no surprise that an adults only comic book about one of the most gritty, violent, and overly-masculine vigilante's in all of fiction falls into this trope. At times the obscene levels of machismo (such as that one time when Frank HALO jumped out of a nuke) border on self-parody.
  • Reality Ensues: To keep in line with the series' more realistic and grounded approach, this trope tends to happen a lot. Usually at the worst possible moment.
    • Jason Aaron's final run on the Punisher shows us exactly what a 30+ year war on the criminal underworld can have on your mind and on your body. It makes you slow, old, arthritic, unable to shrug off injuries that would have barely fazed you years before, and that much more prone to slipping up. And the more you slip up, the less intimidating you are to the criminal underworld that you hunt.
    • A big emphasis is placed throughout the series on how the Punisher's success rate is at least partly owing to the fact that a majority those he targets are just low-level gangsters. Intimidating to the average Joe, but completely out of their depth when it comes to actual combat. So in the Slaver's arc, where he attempts to attack what he later realizes are a group of battle-hardened Bosnian war vets who do know what they're doing, he quickly realizes he's made huge mistake and is forced to flee for his life. See Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, above for more details.
    • A more (darkly) humorous example occurs later on during Bullseye's introduction, where he threatens to kill a man with a toothpick. He flicks it at the guys forehead... and it bounces right off.
    Bullseye: Don't be stupid, even I can't kill someone with a toothpick. [Pulls out a gun] But I can with this.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Ennis took quite a bit of heat for In the Beginning, because he has Frank refuse to hunt Bin Laden for the CIA, referring to his Vietnam war days as the last he'd ever waste fighting for the government. Later, Micro admits that his handler's plan to fund the hunt with Afghan heroin. No way the CIA would smuggle drugs, right? Right?
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: In contrast to the cabal of crooked generals who hired him, Colonel Howe is presented as such. So much so that even the informant that the generals sent to go meet with him was surprised to see just how formal and polite Howe was.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In the final issue of the series, we have Nick Fury and a pair of detectives examining the corpse of Frank Castle as it lays on an autopsy table. After one detective makes a callous off-handed remark, Fury chews the guy out with this:
    Nick Fury: He was still out there... every night... doing for free what you guys get paid to do. Waging a fucking war, all on his goddamn lonesome, taking on the absolute worst this city had to offer... While you shitbirds were busy ass-raping immigrants and pepper spraying college girls and calling it fucking police work, whining all the while about overtime and your goddamn pension like a bunch of fucking candy-ass pogues.
  • Redshirt Army: The CIA's elite Alpha squad unit spends the first few issues being hyped up by they're handler as being the best the military has to offer. With a few of them even being ex-Delta Force. Despite this, all it takes is for Ink to sneak on top of the elevator that they are in, tamper with the cables a little bit, and ''presto''. Alpha Squad is on they're way down to a gruesome fate.
  • Reds with Rockets: The Russian military occasional plays an antagonistic role in the series. First in Mother Russia, where they are trying to prevent Frank, and a Delta Force operator from taking off with a six year old girl whose blood contains an experimental super virus. And they appear once again in Man Of Stone. This time in a far more villainous role, as General Zakharov and his Soviet Black Sea Marines. What's more, we later learn that the aforementioned General and his Marines took part in the Soviet-Afghan War.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Subverted and discussed. In one interview, writer Garth Ennis says that one of the advantages of writing The Punisher for the Max line, is that if you have incredibly powerful super-beings then it makes many of the wars and events of the real world look unnecessary.
  • Refuge in Audacity: What the entirety of the Mother Russia arc can best be described as. As the absurdity of the story (Frank fighting off the Russian army, and escaping via HALO jumping out of a nuclear missile) clashes with the overall realistic tone of the rest of the series.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A number of stories will occasionally make use of current events. This ranges from corporate fraud, to slavery, to even the then on going War on Terror. Usually so writer Garth Ennis, can give us his opinion on the matter.
    • In particular, The Slavers appears to be based on The Guardian article "Streets of Despair", with Garth Ennis even basing scenes off of real life moments transcribed in the article, including direct quotes, and even using the same names of the interviewees (which, as the article notes, were changed for their protection).
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Frank regularly goes on one in nearly every story arc, terrorizing whoever was stupid enough to mess with him or someone he cares about.
    • In Up is Down and Black is White, Nicky Cavella has the brilliant idea of desecrating the remains of his family and releases the footage to the news media. Frank did not take this too well. Let's just say Nicky got what he deserved and the crime rate went down significantly.
    • For another example of what happens when you really piss off Frank Castle, look at The Slavers, where he finds a sex slavery ring that tried to intimidate a woman into silence by killing her baby. Frank's path of destruction is something to behold. He tracks down one ringleader, knocks him out, and wakes him so that he can see he's been disemboweled, with his intestines tied to tree branches. Once he rats out his buddies, Frank leaves him there and moves on to the next accountant. Who he hurls against a shatterproof window face first multiple times till it pops out of frame, causing the accountant to fall to her death. Once he finds the true ringleader, he ties him to a chair, sets him on fire, and films the whole thing. Later mailing it to the slavers associates as a warning.
  • Rogues Gallery: Frank Castle doesn't have much of a rogues gallery for obvious reasons. However, they are a few villains who prove clever and tenacious to come back for a couple more arcs. Chief among them are: Nicky Cavella (who's in two story arcs), the Man of Stone (two story arcs as well), Barracuda (two story arcs) and lastly the Kingpin. Who appears in the most arcs (four of them to be exact) including the last one.
  • R Rated Opening: The series opens up with Frank recounting the fateful day in Central Park where his family where slain in a mob shootout. Complete with graphic depictions of Frank's dead family. Shortly afterwards we see Frank laying waste to dozens of Capos with his signature M60, along with copious amounts of blood and gore flying everywhere, that thanks to some brilliant artwork by Lewis Larosa is made equal parts nauseating and awesome. It's important to note that all of this happens before the first issue is even finished.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: The slavers exemplify this. A lot of emphasis is placed on their war time experience, and Frank has trouble finding out information on them because every other pimp in the city is terrified of them.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: The River Rats from Kitchen Irish. The River Rats are a group of pirates out of Hell's Kitchen in New York City who primarily rob rich people on yachts. Unfortunately for them, their "ruthless" reputation doesn't do them much good when they end up running into the Punisher. As he manages to kill the majority of them with ease.

    S To Z 
  • Scary Black Man:
    • Barracuda. The guy loses all the fingers on one hand and immediately reacts with a laugh and a smile.
    • Maginty; the self professed "Baddest nigger who ever came outta Dublin", from "Kitchen Irish": Kidnaps a Retired Monster's grandson to make him do his work (cutting up bodies so they can't be found) on a live man, then brings said grandkid in to watch.
  • Schmuck Bait: Amazingly enough, despite being a seasoned Marine veteran with 30+ years of vigilante experience, The Punisher of all people falls victim to one of these. In Up is Down, Black is White, when Frank comes after Nicky Cavella for desecrating the remains of his family. Rawlins sets up an incredibly obvious trap for Frank. Under the belief that he would be so blinded by seething rage that he wouldn't care about the obvious trap and try to kill Cavella anyway. Even Frank acknowledges this trope as he moves in for the kill.
    Frank: Already feel the crosshairs on me. I know that shithole'll explode with wiseguys, the instant I point the gun. But I drive on. Exactly what's expected of me.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: At the climax of Up Is Down and Black is White, Nicky Cavella's mooks abandon him en masse when he orders them to attack the Punisher after a particularity bloody shootout.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The image of many covers usually depicts Frank menacingly pointing a gun at the reader.
  • Semper Fi:
    • During his time in Vietnam, Frank was a Force Recon Marine. What's more, in his final tour of duty he was the Captain of a Marine Outpost.
    • Given as the reason for Howe's involvement in Frank's capture: the U.S. armed forces trained the guy, and look what he did with that training.
    • When General Zakharov returns in the "Man of Stone" arc, he brings along his squad of Soviet Black Sea Marines to help him deal with The Punisher. Frank wipes them all out by the way.
  • Serial Killer: Frank tries to present himself as the Mission-Based type, but in later stories, he's shown to be more of the Hedonistic type; subconsciously obsessed with the idea of a never-ending war to sate the bloodlust he developed in Vietnam.
  • Sex Slave: The Slavers arc, sees Frank taking on a slave-trafficking ring. The horrible, horrible things that the slavers do to the people they've enslaved hits every one of Castle's Berserk Buttons concerning violence of women and children in general, resulting in one of his most brutal killing sprees.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: With Born, Garth Ennis has suggested that in Vietnam, Frank started to love combat and killing people, with the death of his family possibly being only the final straw that caused his killing sprees.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Welcome to the Bayou has an absolutely psychotic woman suggesting this as Frank's fate. He thinks he'd prefer being eaten by cannibals.
  • Shout-Out: "Up Is Down And Black Is White" has O'Brien reading a book by Joe R Lansdale while in prison.
    • At one point in Mother Russia, we have Frank giving us his best Rambo impression, when he jumps in back of a Dushka and proceeds to lay waste to some very unfortunate Russian soldiers.
    • A subtle one appears on the cover of issue #5; Frank can be seen wielding a custom M1911 that is identical to the one that Thomas Jane used in the 2004 Punisher film.
    • One of the SAS commandos from Man of Stone is named "Gaz". Hmm... now where else have we heard that name before?
    • The Tyger one-shot story features numerous references to famous poems. A few of them include:
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Garth Ennis is notable for being one of the very few comic book writers who actually gets their military history and terminology right.
    • In the Mother Russia arc, when Frank has to go and deal with some Russian commandos, he correctly tells Galina to cover her ears and close her mouth, that way the noise from all the gunshots won't hurt her. The ears part is self-explanatory. You want your mouth to be open because the pressure wave from the shots will cause your lungs to burst if you don't.
    • The British Troops in Afghanistan are correctly shown using L85 bullpups. Which is the standardized rifle for most British soldiers. A neat little detail that most people might not notice.
  • Showy Invincible Hero: It's pretty much a given that Frank is going to annihilate any bad guy unfortunate enough to find himself on Frank's shit list. The fun comes in watching how Frank is going to annihilate said bad guy
  • Silent Whisper: Bullseye whispers something to Frank as they fight. Frank's reaction implies Bullseye was spot on in guessing what the last thing Frank ever said to his wife was. In addition, we also see in a flashback how Frank's wife reacts to what he said, even though what he said isn't shown. Best guess, based on both those scenes as well as Frank's very manifest discontent with both returning home from the war and trying to fit in as a husband and father: "I'm leaving."
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: As expected from an adults only series written by Garth Ennis', just about every character speaks with a very colorful vocabulary that would make a trucker blush. But Nick Fury is by far the most vulgar of all the characters by a mile.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: "The Slavers" is the most notorious arc of the entire run. It doesn't gloss over how horrific human trafficking is, and the leaders of the ring die worse than any other character during the series.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Much like the rest of Garth Ennis' work, the series is on the deep, deep, deep end of the cynicism spectrum.
  • Smug Snake:
    • The conspiracy of generals in the arc "Valley Forge, Valley Forge" is perhaps the best example, as it consists of eight incompetent Smug Snakes (who cause a great deal of death and suffering nevertheless), but it is far from the only example... the Punisher's opponents in general are no criminal masterminds.
    • Nicky Cavella was downgraded to this as the start of his Villain Decay.
    • Rawlins is so much of a smug snake that he can't help but crack wise even when he's getting his eye pulled out by the Punisher. It'd make him pretty badass actually if he wasn't such a sniveller.
    • If Bullseye wasn't so frightening and bloodthirsty he'd go down as the biggest Smug Snake of them all. He's so full of himself that he takes time out to tease Frank during their chases.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Frank is usually interpreted as this to the point where he cannot even smile at the deeds he does He has essentially taken his war to the streets showing no pity, remorse or fear against gangsters, psychos, killers, rapists, criminals or Hired Guns. Some suggest it was his experience in Vietnam that made him this way, making a Deal with the Devil, all works show it was losing his family that made him nuts. Whatever the case he is a broken type 2 and 4, to the point where he regrets not having someone to kill, or even having a wife and kids in the first place (though this can be interpreted as if he didn't they wouldn't have been in the park, they wouldn't have been killed and they he wouldn't have turned into the sociopath he is today.)
  • Soviet Invasionof Afghanistan: Sadistic General Nikolai Zakharov served in the war alongside his Black Sea Marines. What's more, later on we learn exactly how they fought. Hint: It involves genocide and infant homicide
    • Later on, the Man Of Stone story arc sees Frank going over to Afghanistan to deal with Zakharov and his Marines. And the parallels to the Soviet-Afghan war are laid on thick.
  • Spanner in the Works: This sort of thing tends to happen a lot in this series.
    • In the very first arc, the CIA successfully manages to apprehend Frank Castle and plans on recruiting him so he may once again work for the government. Until Nicolas Cavella and his crew barge in to their base of operations and all hell breaks loose. Which inadvertently helps Frank in getting away.
    • In Up is Down, and Black is White, Kathryn O'Brien's unforeseen intervention succeeds in derailing Rawlins' plans of assassinating the Punisher.
    • Happens once again in Widowmaker this time with Jennifer Cesare being the one to save Franks ass from yet another assassination attempt. This time from a pair of pissed off mafia widows.
  • Spin-Off: The 2007 five issue miniseries starring everyone's favorite Psycho for Hire Barracuda.
  • Stun Gun: The Delta Force commandos sent to apprehend Frank are all armed with one of these. Unfortunately for them, the tasers have no effect. In the end the Delta's are only able to finally bring Frank down after they have shot, beaten and tased him multiple times.
  • Sudden Name Change: Microchip's real name is changed from "Linus Lieberman" to "David L. Lieberman". Frank's daughter is also given the name Lisa, when previously she had been referred to as either Barbara or Christie.
  • Suicide Mission: This is more or less what "Operation Barbarossa" is. A high risk covert mission that involves sneaking into a Russian missile base, stealing a biochemical super weapon, and getting out undetected. It's no wonder why Nick Fury hand picked Frank Castle for this job.
    Nick Fury: One job. High risk. Just about impossible. You fuck up, no one's ever heard of you.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Averted or subverted repeatedly.
    • When general Zakharov gave a Motive Rant detailing why he did all of those horrible things — and not smashing his face in mid-sentence, but instead waiting until the end and even asking if he was ready. It was a Mercy Kill, but after hearing what Frank did about the general, it's doubtful that he would've spared him even if he wasn't dying. But Zakharov's final words do to seem to touch a nerve in Frank, given how he's a veteran of The Vietnam War, in which he did more than a few horrible things himself.
      Zakharov: Kill (Rawlins), Castle. Our world is bad, but we are soldiers. He is a parasite; he would make the world this way forever.
    • The ONLY person Frank feels sorry for when he guns down a cadre of swamp-dwelling cannibals is the Psychopathic Manchild banished to the edge of the community, kinda-sorta blaming himself for pissing the poor bastard off.
    • Despite having ample opportunity to kill him, Frank merely non-fatally wounds The Brute in Six Hours to Kill after realizing that he is borderline-psychotic Shell-Shocked Veteran of the Vietnam War who is more than likely being manipulated by the rest of Room 101.
  • The Syndicate: Although the five crime families in New York initially start off as separate entities. Over the course of Jason Aaron's first arc, Don Rigoletto has Wilson Fisk go from family to family, slowly but surely earning the trust and respect of each family. Until they finally agree to join Don Rigoletto's newly proposed syndicate. Once the syndicate has been formed, Fisk then kills Don Rigoletto, usurping his position, taking over his new found crime syndicate.
  • Take That!: During Garth Ennis' run, these were very common.
    • The Kitchen Irish arc, is basically one long tract made up of Ennis venting out his hatred of the IRA, by having characters talk about how stupid and cowardly the group really is. As well as bashing Irish-Americans who unquestionably support the IRA without knowing the real facts behind the Troubles.
    • The Barracuda arc may is well be one giant middle finger to Enron, and crooked corporations in general.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: A common tactic used by Frank whenever he wants to be absolutely sure that his target won't get back up again. Such as when he's laying waste to a gang of mobsters.
    Frank: Fresh belt to finish off the wounded. To make sure no one's faking. Fire at moans. At movement. Give them the whole two hundred rounds. Just to be absolutely sure.
    • In the second issue he explains this strategy in depth.
    Frank: You get the other guy on the ropes. You keep him there. You mangle his ears. Fill his eyes up with blood. Pulp his kidneys, grind his ribs. Don't let up. And if he still won't hit the canvas, you go on and bleed him to death.
  • Threatening Shark: This is one of Barracuda's favorite ways of disposing of his victims. In his first fight with Frank, he overpowers him and wins the fight. Instead of, say, shooting Frank there and then and not having to worry about him later, Barracuda simply throws him into the ocean to be eaten by a great white shark. This doesn't work.
    • Later on in an act of poetic justice, it's Barracuda who finds himself being fed to the sharks.
  • To Know Him, I Must Become Him: When the Kingpin hires Bullseye to kill Frank Castle in Jason Aaron's second arc, Bullseye first fails to kill Frank when the latter shows up and tries to snipe the Kingpin. With his first attempt a failure, Bullseye embarks on a quest to get inside Frank's head. This involves sleeping in his old hideouts so he may look into his dreams. (Yeah, Bullseye is weird like that) Wearing Frank's old clothes, eating his food, and finally recreate what created the Punisher in the first place — by kidnapping families, then having them murdered in the park while pretending he's the father. He repeats this three times, but still doesn't get any closer to understanding what drove Frank to become the Punisher. That is until he spends a week isolated in a room while staring at old family photos of Frank and his family, and finally realizes something that no one else has: Frank's last words to Lisa before she and the kids were killed — "I'm leaving".
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Special mention goes to Nicky Cavella, a jackass of a mob dude who got the astoundingly bright idea to dig up the remains of Frank's family and urinate on them. And then release the footage to the news media in the hopes of getting Castle pissed off and go berserk. Yeah. It's been nice knowing you, Nicky. Notably, it doesn't even work: Instead of murdering the hell out of Nicky, Frank instead murders the hell out of everyone but Nicky, demanding that the city re-bury his family's remains, or he'll keep murder-spreeing until they do. When they finally do bury the remains, then Frank goes after Nicky, completely calm and utterly vindictive. Nicky spent the intervening time oscillating between gloating that the Punisher was terrified of him and doing his work of taking out other gangs, and batshit paranoid that Frank was going to kill him at any second.
      • As Rawlins pointed out, Nicky didn't spend any of that time getting mooks that could have taken advantage of Frank's dropped guard! (Frank's still pissed off enough that when he goes after Nicky, he goes along with an obvious setup despite recognizing the setup for one, but he's bailed out of that one.)
    • Another special mention goes to the Westies/Maginty/River Rats/Cooley for actually believing that their Retired Monster boss actually wanted to give them his fortune. Frank and Yorkie couldn't help but think that this was odd and they didn't even know him.
  • Torture Always Works: Zigzagged. Usually Frank can get whatever information he needs through torture. But in the "Force of Nature", Frank describes how some people will keep their mouths shut even when threatened with death, and how others will shut down before revealing anything useful. He has to come up with an elaborate plot to get information from a trio of low level crooks. Barracuda also dismisses torture as a way to get his revenge, reasoning that someone like Castle will eventually disconnect.
  • Torture Technician: Used to great effect by Frank, whenever he finds a criminal who won't break easily. Perfectly demonstrated in The Slavers where Frank knows that his usual torture techniques won't work on a pair of battle-hardened slavers, and realizes that in order to break these men, he will have to go to much greater "extremes".
    • He gets one slaver to snitch on his buddies by disemboweling him, and wrapping his intestines around a pair of tree branches. Then patiently sits back and waits for him to talk.
  • Tranquil Fury: Frank varies between this and Unstoppable Rage, depending on the situation. The point that really pushed it over the edge was when Nicky Cavella had the brilliant idea of desecrating his families remains in an effort to piss off Frank. And it worked, he snapped even more than usual from his default Unstoppable Rage to full on Tranquil Fury. Frank than proceeds to methodically go from bar to bar, slaughtering unconnected criminals until the city officials rebury his family. Then he goes after the scumbag who did it.
    • After seeing what Cavella did on the news, a random patron even calls it out.
    Random Patron: That... that guy is gonna go fucking berserk...
  • Translation Convention: All the Russian characters in Mother Russia speak amongst themselves in English for some reason. We can guess that they are actually speaking in Russian and it's only said in English for the benefit of the reader.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Another one of the many criminal organizations operating in New York. They have a brief but memorable appearance when Nicky pays them a visit and teaches them why you don't fuck with the Cesare Crime Family. Hint: It involves child homicide and soup... please don't ask for more details.
  • Trophy Wife: The role played by the sexually promiscuous Mrs. Alice Ebbing. Wife of Harry Ebbing. What's more she's well aware of this fact and sick and tire of it. And decides to get back at her stuffy husband by screwing the brains out of his most trusted associate.
  • The Troubles: Mined for all it's worth by writer Garth Ennis. The second arc, Kitchen Irish, features a disfigured Irish terrorist coming to New York to claim a recently deceased Irish gangsters inheritance. With the goal of using said inheritance to continue funding his war against Britain.
  • Twofer Token Minority: One of the cops in the Slavers arc is black and gay. Which gets him no shortage of crap from his fellow officers.
  • The Unfettered: Given the dark nature of this series, it's no surprise that this character archetype shows up frequently. With various degrees of decadence.
    • Frank Castle is a rare protagonist example. While his mainstream incarnations usually depict him as a brutal yet vindictive individual who "does what needs to be done". Here, he is depicted as completely unfettered.
    • General Nikolai Zakharov is a truly monstrous example. During the Soviet-Afghan War, he would routinely gather up entire villages and have them forcibly pushed off of cliffs. And that's not even getting into the part about the baby...
    • Bullseye takes this further than all the other examples combined. He never had any fetters to begin with.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Frank gets rid of a general threatening to shut down his base by drawing him in range of a Vietcong sniper and standing in front of the warning sign.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Despite being something of an unstoppable killing machine, Frank Castle, is typically a very calm, methodical man. That is until Nicky Cavella, dug up his family's remains and pisses on them. This did not go down well. A livid Mr.Castle proceeded to pack up his M-249 and consecutively attack various criminal hideouts, racking up 68 bodies... in one night. It was so bad that he wasn't even really aware of what he was doing each time until the recoil from his gun kicked in. He was in a sort of perpetual hallucination until his family was returned to their graves.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: The fate of O'Brien. The tough, sexy, badass CIA chick whose skilled in violence and mayhem. Who along with Frank manages to successfully kill off most of Zakharov's crew... only to step on a land mine mere moments later. Fulfilling this trope, O'Brian's more demure, domesticated sister survives and goes on to raise her child.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Yorkie Mitchell meets with Frank, bringing with him the son of a fellow soldier murdered by an Irish terrorist now hiding in New York. In the end, the kid kills his father's murderer, but states he doesn't feel any better for it.
  • The Vietnam War: The Vietnam War is quite possibly the most integral part of Frank's backstory. As it's shown as having been a major turning point in his and life and what would eventually mold him into becoming the Punisher. What's more the Born mini-series chronicles Frank's final tour of duty there.
    • Supporting characters Yorkie Mitchell, and Nick Fury both participated in the war.
  • Vietnamese with Kalashnikovs: The enemies that Frank faced off against during his tours of duty in the Vietnam War. More specifically, he goes up against elements of the Viet Cong, and later on, the NVA. Both of whom, prove extremely resilient.
  • Vigilante Man: The Punisher obviously. However, unlike other incarnations of the character, this series thoroughly analyses and deconstructs the concept. Showing how this character archetype would fair in a more real world setting.
  • Villain Episode: The gist behind Barracuda's mini-series. Where we get to see a day in the life of the Ax-Crazy merc.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Cavella and Barracuda break down spectacularly, the former turning into a simpering pants-wetter and the latter turning into a raving lunatic. Finn Cooley's breakdown is more physical than mental, as his face continues rotting with each appearance. Surprisingly averted with Rawlins, though, because even as things repeatedly go to hell for him he can't help but act the smug little weasel he is, and a simple "Oh no" — with an Oh, Crap! expression — suffices for his final downfall.
  • Villainous Valour: Although the criminals that Frank fights are usually the lowest form of human trash, this trope pops up every now and then.
    • First, with Pittsy. The mean, vicious little bastard who gives Frank his first real challenge, and even gets him reeling on two separate occasions.
    • Once more with Tiberiu and his henchmen. Yes, they are a group of amoral slave traffickers, but their combat prowess cannot be ignored. After all, it takes a very special group of individuals to force a man like Frank Castle to run for his life.
    • Becomes a major problem for Frank in the final arc, where after having his reputation tarnished by a number of setbacks. The thugs who once feared him are now beginning to fight back more ferociously than ever. Standing there ground instead of running, and even giving chase when Frank attempts to run away.
    • Kingpin's hired goons show a surprising amount of loyalty for a pair of crooks. Best demonstrated in the second to last issue where they finally have Frank surrounded, and begin opening fire on him from all sides... Except Frank won't go down... Amazed by this show of resiliency, Kingpin's goons continue firing back, not letting up for even a second. One of them even tells Fisk to run for his life while they hold him off.
  • The Voiceless: The Mongolian is never heard uttering a single word. Appropriately enough, his real name is never revealed either.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Like many other discretion shot tropes this one is averted with extreme prejudice.
  • War Is Hell: A running theme throughout the series, is to show just about every armed conflict in the past century, from the Vietnam War (Frank), Yugoslav wars (the slavers), and the Soviet-Afghan war (General Zakharov). As pointless, and senselessly violent wastes of life, that accomplish nothing in the long run. And only leaves all those involved in said conflicts scarred for life. As is tragically the case for many of the characters in the series.
  • The War on Terror: The effects and ramifications of 9/11, and the subsequent war that followed it, play a big role in the overall series. The very first story arc deals with the CIA attempting to recruit Frank, so he may aid them in their hunt for Osama Bin-Laden. He rejects their offer by the way. The Man of Stone arc, has Frank going over to Afghanistan to deal with General Zakharov and his squad of renegade Russian commandos. But the most notable example, would have to be when Frank and Nick Fury talk about the potential blowback of the war. The conversation they have is down right chilling in hindsight, when one considers the events that where born out of the war in the middle east.
    Fury: You ever think we might have something coming to us for this shit?
    Frank: What shit?
    Fury: That.
    [Points at a television broadcast that is covering the war in Iraq, along with a description on the screen that reads that the death toll for US troops has now risen to 4000]
    Fury: Fuck... we invent a war and we invade. And how many of them are dead now? Half a mil or something like that?
    Frank: Depends on who you believe.
    Fury: Leaves a lot of pissed-off people with nothing to lose. I don't know what it'll be. Guy with something in a briefcase wandering into Times Square. A plane again. But we've got something coming, that I know.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: The Mennonite, is a curious example. He shows up fairly late in the first arc, yet is given a fairly deep backstory, complete with a loving family and even a compelling reason to go after the Punisher. Making us believe that he will play a major role in what's to come. Despite this, he appears in all of only 3 issues before finally being killed by the Punisher. Granted he did but on one hell of a fight before he went down, but still.
  • We Have Reserves: Subverted spectacularly at one point; Nicky Cavella, desperate to finish off the Punisher, attempts to bully his capo underlings into giving him their men. Not only do they tell him to get bent, they also rant at how they're not going to serve as cannon fodder for an obvious General Failure, complete with his mooks giving him a Hannibal Lecture on how much of a fuckup he is. This took major brass on their end, since Nicky was known for among other things chopping up a preteen and serving him to his father. Though it helped that Cavella no longer had any soldiers left (the Punisher had killed them all), and his enforcers Pittsy and Ink were also dead, hence he no longer had any power whatsoever over his capos.
    • Played perfectly straight in the Mother Russia arc. Which sees the Punisher having to fight his way out of a nuclear silo base in Siberia. And the Russian military seems to have no problem sending wave after wave of conscript soldiers to go and stop him. Most of whom are slaughtered by Frank.
    Frank Castle: Russian military never was too sentimental about spending lives.
    [Frank finishes slaughtering the current wave of Russian troops]
    Frank: — I'm not too sentimental either.
  • Western Terrorists: Before he had his face blown the fuck off, Finn Cooley was once a fanatical member of the IRA, before becoming disillusioned. His nephew has since followed in his footsteps and joined the IRA.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Frank gets one of these when he confronts the host of a right-wing radio program with a very anti-immigration agenda. The radio host's response to Frank edges into Bullying a Dragon and Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?, since he clearly knows who Frank is and what he's capable of, and isn't intimidated in the slightest. He asks that if Frank is planning on killing him, then what is he killing him for, since every word he says on his show is true? He challenges Frank to find one thing that he's said that isn't true. While Frank merely intended to confront him and had no plans to kill him, it's notable that he doesn't have a reply to the hosts' arguments and leaves without saying anything.
  • White Collar Crime: The Barracuda arc, sees Frank going up against a thinly veiled Enron Expy called Dynaco. The arc culminates with Frank blowing up a boat that held their major stockholders (they shouldn't have pointed out that they weren't really criminals, compared to the murderers and rapists he kills on a regular basis).
  • Whole Plot Reference: The Welcome to the Bayou arc is pretty much one long homage to Deliverance. The movie even get's name dropped at one point.
    Nigel: Oh shit. I'm at some kind of fucked-up Deliverance-style hoedown from hell.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Lampshaded in the Widowmaker arc, where several villains comment how every time the Punisher is captured, the villain doesn't just shoot him.
  • Why Won't You Die?: Frank to Pittsy, after dealing the latter incredible amounts of damage, even by comic book standards.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Finn Cooley's nephew, Peter Cooley, from Kitchen Irish, is a rare villainous example. The young man genuinely believes in the IRA, to an almost pitiful extent.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: An unintentional example: Frank starts the series by conducting a massacre of assembled Mafiosi. During the Widowamker arc (where the widows unite to get revenge on him), a young widow who used to be married to one of them (a rapist, wifebeater, murderer and all around asshole) thanks Frank for taking out her husband (the flashback panel shows Frank casually shotgunnung the bastards head off as he lies on the ground), and kills the rest of the widows for him.
  • World of Badass: Subverted. Although it takes place in a crime ridden setting filled with corruption, crime and general mayhem. Populated with Ax-Crazy hitmen, sadistic Femme fatales, and grizzled vigilantes hardcore enough to single-handedly take out entire armies all by there lonesome, the vast majority of cast members are just ordinary people or by-the-numbers mooks who have a fairly low survival possibility.
  • Worthy Opponent: Frank Castle to General Zakharov in the Mother Russia arc, as he explains after Frank successfully escapes the nuclear missile silo by setting one of the missiles to defuse at 8000 feet, stowing away inside, launching it and parachuting to safety. Especially notable because it came after spending the whole arc insisting to his disbelieving inferiors that they were under attack from Americans and not Arab terrorists.
    "That was no American. It was a Russian who was born there by mistake."
    • Frank begrudgingly begins viewing Bullseye like this. After he realizes he's the closet thing that he has ever had to an equal.
    Frank: Someday, there may very well be a man much like this standing over me as I die.
  • Would Hit a Girl: When he finds out that Vera was actually the brains behind the human trafficking operation (i.e. was the one who told the mooks to "break" their victims by gang rape) in "The Slavers," he repeatedly throws her face-first against a shatterproof window, reasoning correctly that the frame would give before the windowpane did.
    • In the Welcome to the Bayou arc, he has no problem making short work of the psychotic woman who had been giving him plenty of trouble up until that point.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In Mother Russia, when Frank and Vanheim's plan to rescue a six year old girl from a nuclear silo base goes south, Vanheim has no problem trying to inject Galina (the little girl whose blood contains an experimental supervirus) with a lethal poison that will kill her while also stabilizing her blood. Thankfully Frank is there to stop him before he can go through with it.
  • Would Not Shoot a Good Guy: A cabal of corrupt US Army generals use their connections to send a group of honest US soldiers after The Punisher. Frank doesn't kill them, but the soldiers learn the hard way that non-lethal force doesn't mean gentle force. Thanks to the orders of their commander, who deliberately accepted the task to cover for his own agenda, they return the "favor". However, he has no problems shooting up Russian conscripts in a missile base.
  • Writer on Board:
    • Ennis tends to alternate between general "organized crime" targets and villains modeled after real groups, including Enron and even contemporary U.S. military personnel.
    • The Slavers, probably the bleakest, most visceral Punisher story ever written, was based on Ennis's opinion of human traffickers. Hint: He doesn't like them.
      • Frank Castle's hatred of the human traffickers in The Slavers is (paraphrasing) "the worst he'd ever hated someone in a long time." In MAX continuity, Frank's been The Punisher for at least a couple of decades.
    • Some of Ennis' political thoughts are chilling. The first line of "The End", where the war on terror goes nuclear? "Soon."
    • Judging from the Kitchen Irish arc, we can guess that Garth Ennis, really, really hates the IRA. Not only that, but he also seems to have no love for Irish-Americans, (or narrow-backs as he derisively refers to them as) who unquestionably support the IRA without knowing all the facts behind The Troubles, and who think that they are celebrating their heritage, when really all that they are doing is indulging in the worst stereotypes.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Overlapping with Thanatos Gambit, Old Man Nesbitt gave each of his Psycho for Hire Inadequate Inheritors a piece of a code that they would have to put together in order to get at his inheritance. After they almost kill each other trying to steal the other pieces of the code, as they expected, they decide to call a truce. When they all come together to collect, it's revealed that the secret location for his funds has no money in it at all, just an extremely powerful explosive with an expletive scrawled on it. That'll get 'em.
  • X Meets Y: Welcome to the Bayou is basically 'take an Action Hero like the Punisher and place him in a Slasher Movie'. Complete with deranged hillbillies and sexy psycho farmer chicks!
    • Mother Russia is more like a Cold War-era action film starring The Punisher. Alternatively: "Die Hard in a missile silo." Albeit a very dark version of this.
  • Yanks with Tanks: The American military has a strong presence that is felt all throughout the series. Frank himself is a former US Marine who served in Vietnam, Nick Fury is a former US Army Ranger, and Barracuda was a former Green Beret who worked with the CIA in a number of black ops missions in South America throughout the 80s. And the enemies of the final arc are a pair of corrupt US Army and Air Force generals who use their connections to send a squad of Delta Force operatives after Frank.
  • The Yardies: Another one of the many criminal groups active in New York. However, unlike the Italians or the Russians they don't get much screen time.
  • The Yugoslav Wars: The villains of the Slavers arc took part in the war and kidnapped their first slaves during the conflict.
  • Zerg Rush: A tactic commonly used by the mooks that the Punisher faces off against. Although it seldom ever works.
    • In Mother Russia, when "Operation Barbarossa" goes south and the Punisher is forced to fight his way out of a nuclear missile base in Siberia. The Russians response to handling this situation amounts to little more than sending wave after of conscripts to charge at him at once. In the vain hope that it will work. It doesn't.
    • When the Cannibal Clan from Welcome to the Bayou try using this, Frank acknowledges and discusses this trope. Stating that he'd rather face an unruly mob than a truly formidable adversary.
    Frank: Mobs fight sloppy. They rely on the numbers, get overconfident. I'd rather fight an amateur mob than one tough customer that really knows what he's doing.

"The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.
D.H. Lawrence