Comic Book / The Punisher MAX

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"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 and horror — including but not limited to: The Mafia, Irish terrorist cells, Eastern European slavers, corporate tycoons and real life wars. It is also considerably less funny than the mainstream Marvel series, though there 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.

Miniseries
  • 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
  • Punisher: The Platoon #1-6 (2017) by Garth Ennis

One-Shots
  • 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 contain examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    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.
    • In The Platoon, Viet Cong assassin Ly Quang seems to fit the bill. Though she's not shown doing anything but conversing in her introductory scene, she has a reputation for killing "black rifles" that even a senior NVA official like Letrong Giap has heard of. She also swore that she would kill Castle after he called an airstrike on her cadre, so there's that...
  • 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 - she kills on a whim, and at one point hog-ties a man and brings his family along so they can 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 this status through being the ever-optimistic, constantly cheerful source of Black Comedy.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: O'Brien explicitly states that this is the reason she has the hots for Frank: she loves men who share 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 he is. 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 himself.
    • 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 frequently beat and raped her alongside his friends.
  • 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 regarding their enmity, 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, after Microchip, one of the most well established characters in the Punisher mythos, gets his cranium blown off, this trope is milked for all its worth. No character, regardless of plot significance or character history, is safe from death. Not even Castle himself.
  • Arc Words: The series has a habit of doing this quite often. On several occasions, they'll even name the arc after the words in question.
    • First The Tyger, where Frank reminisces about his youth as 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", Frank and O'Brien's saying that helps them cope with the insane world they live in.
    • 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 there are a couple of details that somewhat 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. It's later 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's 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 with the internal monologue of "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. It's especially worse once you know that he was about to divorce his wife and leave his children right before they were gunned down.
    • The second MAX series reveals Frank to be this in a bigger, more disturbing way than ever thought. Frank continues to wage his war on crime in order to punish himself with a life of endless suffering. He feels he deserves this because shortly before his family was killed, he decided 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 most lethal characters in the series.
    • 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 whom Frank referred to as "a sick old fuck who still thought that he was a soldier".
    • Russian General Nikolai "The Man of Stone" Zakharov, once we learn of his actions as a soldier in the Russian Army.
    • 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 sane and normal by comparison.
    • In Welcome to the Bayou, Frank meets 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 "merely" depraved sociopaths, Bullseye 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 their 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, doing so in front of all of his colleagues. How does Microchip respond to this? By literally taking him by the balls 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- a 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 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; though the coat he wears is badass, he himself is 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 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 start a good old-fashioned bar brawl as a cover for their kidnapping. It works, and the ensuing brawl sends seven men to the 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 for him, 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 Up is Down, Black is White. 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 Frank sitting in the same diner. Tranquil Fury doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: The Bulats and Vera from The Slavers, the leaders of an eastern European human trafficking ring. Cristu Bulat and Vera get along well because they are both heartless business men, while Tiberiu, Cristu's father, is starting to annoy them and damage their business with his unnecessary cruelty and craziness. All of them barely qualify as human beings.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In a flashback it is revealed that a young Colonel Howe was imprisoned by a cadre of ruthless Viet Cong troops that planed on killing 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, 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 delivered 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.
    • 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: Not as prevalent as it is in some of Ennis's other works like Comic Book/Preacher and The Boys, but it pops up every now and then, largely on the part of Frank's victims.
  • 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, with the logos for TOYOTA, JEEP and others all being clearly 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, blowing several fingers off 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 Viet Cong while another soldier has ordered a napalm air-strike on the camp itself. As the bombs fall and incinerate the camp, Frank finally yells "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. As he goes to hug his family, the voice returns for the first time since he gave into it and reveals Frank's family will be the price he pays for his endless war.
  • 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 and 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, Frank's first target of the series is a hundred-year old Mafia Don whose brains he blows out at his birthday party. During the battle, he also delivers an Offhand Backhand Boom, Headshot to a domestic abuser, earning his wife's eternal gratitude.
  • Breakout Character: Barracuda, whose 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 suddenly 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 loose... 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, says that he is 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 one headshot each 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.
  • Call-Forward: The final story arc shows a flashback dealing with Frank's difficulty of adjusting to civilian life, including a fellow Marine saying he couldn't imagine Castle taking his kids on a family picnic.
  • 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. During the final arc of Ennis's run, he 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, 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, and rarely in a good light. The first arc deals with them trying to recruit Frank into a black ops unit so he can 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 current target 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. It's 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, and the Soviet-Afghan war.
  • 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. Whew.
  • 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 its many variants show up frequently in the hands of criminals.
    • In the same vein as the aforementioned Uzi, the AK and its many variants get plenty of screen time as well.
    • In Mother Russia, when Frank and a Delta Force commando are blasting their 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 appears several times throughout the series, usually in the hands of criminals but also in the following instances:
      • 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 the Force of Nature one-shot shows the Punisher fighting a monstrous sperm whale in the middle of the ocean. While he does kill a whale in the comic, it is an offhanded accident. The cover for the Christmas Special is even worse, depicting Frank and a Lady Not Appearing in This Comic combating an army of evil Christmas Elves.
  • 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's 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 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. 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 for her to plummet to her death. Or when Frank gets information from a slaver by disemboweling him and wrapping his intestines around a tree while they're still attached to him; 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.
  • Crusading Widower: Garth Ennis took this concept in an interesting direction during Widowmaker, where the widows of several high-level mafiosos Frank had brutally murdered come together to take vengeance on him. However, before Frank can come up against the potentially morally interesting decision of how to deal with them, they are interrupted by another Mafia widow, who 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. Despite the other widows trying to garner sympathy with the horror of their husbands' deaths, the story points out how selfish and self-centered they are with how the lavish lifestyles they enjoyed were funded by violent crime perpetrated by their vicious husbands.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Unsurprisingly, Frank tends to hand these out to whoever 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 thrashes him with ease...until Frank is roused by the memory of his dying daughter upon witnessing the Mongolian slapping the little girl he is protecting. He methodically stands back up, grabs the agent by his leg, and smashes him into various surfaces in the room until his leg comes off completely.

    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, and 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 a deconstruction of the entire Punisher mythos, as well as the "avenging vigilante" archetype as a whole. Frank, while still sympathetic, is not really out to avenge his family but is instead driven by a combination of bloodlust and guilt. The concept of a badass Psycho for Hire is thoroughly debunked: 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, and so decides to investigate. What follows is a series of bizarre and unfortunate events involving 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 were commonplace during that period in time, such as the townsfolks' callous indifference to a rape victim's suicide; many of them attribute it to insanity as opposed to trauma, with Frank's father even rudely stating that rape victims "should learn to keep their 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 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 artists 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 because he was really good at killing and he liked being able to punish wrongdoers. He made a deal with a mysterious entity (the Grim Reaper according to the author's notes) 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. Since the windows are made out of reinforced glass, he proceeds to repeatedly throw the woman face-first into the window until the frame gives and she plummets to her death.
  • Dirty Commies: General Zakharov and his men were this in the worst kind of way during the Soviet-Afghan War were, having gathered up entire villages and forced them off the edge of a cliff, with Zakharov himself callously murdering an infant while her mother watched in horror.
  • 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 helps them keep tabs on the affairs 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 are... well... assholes.
    • Larry Lacarda, from the Barracuda arc, is a particularly slimy example.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: In Barracuda, one of the whistleblowers behind an illegal corporate scheme reveals that this happened at one of his boss's festive "parties".
    Si: There was a hooker OD'ed at a party, but we never heard anything more about it.
    • The Slavers deals with the subject and all of its terrible implications.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Zakharov and Dolnovich get bitten back in the worst 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 their treatment of him didn't help.
  • 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 rumored 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 decide to get together and go to split the hoard peacefully...only for it to end up being a huge bomb with the word "CUNTS" scratched into it that explodes and kills them all. This is hinted at earlier in the arc, with Frank noting that the gangster in question didn't seem like the type to leave an inheritance for future generations.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted: Nicky Cavella was raped by his aunt when he was very young, and it's 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 immediately after beating her sister to death with a baseball bat, highlighting just how far gone she is (she shoots herself right after).
  • 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 prostitution, 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 mention of him is enough to have the entire room go "arctic".
    • At one point in The Slavers, 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 elicit an Oh, Crap! look from Rawlins.
    • Subverted with Nicky Cavella. Though he certainly seems to think that he is this because the other capos in his gang don't want him around, in reality, they just find him and his tactics revolting.
  • Drugs Are Bad: A recurring theme throughout the series is 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 sells narcotics on the side to help fund their covert operations. This is the info that more or less seals Micro's fate. And in The Slavers, 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 were used in an illegal pornography ring. The sight of it is enough to send a shiver down Frank's spine.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Quite prevalent in this series actually.
    • Frank was a Vietnam-era Force Recon Marine, while 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, 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. But when he comes up against Tiberiu and his boys., a group of hardened war veterans from the Yugoslav Wars who use effective squad tactics, hold their guns properly, and maintain discipline during a firefight, he's quickly outgunned and forced to run for his life.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: In Punisher: Born, Garth Ennis makes his own supernatural upgrade to 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 an inheritance of $10,000,000, and each of them tries to kill the others to secure their claim.
  • Epic Fail: During The Slavers, Frank attempts to ambush the hired guns for the slavery ring. However, he forgot that they were hardened soldiers from the Yugoslav wars, not the usual street punks with poor aim and no tactics, and was 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 them a shotgun slug to the face.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Frank himself arguably qualifies because 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, and admits that 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 their self-proclaimed morals, what the characters are actually doing is trying to convince themselves that their actions are justified and that they can't be all that bad because there's someone worse out there.
  • 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 Old Folks: A few, most notably Tiberiu Bulat. Interestingly Frank himself may count, for a given quantity of evil.
  • 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.
    • Later on, after having had his eye ripped out by the Punisher, Rawlins begins wearing one.
  • Eye Scream: The series is rife with this trope, with Frank usually being the one to dish it out. Standout examples include: Frank gouging out Pittsy's eye during a fight, ripping out Rawlin's eye during a torture session, and stabbing Barracuda in the eye with a penknife.
    • 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 their optic nerves. He eventually manages to get them back into his head...just in time to run into Frank.
  • Excrement Statement: Nicky Cavella digs up and pisses on Frank's dead family in order to anger him. This puts Punisher in an extreme Tranquil Fury, 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 carry out genocide.
  • Extreme Mle Revenge: Delivered with frightening results in The Slavers, which sees Frank Castle violently flinging a woman against a shatter-proof window over and over until the panel pops out of its frame, causing the woman to fall to her death. The woman in question, in case you were beginning to feel sorry for her, was one of three ringleaders behind a sex trafficking ring, responsible for murdering an infant to torment its mother and coming up with the concept of "rape them to break them" to keep the girls her outfit kidnaps compliant.
    • In Mother Russia, we have Frank taking a vicious beatdown from a tiny Mongolian super agent. When the Mongolian smacks a six year old girl that Frank is intent on rescuing, he 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 isn't much left, only stopping once 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 as being 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 while in a coma, 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", 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.
  • Fighting Irish: The Kitchen Irish arc centers around a gang war between various Irish criminals, all of whom are trying to knock each other off in order to get their hands on an inheritance of $10,000,000. Subverted, as all of the Irish gangsters are depicted as cowardly, brainless, morally depraved individuals. Not to mentioned extremely racist.
  • 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 the 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. While stuck in the base, Frank does his best to ensure the little girl doesn't see any violence or gore, at one point fetching her ice cream from another room because the hallway is covered in blood and corpses. 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.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: More often than not, 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, three 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: Eleventhree, the "star" of the Snuff Film industry he's working for, 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).
  • Gangbangers: Along with the mob, they are shown as one of Frank's most common adversaries, depicted as 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 killing 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 that 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, where 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, as well as callously murdering an infant while her mother screamed in horror. In fact, his actions were so bad that the Soviets had him fired.
  • 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 and keeping an eye on escape routes, and has back-up plans for his back-up plans. When things go really south 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; attacking the strongest people first, keeping everyone in front of him so they get in each other's way, 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 make 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 this supposed opening.
  • Genre Savvy: In Six Hours to Kill, 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; the mook makes it clear that he himself does not have the antidote or know where it is either. After being released from his bonds, Frank immediately breaks the mook's neck and tosses the body aside. Noting that it's not worth searching for an antidote that probably doesn't exist, Frank then gathers all his guns and begins 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 consistently remains a vigilante action story for the most part, there are a few arcs that briefly delve into other genres. 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 and O'Brien's daughter by nicking her skin with a knife. The next page shows Frank in a hospital, plaster casts and bandages everywhere, noting that he can't remember what happened, so he 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 headshot 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, such as scopes, suppressors, flashlights, underslung grenade launchers, etc.
  • Gun Porn: Not only are there plenty of different guns depicted throughout the series, 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 ringleaders from The Slavers 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. 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 corrupt superiors.
  • The Hero Dies: In the second MAX series, Castle himself is killed. Even then, though, he manages to finish 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 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 moonshine. 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's out on his balcony. The gunshot is so quiet that it fails to alarm anyone, not even waking up the underage bride sleeping in the Taliban leader's 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 unfortunately comes down to. 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, 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: Barracuda begins with Frank aboard a boat, looking over what has to be hundreds of people being eaten alive by sharks. The story then flashes back to detail 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 agencies in the world into a joke of an agency filled with rank and file amateurs. 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... until the Cesare Family moved in, shortly after which 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 Girls in White Dresses 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 during a sit-down in a Chinese restaurant with an overconfident Triad boss named Joseph Kai. Kai was eating a dish and arrogantly telling Cavella that he and his crew wouldn't back down in the face of the Cesare Family, claiming he had three strong sons backing him up...only for Cavella to retort "two strong sons" and inform 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". Upon learning what happened to his son's body, Kai is visibly horrified as he realizes what he just ate.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Averted in 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 involves Castle assaulting an office building that was being used for snuff films. Security is ultra-tight, so he can't bring guns inside. Instead, he ends up killing the guards one by one with increasingly bizarre and brutal uses of office equipment. He starts with pens and pencils, works 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 characters in the series, he gets 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 its 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 baby's lifeless corpse.
    • Wilson Fisk's 8-year old son has his throat slit by Don Rigoletto. Fisk realizes that he doesn't really care that his son is dead. Unfortunately 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, the latter chides Frank's marksman abilities and ask where Frank learned to shoot, which Frank calmly replies to 'as he shoots Barracuda through a car) 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 Kitchen Irish, 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 launched 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 out about two feet of his intestines 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 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 and 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 later comes back to bite him in the ass.
    • 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 their 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 their plan. This quote just about sums it up:
    Dermot: If we really had blacked 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 Frank get there?" In the MAX series, for example, Barracuda kidnaps the daughter Frank had with O'Brien. He reacts...violently. Later, he wakes up in the hospital with no idea of 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 unfazed 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 days, then 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 wants 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 he cannot leave because of his gunshot injuries. So he patiently listens as she describes what was done to her, as well as her sympathy for what was done to him and how she believes she and Frank are kindred spirits. Jenny then requests that Frank give her 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 notes 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 bastard, so much so that his ability to take almost superhuman levels of punishment lapses into another trope altogether.
    Frank: [after taking by a shotgun slug to the chest while wearing a bulletproof vest] That's a rib gone. Not broken. Gone.
    • 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 from Fisk himself, and still manages to kill him in the end, only succumbing to his wounds much later.
    • The Menonnite from 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 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, and beaten, his eyes are gouged, his fingers are broken, and he ends up getting impaled on a goddamn 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 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.
    • Barracuda may be the most extreme example of this trope in the entire series. In his first fight with Frank, he has most of his fingers on one hand cut off, takes a blade to the eye, gets garroted with barbed 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 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 grill 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.
  • MacGuffin Super Person: In Mother Russia, we have Galina Stenkov, a six year old Russian girl who caries an experimental flesh-eating supervirus in her blood stream, remaining unaffected by 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 off a daring rescue mission called "Operation Barbarossa".
  • The Mafia: Ever since a mob hit was responsible for the deaths of his family, yhe 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 before calmly walking out onto the patio. The mafiosi rush out after him for revenge...only 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, ,ost 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, and the Cesare Family, both 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 Kitchen Irish, 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 start a rape-train on her, only to be stopped halfway 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's washing the blood off his face. After another Marine who witnessed both events asks him 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 in five words:
  • 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 and failing to salute senior officers, and half of them are stated to be addicted on heroin. As such, 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 one of them who tries to call for help "Touch that phone and you're next, pissant!" Oh, and he gets away with that too.
  • 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 experience 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, courtesy of Frank.
    • In Up is Down and 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 shows the Punisher's perspective; he is instead presented as an unstoppable force that the criminal just can'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 deserved 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, 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 he lures dozens of gangsters from dozens of different gangs into one hotel room, Barracude annihilates them with his M60. Every last one of them.
  • Motivational Lie: The Widowmaker arc, sees a group of widowed mafiosi wives using an elaborate scheme to trick The Punisher into believing a young woman has been kidnapped by a prostitution ring. Naturally, both groups end up slaughtered by the end.
  • Must Not Die a Virgin: There's an in-universe book called Valley Forge, Valley Forge 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 disturbingly long time, with Fisk making it to his tower before being locked out and finished off, while Castle makes 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 starts 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, as he kept writing for MAX, both on Punisher and other series, Garth Ennis gradually began 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 - for example, Barracuda and The Man of Stone.
  • Never Live It Down: Invoked with 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 whom 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 says a single word at all.
    • Ditto for Ink, Nicky Cavella's equally creepy 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 completely gone, he gets into an extended fistfight with the man who shot him, tosses him out of a window, and carries on. Not a single story arc concludes without Castle experiencing some near-fatal damage.
    • The Punisher's nemesis, Barracuda, is the same. Shortly after meeting the Punisher, Barracuda gets the fingers on his right hand chopped off, his eye stabbed out, and his teeth broken, not to mention later being shot in the chest and hurled off a boat into shark-infested waters. Barracuda survives (he claims he grabbed onto the back of the boat and got towed to shore) and comes after the Punisher again, and is later tortured by having his nutsack clipped to a car battery, shot several times, blown up, and 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. Per Frank himself:
  • Not in Front of the Kid: During Mother Russia, 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:
    • Punisher: Born reveals that this happened all the time during Frank Castle's third and final tour in Vietnam, from Marines executing incapacitated enemy combatants and 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 Man Of Stone, 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 having 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 were quite a few, shall we say, "illustration errors" by fill-in artist Howard Chaykin, the most obvious being Barracuda's shapeshifting height; he goes from being a 7 foot giant to a 5 foot dwarf. Thankfully, Chaykin was quickly removed once series regular Goran Parlov came back.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The closest Castle has ever gotten to experiencing one of these was when he was fighting Pittsy, a balding fatso who was 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 back in place, ready to fight. Frank could only look 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 ploy 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, and proceeds to annihilate 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. For example, Barracuda succeeds in putting him in traction - less than three days later, Frank's got Barracuda's nuts wired to a car battery.
  • 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 Frank finds out, he is pissed, to say the least, and at one point he spends an hour running electricity from a car battery through Barracuda's genitals in retaliation.
    • Let's not forget the beginning of the arc, when Barracuda 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 subsequent events by examining his injuries in a hospital bed.
    • In the first arc, Castle is conversing with one of his hooker informants while glaring at a pimp, who's guarding over a young girl. He asks his informant how old the girl is and whether she's been hooked on anything. Even though the hooker doesn't have an answer for either question, Castle walks over to the pimp, grabs him by the hair, pulls him into an 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...
    • In Mother Russia, Castle is given the task of rescuing a six year old girl from Russian captivity. Upon entering the complex where she is held and meeting her, he says to her in broken Russian: "My name is Frank. If anyone tries to be mean to you, I will be much meaner to them. I promise." Soon after, a skinny, half-naked Mongolian super agent comes and kicks the shit out of Frank with ease. In a daze, he sees the agent slap the girl, which triggers memories of his dying daughter. Roused by the memory of his late daughter, Frank gets back up, grabs the agent by his ankle, and proceeds to swing him around the room, slamming him against the floor, walls, and ceiling until the agent is a pulpy mess, and twisting his leg off "like a drumstick". He only stops when he realizes that he's scaring the poor girl.
    • Kitchen Irish has a Grandpapa Wolf in Napper French, a retired mob "cleaner" and the best of his kind. Napper was legendary for his ability to pull a "Houdini" on a body, meaning he made it disappear completely. Ruthless gangster Maginty kidnaps Napper's grandson in order to force him to pull one last Houdini... on a live man. Napper has no choice to comply, but near the end of the job, Maginty, for his own amusement, shows Napper's grandson what his grandpa had been doing, traumatizing the young child. So later on, Napper decides to give Maginty a demonstration of how one pulls a Houdini...
    • And let's not forget, the whole reason the Punisher has embarked on his war against crime is one bad day in the park with his wife and kids...
    • The Slavers is another Papa Wolf moment for Frank. Encountering some human traffickers, Castle is so enraged with what these scum do to their victims that by the end of the arc, he's shocked at what he has done. Including carving up one of the ringleaders, wrapping his intestines around a tree, and then waking the man up.
  • The Paragon: At the end of the second MAX series, Frank becomes this in a dark kind of way. His conflict with Kingpin has proven fatal for both of them, and after over 30 years, Frank Castle's war is finally over. As Nick Fury cleans up the carnage left by Frank's last battle, he muses that Frank's war was ultimately pointless in the long run. Cue news reports of citizens across New York banding together in Punisher-themed gear and exacting vigilante justice on local criminals. Even Fury has 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 her and even getting her 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 Slavers contains 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, as part of his interrogation of the man, he pulls out two feet of the man's intestines and wraps them around a tree while he's still alive.
    • The other two ringleaders were also disposed of in very graphic ways. The woman who came up with the trafficking ring's way of breaking their captives was thrown against a shatterproof window face-first multiple times until the window frame broke and she fell multiple stories to her death. Later, in order to scare off the other cells of the trafficking ring, Frank ties the Ax-Crazy father of the other two ringleaders to a chair, douses him in gasoline, and lights him on fire while recording the whole thing.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: Nicky Cavella's cross-eyed henchman, 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:
    • Frank's Berserk Button is smashed when he discovers women smuggled into sex slavery. He rescues them, and 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 proceeds to use 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 of her home 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. 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 - he comes damn 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 millimeter bullet 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 she 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 Forge, Colonel Howe recalls his nightmarish experience of being held in a Viet Cong P.O.W. camp, where the Viet Cong would take each prisoner to a secluded area and then bring back their severed hands and feet.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Cristu Bulat from The Slavers arc, in total contrast to his father. The relationship between the two is rather strained because Cristu views human trafficking as a business and raping girls as just part of the business. He also berates his father for using his bare hands instead of a gun to kill a gang member, as well as for shooting the whole gang. As you could guess from his profession, though, he's still a heartless, raping bastard. His pragmatism is best demonstrated by his willingness to kill his own father. It doesn't work out, both because he underestimated his father and because he gets disemboweled.
  • 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 they're really guarding and are only following orders until they're shipped out and stationed somewhere 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: Rather than being a Greek woman who happens to dress like a ninja and use martial arts, Elektra is a Japanese woman in this continuity.
  • Rape and Revenge: An extremely ruthless example occurs in Jason Aaron's first arc. 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.
    • In Mother Russia, when Frank has to take care of some Russian gangsters, je 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, after which Frank 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 his face off with a shotgun. Even then, Frank has to mentally reassure himself that the next few steps the guy takes are purely reflexive.
    • Later, when Frank encounters Pittsy's sister Theresa, he quickly discovers that she's every bit as durable as her brother, and eventually empties 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 some of his teeth, cuts several digits off his right hand, strangles him with barbed wire, shoots him point-blank in the groin, chest, and face, and finally tosses him into shark-infested waters... which he somehow survives. When the two meet up for the last time, Frank blows him up with a claymore, fractures his skull with a wrench, bites off another one of his fingers, breaks his arm, bites off part of his cheek, stabs him again, wires his testicles to a car battery ad leaves it running for an hour, shoots him with an M-60, tears off his nose with some pliers, cuts off his arms with an ax, shoots his head to bits with an AK...then incinerates his remains just to be sure.
    • Frank himself is a victim of this trope, as he spends the latter half of Homeless dying a slow, painful death. In issue #21, still bloody and battered from his fight with Elektra, Frank 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...but Frank won't go down. Fighting through the pain, Frank manages to kill all the goons and engages Fisk in a vicious street fight. The next page 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 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 vigilantes 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 effects a 30+ year-long war on the criminal underworld can have on your mind and body: it makes you slow, 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 the majority of his 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 Slavers, 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 a 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 guy's 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 handlers 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, to the point where 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 about the deceased, 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 their 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 their 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 later when 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 when you have incredibly powerful super-beings present in the world, 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,. The absurdity of the story (Frank fighting off the Russian army pretty much by himself 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, such as corporate fraud, to slavery, and even the then-ongoing 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 Frank's family and releases the footage to the news media. Frank did not take this 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 ringleader, whom he hurls against a shatterproof window face-first multiple times until it pops out of its frame, causing the ringleader to fall to her death. Once he finds the last ringleader, their father, 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, there 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 (also 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 was 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 is 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 wartime experience, and Frank has trouble digging up 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 simply 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 grandson 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 and 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: Many covers depict 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 Man of Stone, he brings along his squad of Soviet Black Sea Marines to help him deal with The Punisher.
  • 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 sees Frank taking on a sex 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 in the entire series.
  • 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 incident that led to 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 the 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 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 keep her mouth open so the noise from all the gunshots won't hurt her. The ears part is self-explanatory, but you want to keep your mouth 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.
  • 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 annihilates said bad guy.
  • Silent Whisper: As he fights with Frank, Bullseye whispers what he believes was the last thing Frank ever said to his wife. Frank's reaction implies Bullseye's guess was spot on. 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. Eventually, we get a full flashback to that fateful day, as well as what Frank said: "I want a divorce."
  • 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. Nick Fury in particular laces just about every sentence with profanity and vulgarity.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Slavers is the most notorious arc of the entire run. It details just how horrific human trafficking is, and the leaders of the trafficking ring suffer far slower and more graphic deaths and than any other character does 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. Quite possibly one the darkest most cynical comics ever published by Marvel.
  • Smug Snake:
    • The conspiracy of generals in 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 actually make him pretty badass if he wasn't such a Dirty Coward.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Frank is interpreted as this to the point where he cannot even smile at what he does. He has essentially taken his war to the streets while 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, and The Punisher: Born implies he made a Deal with the Devil for an endless war to fight at the cost of his family. 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.
  • 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 infanticide.
    • Later on, Man Of Stone 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 can once again work for the government...until Nicolas Cavella and his crew barge into their base of operations and all hell breaks loose, which inadvertently helps Frank get 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 Jenny Cesare being the one to save Frank from an assassination attempt by a group 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 Deltas 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 wife 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 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 gives a Motive Rant detailing why he did all of those horrible things during the Afghan-Soviet War, Frank doesn't smash his face in mid-sentence, but instead waits until the end and even asks if he is ready. It was a Mercy Kill, but after hearing what Frank did about the general's actions, it's doubtful that he would've spared him even if he wasn't dying. However, Zakharov's final words do 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 a 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 and usurps his position, taking over his newfound crime syndicate.
  • Take That!: During Garth Ennis' run, these were very common.
    • Kitchen Irish is basically one long tract 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 all the facts behind the Troubles.
    • Barracuda may as 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 wearing Frank's old clothes, eating his food, sleeping in his old hideouts so he may look into his dreams, and finally recreate what created the Punisher in the first place — by kidnapping a family, 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...until he spends a week isolated in a room while staring at old family photos of Frank and his family, and finally realizes what Frank's last words to his wife before she and the kids were killed were — "I want a divorce.".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Many of Frank's targets, but there are some notable examples:
    • Special mention goes to Nicky Cavella, a jackass of a mafioso who got the astoundingly bright idea to dig up the remains of Frank's family and record himself urinating on them, 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 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 group of battle-hardened slavers and realizes that in order to break these men, he will have to go to much greater lengths.
    • He gets one slaver to snitch on his buddies by disemboweling him and wrapping his intestines around a pair of tree branches, then patiently sitting back and waiting for him to talk.
  • Tranquil Fury: Frank varies between this and Unstoppable Rage, depending on the situation. He was really pushed over the edge when Nicky Cavella had the brilliant idea of desecrating his family's remains in an effort to piss him off. It worked: he snapped even more than usual from his default Unstoppable Rage to full-on Tranquil Fury and proceeded to methodically go from bar to bar, slaughtering unconnected criminals until the city officials reburied his family. Then he went 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 among themselves in English for some reason, though we can assume that they are actually speaking in Russian and it's only written 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 by tricking the Triad leader into eating food that had been cooked with meat from his dead son.
  • 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 tired of it, so she decides to get back at her stuffy husband by screwing his most trusted associate.
  • The Troubles: Mined for all its worth by Ennis. The second arc, Kitchen Irish, features a disfigured Irish terrorist coming to New York to claim a recently deceased Irish gangster's 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 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...until Nicky Cavella digs up his family's remains and pisses on them. This does not go down well. A livid Frank proceeded to pack up his M-249 and consecutively attack various criminal hideouts, racking up 68 kills... 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 who's skilled in violence and mayhem. Along with Frank, she manages to successfully kill off most of Zakharov's crew...only to step on a landmine 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, 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 fare in a 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 like the smug little weasel he is, and a simple "Oh no" — with an Oh, Crap! expression — suffices for his ultimate downfall.
  • Villainous Valor: 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 their 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 group 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 showing just about every armed conflict in the past century, such as 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. Man of Stone 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 were 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 Due to the nature of the series, its not uncommon to see side characters get little in the way of characterization before getting unceremoniously killed off.
    • Poor old Massimo Cesare, the old man gets only two panels before getting his brain ventilated by the Punisher.
    • 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 put up 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. The Russian military seems to have no problem sending wave after wave of conscript soldiers to go and stop him as he keeps slaughtering them.
    Frank: 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 Frank what he is planning on killing him for since every word he says on his show is true, then 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 host's arguments and leaves without saying anything.
  • White Collar Crime: Barracuda 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 gets 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 dishing out incredible amounts of punishment to the latter.
  • 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 Widowmaker (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 shotgunning the bastard's 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 that's populated with Ax-Crazy hitmen, sadistic Femme fatales, and grizzled vigilantes hardcore enough to single-handedly take out entire armies all by themselves, the vast majority of cast members are just ordinary people or by-the-numbers mooks who have a fairly low survival rate.
  • Worthy Opponent: Frank Castle to General Zakharov in Mother Russia, 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 the latter is the closet thing that he's 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. the one who told the mooks to "break" their victims with 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.
    • In Six Hours To Kill, after the Cloud Cuckoo Lander woman part of the group that poisoned him to begin with kills the Vietnam veteran working for her and injects Frank with the cure so they can work together, with a clear and dangerous lust for the Punisher himself, Frank just breaks her neck with his legs.
  • 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 himself notes that he hates the human traffickers in The Slavers more than he's hated someone in a long time. In the 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 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 they're 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, 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.
  • The Yardies: Another one of the many criminal groups active in New York. However, unlike the Italians and the Russians, they don't get much screen time.
  • The Yugoslav Wars: The villains of The Slavers 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, though 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' method of 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, Studies in Classic American Literature
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