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Comic Book / The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe

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Now this is the way to solve the Superhero Paradox!

"We understand your anger, Mr. Castle. We have felt the impotent fury at the supermen who destroyed our lives, who forgot the pain they caused and hid behind their masks and capes and badges. But you: You dared to hit back. We want them all. The heroes and villains. The mutants and monsters. Anything that calls itself superhuman: We want you to kill them all."

The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe is a one-shot What If? comic from 1995, where The Punisher's personal war is not with criminals, but people with superpowers. Can you guess this was written by Garth Ennis?

Frank Castle's family dies when they're caught in the crossfire between superheroes and invading aliens at Central Park. Enraged by this, Frank kills the nearest superpowered individuals to him before being subdued, and is sent to prison for life. However, he instead ends up being taken to a committee of people who also suffered great losses due to clashes between superheroes and villains. They promise to give him everything he needs to kill all supers, and he starts systemically offing them.

Not to be confused with the similarly titled Marvel Universe vs. the Punisher, which had a completely different story. Also not to be confused with Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, which has an even HIGHER death toll.

The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe provides examples of:

  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: After officially becoming The Punisher, Frank first goes after Spider-Man and Venom, who are having a brawl in the sewers, complete with high jumps and leaps. Somewhat justified in that they're presumably in Manhattan, which has a famously elaborate underground tunnel network.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: In this version, Frank's family is killed in the crossfire of a fight between superheroes and invading aliens, rather than a mob war. As a result, he develops a vendetta against superpowered heroes and villains, rather than human criminals.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Many of the Punisher's victims are killed in ways that their mainstream canon versions should be able to survive.
    • The Punisher's first victim, Spider-Man, is stunned with electricity, then shot dead, with his Spider-Sense only warning him when it's already too late. Granted, Peter was distracted since he was fighting Venom at the same time, but he's been shown to easily dodge bullets or even lightning bolts, so evading these tasers should have been no problem for him.
    • The Punisher kills the Hulk by waiting for him to turn back into Bruce Banner and then shooting him. In canon, Bruce has been known to reflexively transform into the Hulk whenever his life is in danger... even from himself.
    • Wolverine is killed by being reduced to a skeleton after getting electrocuted. In canon, his Healing Factor has restored his body after taking that much damage (and in some cases even almost to From a Single Cell levels).
    • Among the X-Men characters the Punisher killed by luring them to the moon and nuking them are Apocalypse and the Juggernaut, both of whom should be able to survive even a direct nuclear blast. The former is immortal, while the latter is incapable of being physically damaged.
  • Alternate Continuity: It's not really in continuity with the mainstream The Punisher, and although it retains the dark and gritty feel, this is a separate continuity, as well as a one-shot story.
  • An Arm and a Leg: This comic's version of Microchip helps Punisher in his cause because he had his both legs ripped off by Doctor Octopus.
  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: The original 1995 cover depicted the Punisher standing triumphantly on a mound of dead Marvel characters. The reissue from 2000 replaces it with a generic picture of Punisher firing his guns.
  • Author Appeal: This comic basically exists to allow Garth Ennis to express his hatred of superheroes by having the Punisher do Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Author Tract: The story's writer Garth Ennis, infamous for his dislike of superheroes, devotes the story to how superheroes do more harm than good and should answer (in fire and blood) for the collateral damage and innocents indirectly hurt during their battles with the forces of evil.
  • Bond One-Liner: Spider-Man asks why Punisher is about to kill him. "Because somebody had to be first".
  • Book Ends: The story began with Matt Murdock and Frank Castle as teenagers in Hell's Kitchen, when Castle protected Murdock from some bullies. Matt said that if he fought back, he would be like them. Castle did not agree and told him that someone must fight back against the abuses of those stronger.
    Bully: That's Big Frank Castle! I ain't tangling with him!
    Young Frank: I hate bullies. You don't hit 'em back they're just gonna keep hurting you, Matt. Only way to stop 'em.
    Young Matt: My... My dad doesn't like me fighting. Says I gotta just ignore 'em.
    Young Frank: He's wrong. You gotta get your own back.
    • The story ends in Hell's Kitchen, with the last fight of Punisher against Daredevil. Matt immediately notices the irony as the Punisher's identity is public - that although he did not know it, his crusade had not began in Central Park, but in Hell's Kitchen - but Frank doesn't until after he delivers the fatal blow and peels off Daredevil's mask to reveal the face of a man he had called a friend since childhood.
    Daredevil: Welcome home, Frank. Back where it all began, mm?
    Punisher: Not for me. It began for me way uptown in the park, five years ago. Hell's Kitchen means nothing to me now.
    Daredevil: You're wrong, Frank. Maybe you've forgotten, but this is where it began.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Scarlet Witch and Carnage's corpses are on the original cover, but they're not killed in-story.
  • Crazy-Prepared: With unlimited funding and access to plenty of equipment, Frank carries a few solutions for each super he faces off against-like a magnetic mine to disable Doctor Doom's armor and an extra pistol he conceals on a spot of the battlefield where Captain America is pretty likely to toss him towards.
  • Deus ex Nukina: Which is the most efficient way to kill all the legions and legions of mutants that Marvel had in the 1990s? Give the X-Men, all the related X-groups, and the Brotherhood of Evil mutants a fake invitation to a last battle on the moon. And while they discuss who invited who, drop an atomic bomb and get rid of everyone. Except Wolverine...
  • Despair Event Horizon: Not Central Park but Hell's Kitchen after Punisher kills Daredevil and Frank Castle kills his oldest friend Matt Murdock. It's where Frank realizes he's the last Super left and he knows just what to do.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The comic's premise in a nutshell. The Punisher kills every superhuman on Earth just because his family was accidentally killed by the Avengers and the X-Men and is hired to do this by an organization of people unintentionally injured by superheroes who are just too petty to let go of their grievances and consider that the heroes didn't harm them on purpose.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Cyclops said he was sorry that they had just killed Castle's wife and kids. Castle killed him.
  • Downer Ending: As promised by the title, Frank kills every hero and villain in the Marvel Universe. And being the remaining hero/villain, Frank kills himself.
  • Drop the Hammer: After blowing up Dr. Doom, Punisher finishes him off with a sledgehammer.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Wolverine hits the bottle after Punisher blows up all the mutants gathered on the moon.
  • Drowning Pit: Punisher kills everyone in the supervillain prison The Vault by flooding it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When the committee tells Frank they want him to kill any future super-humans, Frank leaves them since he only punishes people who've committed actual crimes, not preemptively murder those who haven't done anything.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: The title already warned you that everyone would get killed.
  • Evil Gloating: Ham that he is, Doctor Doom wastes time gloating while having Punisher in a crushing Neck Lift, instead of delivering the finishing blow. This gives Punisher enough time to place a magnetic mine on Doom's face.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: Sure, the Punisher killed the whole Marvel universe, but at least it's not the main universe.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Kesselring, the guy who hired and finances Punisher, wears an eyepatch on the ruined side of his face.
  • Eye Scream: Kesselring lost one eye before the events of the story, and the Punisher gives the Kingpin a Moe Greene Special.
  • He Who Fights Monsters:
    • The story ends with the Punisher killing Daredevil and discovering him to be his friend Matt Murdock, which makes him realize that he has become the very threat he accused all the heroes he slaughtered of being. Being unable to cope with inadvertently becoming what he hated, Frank proceeds to commit suicide.
    • Frank eventually calls out the people who funded his war because they wish to keep killing any superhumans that will eventually appear, not unsubtly implied will include children, just because they exist and what they may do.
  • Hero Insurance: Deconstructed. The aftermath of a usual superhero brawl has dire consequences, which leads to the deaths of hundreds. Also, people would be very angry that superheroes can get away with this because they have a Secret Identity.
  • High-Voltage Death: Punisher kills Wolverine by throwing him to a transformer, which fries him to the bone.
  • Hypocrite: After the Punisher ends up killing Kesselring, he calls out the rest of his organization of people indirectly harmed by superheroes by calling them bitter fools who've held onto their anger for too long. Given that the Punisher went along with killing all the superhumans because the organization paid his bail after he was incarcerated for murdering several members of the Avengers and the X-Men after they accidentally killed his family and he let his grief fuel his crusade of indiscriminately murdering all the superheroes, Frank is a fine one to talk.
  • Irony: Castle's third-from-last kill is one of his sponsors.
    Frank: You people have let your pain run way past its course. You're nothing but a bunch of bitter old fools. If I ever hear from any of you again I'll come back and kill you all.
    • His second-to-last kill is Daredevil - a Despair Event Horizon when Frank realizes he's just killed his oldest and lifelong friend.
    Matt: There's always someone under the mask, Frank. But you killed us all.
    Frank: No, Matt. There's—There's one more to go.
  • Killed Offscreen: The Avengers, the prisoners of The Vault, and the Fantastic Four are not shown getting killed, their deaths are only confirmed by Wolverine mentioning them as having happened.
  • Leave Him to Me!: Punisher made sure that Wolverine was not among the mutants when they killed them all on the moon. He gave him three scars on the face at the beginning with his claws, and Frank wanted to take his revenge on him close and personal.
  • Misplaced Retribution: And a perfect example of the Superhero Paradox while we are at it. The Castle family was killed as collateral damage to an alien attack on Central Park. Frank (from what we see through his on-screen actions) decides only the superheroes of Earth deserve to die.
  • Moe Greene Special: Kingpin loses an eye when Punisher empties his pistol on him.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Frank is sentenced to life in jail "for the murder of several of this nation's greatest heroes - and the X-Men Cyclops and Jubilee (Marvel Comics)".
  • Nothing Left to Do but Die: After successfully killing all the heroes and villains in the world, with Daredevil being the last one to die, Punisher killed the last one that still lived: himself.
  • Plot Armor: Thanks to keeping things one-on-one with some opponents and wiping out others en masse, Frank manages to kill everyone.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: Punisher is the recipient of this equipment-wise since he now has far better funding (which means better guns) and intel on his targets.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Captain America tried to appeal to Castle's military background. It did not work. Garth Ennis seems to think World War II veterans have some differences with Vietnam veterans.
  • Self-Deprecation: Garth Ennis spends forty-four pages slaughtering superheroes and in the forty-fifth acknowledges that anyone capable of doing that is just as superhuman and just as guilty of what he sees as contempt for normal people.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Or rather, "Shut Up, Captain America". Cap's attempt to talk reason into Frank by appealing to his duty as a soldier only gets him a bullet to the head and an extremely cynic "I served in 'Nam, we're Not So Similar" response.
  • Superhero Paradox: In this world, seemingly, heroes hurt, kill, and maim innocent people as collateral damage all the time during their battles and don't care that much, sparking Frank's quest and granting him his sponsors.
  • Talk to the Fist: Or rather, talk to the bomb. The Punisher's attempt at killing Doctor Doom goes horribly wrong, and he's left at the villain's mercy. However, he takes advantage of Doom's Evil Gloating to take out a magnetic mine and stick it to his metal mask, knocking him out. After killing him, Frank admits that he would surely have died if Doom hadn't wasted time with that speech. With Captain America, a similar situation happens, only that it's "talk to the point-blank handgun".
  • Twilight of the Supers: Well, the comic definitely does what it advertises… Frank also makes clear to his benefactors that he is drawing the line at killing all of the supers that exist right now, and the future generation (in every way that term stands) is off limits.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Colossus saves Frank from being killed by Wolverine, who only attacked him because he'd murdered some of the assembled heroes in the first place. Frank is still convinced superhumans are bad, and later nukes Colossus along with the rest of the X-Men.
  • Villain Protagonist: Since he is killing superheroes as well, Punisher is this.