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A terrible plague has swept the Earth, turning everyone – human, hero, villain, god and monster — into sadistic cannibal predators. As Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Thing and other infected start a feeding frenzy, the world falls in a wave of insatiable violence. Now, five years later, one man hunts the wasteland that was New York City. One man stands against the hordes of monsters who hunt the night. He is the Punisher, the Last Gun on Earth, and he has an endless supply of ammunition.

Marvel Universe vs. the Punisher is a four-issue miniseries by Jonathan Maberry and Goran Parlov, set in an alternate universe where an accidental bio-weapon spill has mutated almost every major Marvel character with the notable exception of Frank Castle. In an effort to make up for having caused that spill, Castle hunts the former heroes and villains throughout what used to be New York City.

The original miniseries was followed by a prequel, Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine. Set during the original outbreak, it follows Logan and a handful of other surviving heroes as they do their best to survive against overwhelming odds. Unfortunately for Wolverine, as we know from the original series, there's one big obstacle in their way. His name is the Hulk.

A third volume began in October of 2012, The Marvel Universe vs. the Avengers. It's primarily focused on Hawkeye, who manages to survive when the other heroes and villains are falling all around him, and ends where Punisher begins.

Not to be confused with the 1995 one-shot comic, The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, by Garth Ennis and Doug Braithwaite. Compare the Marvel Zombies series.

Provides examples of:

  • And I Must Scream: Right as he's infected, Iron Man's suit malfunctions, trapping him in a stationary pose for the rest of his life. And yes, the last time we see him alive, he is screaming.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Endemic within the setting, and the core reason the virus poses a threat to a group as powerful as the Avengers. Rather than turning when bitten, the survivors are simply liable to snap and start eating people at any moment. A particularly egregious version is when She-Hulk is placed in charge of a refugee camp by the Avengers, only to become infected and turn on the people under her protection.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: The Hulk goes down very easily in Punisher (via Wolverine's claw on an arrow through the brain) considering how difficult the first fight was in Wolverine.
  • Anti-Hero: The Punisher, as usual.
  • After the End: Earth is devastated by a plague that turned people into cannibalistic, savage mutants. What is left of the world are the infected gathering into warring tribes while the few handfuls of uninfected humans are prey.
  • Apocalypse How: New York City is a depopulated hellhole, occupied by cannibal mutants, the very occasional uninfected survivor, and Frank Castle. It is heavily implied that the plague has spread everywhere else in the world as well. The handful of surviving super heroes and scientists who escaped the city, however, have successfully evacuated to a hidden base in Antarctica, where they're working on a cure, and more survivors arrive at their facility every day. The world could conceivably rebuild.
  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: Used on the fourth cover of the original miniseries, with some additional Leg Cling.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Several times.
    • Wolverine, Punisher and Captain America are seen doing this in a flashback in the original series.
    • In Wolverine, Logan tracks down the Punisher and finds him making a stand against the infected alongside Hawkeye and Taskmaster.
    • Hawkeye and Bullseye team up against a horde including Bushwacker, Red Ghost, and Northstar.
  • Big Bad:
    • Kingpin in Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher.
    • The Hulk in Wolverine.
    • Doctor Doom in Avengers.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the climax of the original series, Deadpool brings weapons and distracts the infected long enough for Frank to get loose and go on a killing spree. He gets caught in Frank's crossfire for his efforts.
    • Doctor Doom pulls a dark variant on this in the first issue of Avengers: He one-shots an infected Juggernaut and rescues Thor, but this is mostly intended as a demonstration of power so that the Avengers will bow down to him. They have to prostrate themselves to get him to help with the next wave of infected led by Hercules.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end of Wolverine, the heroes have held off the infected long enough for the science team to escape, and two years later they're shown to still be alive and making inroads on a cure. Wolverine has also begun to recover from the injuries Hulk inflicted on him. But Billions are dead, and the Punisher was forced to execute Captain America before he could turn.
  • Black Comedy:
    • In-Universe. After the Blob goes on a killing spree in Hoboken, Stephen Colbert is mentioned to have made wise about it, asking if the Blob was still Hungry. Frank pegs it as ill-advised Gallows Humor.
  • Blood Knight: Frank Castle, naturally. At the story's end, rather than leave Manhattan with the uninfected humans he rescues, he stays to continue hunting the infected.
  • Butt-Monkey: Deadpool. Just about every hero shoots or hits him, if only to make him shut up.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Frank kills The Hulk by firing an arrow made from one of Wolverine's claws into his eye. In Marvel Universe vs the Avengers, it's shown that he probably got the idea by observing Hawkeye, who used the same trick (and the same arrow) to kill an infected Dr. Doom.
    • An infected Venom mentions having eaten an entire Swat Team. In Avengers we see him doing this in silhouette.
  • Camp Unsafe Isnt Safe Any More:
    • In the third issue of 'Wolverine', Frank and Logan return to find that the Baxter Building has been overrun by the infected, and half the science team has been killed or turned.
    • This happens twice in 'Avengers': First when the SHEILD Helicarrier is overrun, and again when The Newark refuge camp is torn apart by the superheroes sent to guard it.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Many of the infected superhumans fashion adornments out of the bones of their victims. Special mention goes to Hulk, who wears Wolverine's severed hand as a necklace, Daredevil, who builds a rosary out of the fingerbones of some nuns, and Hercules, who wears the heads of several of the Morlocks on his belt when leading his army against the surviving avengers.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover features Frank standing over the bodies of normal-looking heroes with an attractive red-headed woman clinging to his leg in the manner of a love interest. In fact the former heroes he kills are grotesquely mutated and the woman shown is Mary-Jane Watson, who is far from kindly disposed towards Frank by the end of the series.
  • Devil, but No God: Quoted by Frank Castle: "See a lot of Hell, padre. Hard to build any kind of case for Heaven."
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Everything seems to be going fine for Hawkeye, and then an infected Thor comes out of nowhere and crushes his head.
  • Downer Ending: Frank Castle refuses transport out of Manhattan, in order to remain behind and continue killing off the infectees. Although for him, that might be a happy ending.
    • Hawkeye kills the infected Doctor Doom, and in the middle of his tense internal monologue about how he's the last Avenger, his skull is crushed by an infected Thor.
  • Eaten Alive: Rhino, Psylocke, Mystique, and Giant-Man.
  • Enemy Mine: Frank winds up leading the remnant's of Zero's tribe of infected against the Kingpin.
    • Most of the surviving supervillians join up with the Avengers to hold back the infected. This leads to some truly weird team-ups, such as when Dr. Bong, Ruby Tuesday and Hit-Monkey team up with Hawkeye and Howard the Duck to fight the infected in Central Park.
      Hawkeye: When you're this far down in the pit, nothing that came before matters. People you trust, People you hate, that don't mean a thing. It all comes down to who will hold the line with you.
    • Subverted with Dr. Doom, who joins the heroes under the condition that they grant him their total obdedience, and ultimately plans to sell them up the river anyway.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The cannibals are split into tribes that oppose each other.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Zero is genuinely still in love with Mary Jane, who reciprocates. In his conversation with Frank, he mentions that he understands killing to protect one's own.
    • An infected Colossus is distraught when Wolverine kills an infected Kitty Pryde.
  • Eye Scream: Frank takes out the Hulk with an arrow to the eye.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • After noting that Zero's tribe is mostly comprised of female spider-themed superhumans, Frank speculates that he might be planning to breed. Zero turns out to have gotten Mary Jane pregnant.
    • During the Priest's flashback, Mary Jane and Aunt May can be seen as part of his group of survivors, as the Priest worked in Aunt May's soup Kitchen.
    • Also in the Priest's flashback, Stilt Man can be seen abducting a Red-haired woman from the group of survivors during the night. The woman is Mary Jane. Stilt Man is rescuing her on Spider-Man's orders.
    • Psylocke appears to recognize her unknown assailant before she's killed, hinting that it's one of her teammates.
    • During 'Wolverine,' The Thing never moves or speaks during the scenes in Reed's Lab from issue 2 onwards, spending them staring intensely at Spider-Man's enclosure. He's turned, and the two of them are coordinating an escape through body language.
  • Goomba Stomp: Deadpool kills the Wizard this way.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The virus was engineered to allow people to survive in a post-apocalyptic environment... and ended up creating one.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Played with. The question of whether or not it's okay to slaughter large numbers of what are effectively very sick people creates tension within the Heroes ranks, but the question falls by the wayside as it becomes clear how far the infection has spread. The heroes are still shown to pay lip service to the idea of containing people's infected loved ones, though.
  • Hate Plague: The virus turn people to lose their higher reasoning functions and becoming predatory human beings.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Wolverine bisects Angel after realizing that he's been infected.
  • Heroic Sacrifice/Taking You with Me: After being fatally wounded by the Hulk during the battle of Goethals Bridge, The Human Torch goes nova one last time to destroy the bridge and buy the science team time to evacuate.
  • Horror Hunger: "Meat" is just about the only thing (the majority of) the infected can say.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: After Spider-Man becomes Patient Zero for the outbreak, the survivors find out exactly how much of his strength he'd been holding back all those years.
  • The Immune:
    • Castle got a super-dose of the original bio-weapon that caused the plague, so he's completely immune to it.
    • Characters with healing factors, like the Hulks, Wolverine and Deadpool, can feel the infection in their systems, but can also opt to ignore it if they exercise enough willpower.
    • Hawkeye simply does not catch the plague. He believes himself immune for some reason, but never finds out why.
  • Killed Offscreen: Frank offhandedly mentions having riddled an infected Daredevil with bullets while the latter was distracted eating a deer.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Doom claims his Magitek Doomstones have prevented the plague from taking hold of Latveria, and he will share it with the rest of the world... if they acknowledge him as their ruler. They don't cure anything and he's already infected- the stones allow Doom to control the level of rage felt by the infected.
  • The Last Man Heard a Knock...: Justified and partially deconstructed. It turns out that there were tons of uninfected survivors around the city, but they were actively avoiding Frank because the sheer brutality of his war on the infected meant that they couldn't tell he was still human.
  • Leg Cling:
    • Mary Jane Watson to the Punisher in the cover like you can see.
    • The Thing is seen to do this with Thundra and Red She-Hulk before Frank blows up his lair.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Castle executes Captain America, at his request, just before Cap succumbs to the plague.
    • Sue Storm does this to her children by choking them with forcefields.
  • Mutual Kill: Magneto and Electro inadvertently cause a massive EMP while fighting, vaporizing each other and wiping out an already-overtaxed New Yorks electrical grid.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Frank accidentally caused the outbreak when he ambushed and killed Russian mobsters trying to sell the virus. He didn't know that the idiots were in fact carrying the virus in vials in their own pockets.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Spider-Man publicly killing and eating the Rhino on Live television was the first time the general public realized that there was a problem on the horizon. Subverted in that most of the superheroes were able to write it off as an isolated incident until The Blob ate a restaurant in Hoboken and a mob of school-children went on a killing spree in a shopping mall.
  • Not Quite Dead: The original miniseries implied that the Hulk had eaten Wolverine alive, with the hulk shown chowing down on his arm. The prequel reveals that Hulk only got the arm; Wolverine escaped and is now one of the last surviving superheroes.
  • One-Man Army: Just like his mainstream counterpart. Frank has been fighting a solo war against hordes of mutant cannibals,the superhuman type in particular, for years after the fall of civilization.
    • Dr. Doom turns out to be one of these, single-handedly killing an infected Juggernaut, Hercules, and an army of mole people in short order. The raw ferocity he demonstrates while fighting serves as foreshadowing that he's actually infected.
  • Offing the Mouth: Deadpool is forever getting shot by people who just want him to shut up.
  • Offing the Offspring: After Franklin and Valeria are infected, Sue Storm tearfully performs a Mercy Kill on them by using forcefields to choke them and put them out of their misery.
  • Off with His Head!: Shocker, Doctor Octopus, and Beast are killed this way.
  • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: Fisk has basically become this, complete with blunt tusks.
  • Overshadowedby Awesome: Hawkeye has difficulty remaining relevant in the utter chaos of the early outbreak, as his Badass Normal archery skills are overshadowed by the more powerful crowd-control abilities of the uninfected heroes. On the other hand, he excels at assassinating singular targets, as Dr. Doom finds out the hard way.
  • Patient Zero: Spider-Man was the first infected superhero. It's subverted in that he wasn't actually the first to be infected, but the public nature of his breakdown alerted the scientific community about the virus, which had already infected countless other people beforehand.
  • The Plague: A terrible plague has swept the Earth, turning everyone – human, hero, villain, god and monster — into sadistic cannibal predators.
  • Preacher Man: Frank finds one hiding in a church basement along with a young kid. He tries to convince Frank to leave Manhattan and his life of hunting zombies.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: In Avengers, the victory of successfully evacuating the science team is undercut by the fact that the infrastructure no longer exists to disseminate a cure even if they manage to develop one. The virus only spread as far as it did due to the mass movement of humans in a globalized society, and that ship has sailed.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Contrary to the Bittersweet Ending and Downer Ending above, the fact that some of the Marvel Universe's top minds are still alive researching their asses off to find a solution to the plague in an isolated safe location where Wolverine regularly guides survivors to suggests there's still hope for this universe yet.
  • Reconstruction: This could be read as a reconstruction on Marvel Zombies. In the MZ titles, the titular zombies don’t actually act like zombies, but rather intelligent cannibals that happen to be undead (who end up conquering their world). This story kinda runs with that idea, showing a mutating Hate Plague that simply makes the infected savage maniacs that are easily dealt with. It also demonstrates a better understanding of the heroes; MZ!Mr. Fantastic loses his mind after the death of his children, whereas the Reed of this world keeps his sanity and helps establish a safe-zone with the surviving heroes. Healing factors are also given more prominence but it's also clear they aren't a Story-Breaker Power here; Wolverine and Deadpool acknowledge they can feel the infection inside of themselves, and that even with said healing factors it's their will that's keeping them from turning. As Deadpool and many others show, fast healing doesn't automatically make you immune but Wolverine proves it does give them a fighting chance at staying themselves.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Frank mentions that Thor killed Ares and Hercules before leaving.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story:
    • Hawkeye, the last uninfected Avenger, kills Dr. Doom and swears to honour his fallen comrades... just before an infected Thor arrives and crushes his head.
    • While Deadpool is shown to be a lackey to Zero and Doom, Wolverine shows that he desperately tried to fight his infection to help the survivors, further urged on by Wolverine pleading him to earn his trust. Needless to say, Foregone Conclusion shows that Wade failed to live up to Logan's expectations.
  • Shout-Out: A talk-show host interviewing Reed Richards compares Patient Zero's condition to that of the infected in 28 Days Later.
  • Staking the Loved One:
    • Wolverine is forced to put down most of the X-Men after they become infected.
    • Avengers opens with Hawkeye hunting down and killing an infected Mockingbird, his ex-wife.
  • Technically-Living Zombie: The plague in this alternate reality is a lot more like some kind of hell-blend between the Crossed and Plagas infection. Higher brain functions take a hike and all victims devolve into members of cannibalistic, tribal societies, although are still highly intelligent.
  • Those Who Fight Monsters: Frank's obsession on hunting down the cannibals is not so different from how the cannibals hunt the uninfected. Frank, unsurprisingly, is all too aware of this.
  • Vampire Refugee: The prequels show that Deadpool continued to fight alongside the survivors for a long, long time after becoming infected, and by the time of Punisher he's easily one of the infected with the most of his original personality left.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The priest's reactions over Frank killing Spider-Man after the latter kept his promise of helping the uninfected. Castle bluntly answer that he doesn't deal with monsters.
    Priest: For the love of God—why?
    Frank: I don't make deals with monsters.
    Priest: (scornfully) I see only one monster.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Jonathan Maberry has said that the inspiration for the series comes from George Romero's The Crazies (1973) and Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend.
  • Why Won't You Die?: If Deadpool was hard enough to get rid of before, it's damn near impossible now. Frank mentions killing him 33 times.
  • The Worf Effect: In the prequel, Hulk and Wolverine have a drawn-out battle that ends with Wolverine getting a hand ripped off. Frank just shoots Hulk in the eye with an arrow (the arrowhead is the tip of one of Logan's severed claws though).
    • Likewise, in Marvel Universe vs the Avengers, Hawkeye kills Dr. Doom — the MU's most dangerous and formidable villain — in the same way. Justified, as Hawkeye takes advantage of Dr. Doom's greatest weakness - his overwhelming arrogance - along with the fact he thinks Hawkeye won't go for a lethal hit. He's wrong.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Inverted, Frank made a deal with Zero (Zombie Spider-Man) to leave the uninfected alone if he took out Fisk and rescued MJ. After Zero and MJ reunited, Frank shoots Zero in the head.
  • Zombie Apocalypse