In a world desolated by nuclear war, Frank Castle, the vigilante known as the Punisher, exits a fallout shelter to embark on a mission to the bring people responsible for the destruction to justice.
This comic has examples of:
- Accidental Murder: Paris got sent to Sing Sing after a series of arson jobs on empty buildings that accidentally burned a couple dozen kids to death.
- Alliterative Name: Paris Peters, a former con man and fellow atomic war survivor along with the Punisher.
- Apocalypse How: Class 5; the narration specifies that the nuclear war killed all visible life outside of the specially-made bunker.Weve seen nothing living since we left the shelter. He was expecting continuity, humanity learning to adapt and overcome. A settlement. A sign. Instead theres not even a rat or a bug. You dont adapt or overcome. You dont built a stockade to keep away the mutants, any more than you find yourself reborn with superpowers. All you do is what we're doing now.
- Bad Future: The comic shows us an alternate universe where The War on Terror escalated into all out nuclear Armageddon.Ten bad years. Iraq was one thing. North Korea. Even Pakistan. You shout War On Terror at the Chinese and they laugh so hard the world blows up in your face. That's the trouble with a war you never want to end.
- Black-and-White Insanity: He tracks down the sole survivors on a post-nuclear apocalypse Earth and executes them, because they're the various corrupt and amoral power players whose greed led to the war in the first place. What makes this example worse is that Frank Castle knows that their bunker also has a stockpile of preserved human embryos (sired by them) and the devices to bring them to term, meaning that this bunker could be used to restore the human race... and he still kills everyone. Not just the fat cats, but the doctors who could look after that stockpile. His rationale boils down to: "They're trying to buy me off by saying they'll save the human race... from the apocalypse they started specifically so they could rule the world. Fuck that."
- Black Site: The bunkers built for the members of The Coven.One each in L.A., Dallas, Washington and New York City: Nice and close for when you needed them. Deep enough to survive a nuclear attack, capable of supporting life for over a hundred years. Each one containing a store of frozen human embryos — provided by you and the scientific personnel to oversee them. You could sit out the war you knew was coming, the way you were running the world. You could stay down here and breed, and if the women couldn't conceive, you knew you had a back-up plan.
One way or another, the future would be yours. Everyone else could burn.
- Body Horror: By the final part of the story, Frank is so damaged from his terminal radiation poisoning that he looks like some kind of ghoul.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: A cabal of these are responsible for the end of the world.
- The Elites Jump Ship: The Coven, the richest and most influential people on Earth, hide out in a bunker during a nuclear world war. It's suggested having such a safety net was what made them so reckless as to cause said war.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Frank points out to the cabal they should have just killed William Teach instead of framing him, forcing him to go to Sing Sing where he meets Frank.
- Humans Are Bastards: Lampshaded by Frank when he says "The human race. You've seen what that leads to."
- I'm a Humanitarian: During the one year spent in the fallout bunker under Sing Sing, Frank shot two former guards sharing the space for trying to eat a deceased third guard (whom the Punisher also shot, because the third guard was about to open the hatch and flood the bunker with radiation).
- Implacable Man: Frank takes this Up to Eleven. Nothing, not old age, not World War III, not imminent death from radiation poisoning, not even the knowledge that he's condemning the human race to extinction, will stop him from delivering punishment. Even when all this is done, he walks off through the ruins of New York, hallucinating that it's 1976 and he's heading to Central Park to avert his family's deaths... completely ignoring the fact that he's on fire.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Frank's execution of the Coven, and with them the human race. They started the war that destroyed the world, knowing that when it happened they could ride it out in their bunkers with their breeding women and a stock of frozen embryos — re-populating the world from their seed alone. Frank wasn't completely insane when he put them all down; They killed everyone else on Earth so they could rule the ashes. Why should he have let them?
- Kill 'Em All: Taken Up to Eleven and beyond. After a nuclear apocalypse, the Punisher and his sidekick venture out of a bomb shelter when the radiation has gone down enough for them to make it to the people responsible for turning the world into a nuclear wasteland. Once he gets there he massacres all of them. Including the scientist, and the security guards who were only doing their jobs. He then strangles his sidekick to death after he confirms that he inadvertently caused the deaths of dozens of children. The story ends with the Punisher, now engulfed in flames, walking off into the wasteland.
- Intro-Only Point of View: The first pages are told from the POV of a man referred to as the governor (it's vague whether he's the actual governor of New York or the Warden of Sing Sing) as he tells his assistant about how the negotiations have failed, war is imminent, and the missiles will be flying soon after calling Sing Sing and ordering them to shoot all the prisoners to prevent them from somehow taking over anything that's left afterwards.
- Man on Fire: Frank at the end.
- Our Presidents Are Different: The Coven's Washington bunker was exterminated by the President of the United States, who snapped and went on a rampage screaming about wanting "more ass" as he shot everybody there.
- Post-Apocalyptic Traffic Jam: Frank and Peters see a lot of abandoned cars, their owners killed as they were trying to flee (Frank notes that the EMP kills the engines and the fallout isn't far behind). They spend the night in "a schoolbus full of assisted suicides".
- Posthumous Character: William Teach, the dead architect who designed the various bunkers for the members of the Coven. He relayed his information to Castle as he was dying, sparking the Punisher to hunt down the last criminals on Planet Earth.
- Shoot the Builder: A non-lethal version of the trope, as William Teach, who designed the bunker housing The Coven (politicians and businessmen responsible for the war that ruined the Earth), was framed by them for an unspecified crime and ended up in Sing Sing. There he met Frank Castle, to whom he relayed the info on his employers, sending Castle after them when he emerged from the fallout shelter.
- Sliding Scale of Cynicism vs. Idealism: Far, far on the cynical end. However, the comic ends on a surprisingly idealistic note, saying that while humanity may have died, the Punisher still avenged them and brought justice by killing the men responsible for it all.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: We're not given an exact year, but the story begins with the simple, yet chilling word "Soon"...
- Uncertain Doom: Frank mentions that William Teach made it to the shelter along with several guards and a doctor (it's also unclear if the guards killing the D-Block inmates and any remaining inmates besides Peters were spared by the Punisher). While at least four of them were dead (Teach and the three men mentioned under I'm a Humanitarian, one of whom may have been the man who stabbed Teach), it's never specifically stated that there was no one else left alive when Frank and Paris left (although even if there was, their long-term chances of survival are questionable).
- The Unfettered: Taken to its logical extreme. We watch Frank destroy humanity's last chance for survival in a nuclear wasteland rather than show mercy to the bastards who made the world into the wasteland it now is. Even by Unfettered standards that's chilling. And at the same time, it has a nihilistic nobility to it. Castle lets humanity die out rather than leave it under the control of the people who brought the world to an end. Humanity's epitaph, as written by Frank Castle: "We died at the hands of evil men... but we did not let it go unpunished."
- Wham Line:"We are the last people left alive on Earth." - Coven leader
"How does a small-time con-artist end up in D-Block?" - The Punisher