Spoilers below. You've been warned.
In the Beginning
- Ink, from In the Beginning, isn't someone you would expect to be afraid of. On the surface he just looks like some cross-eyed, scrawny, pencil-necked nerd...until you hear how he earned his nickname.Larry: Stabbed him inna neck?Nicky: Stabbed him inna eye. Just kept going 'till he hit brain.
- Pittsy is walking Nightmare Fuel, it even gets to the point that Frank himself is unsettled by him when he refuses to drop dead after everything he goes through, and even manages to keep walking a few steps after a shotgun blast to the face.
- The bombing scene, from the opening pages of the very first issue, is a very gruesomely realistic depiction of a bombing; they aren't clean and don't just affect one building. At one point, Frank gets up only to see a woman whose body is literally filled with shards of glass, including one in her throat - she sounds like she's choking and crying, then vomits blood and glass before collapsing in front of him.
- Napper French initially appears to be a regular old man caring for his grandson, but is soon revealed to have once been a legendary mob "cleaner" renowned for his ability to pull a "Houdini" on a body, meaning he made it disappear completely. The process of him doing this to both Tommy and Maginty is very disturbing to witness.
Napper: He doesn't have much blood left, I dont know much about tying off veins. Never had to.
- It's notable that Maginty forces him to do it while Tommy is still ALIVE, which even the sadistic old Nesbit had never done, since Napper's specialty was body disposal, not torture and murder. Napper is even somewhat at a loss since he's never had to do it to a living person before.
- Finn Cooley's burned, mutilated face, especially after he loses the mask holding it in place and ends up taping it on.
- The biochemical flesh-eating supervirus being secretly created by the Russians is terrifying not only because of the capabilities of the virus and what the Russians plan on doing with it, but also because of how the Russians manage to develop such a weapon; for instance, they determine its lethality by testing it out on some Chechen prisoners, who have all their flesh stripped from their bones instantly.
- Castle's actions in the arc are also uncharacteristically brutal (even for him) - he's completely willing to go to lengths he would normally avoid, such as killing guards and other civil servants who were only doing their jobs. This is best demonstrated in the scene where he and Vanheim infiltrate a nuclear missile base and kill every living thing down there, including the unarmed scientists.
- Picture this. You're on a flight in a commercial plane ready to head over to Moscow, when suddenly a pair of Arab terrorists subdue the entire flight crew, including the piloting crew. Then, they turn to you and the other passengers and tell them that they have taken control of the plane, and won't hesitate to kill anyone who tries to interfere. These men are die-hard fanatics and don't intend on letting anyone aboard live, including themselves. All that matters to them is striking a blow for Allah. Scary, right! Well, imagine that this is all part of a covert government operation. The fact that everything these men do is entirely within the realm of possibility only makes it that much scarier - terrorism on this scale is a very real occurrence.
Up is Down and Black is White
- This arc has Frank driven into a blind rage by a vicious mob boss. After a night of him going ballistic on the New York underworld, the next issue opens on Frank sitting silently on a police car...surrounded by the corpses of civilians, criminals and cops (picture above). He starts to hear a ghostly voice calling to him..."Frank. Frank. Frank. We're still dead." [Frank sees the silhouette of a young woman and two children] and [jerks awake]
- From the same arc, we finally get a glimpse at Nicky Cavella's backstory...and it's every bit as sick and horrific as you would expect for a monster like Cavella.
- The very glimpse of Pittsy's horribly mutilated face.
- Every single aspect of the backstory for this arc is pure Nightmare Fuel. From what Viorica tells Frank about her baby to what the horrific things the titular slavers did to their prisoners to —most disturbing of all— the apathetic response to what happened, it is all highly disturbing. This is not to mention the extreme lengths Frank Castle goes to in order to destroy the slavers in question. And, as far as the human-trafficking goes, it's all Truth in Television.
Frank: She told me the whole story. About the day she left her village. About the old man, about Cristu and Vera. About the thing her father said. About her baby. When she was done, I knew a lot of men would have to die.
- Frank's response to it all says everything about just how awful it is:
- Two words: Tiberiu Bulat. Much like Barracuda after him, he's an utterly psychopathic man who enjoys killing and torturing. Even Viorica compares him to the Devil!
- Barracuda may as well be this trope personified at least for Punisher MAX. He's basically the African-American version of Bullseye.
- The massive damage that would be wrought by Dynaco's scheme to blackout all of Florida. Apparently, the sheer scale of the destruction was enough to scare the shit out of one Dynaco employee, such that he tried to blow the whistle on the whole operation. And the callous attitude shown by his compatriots towards the potential collateral damage makes it that much worse.Stephens: Homes. Businesses. The whole fucking infrastructure of the state. Hospitals, people on life support, street lighting, airports...
- The story of how Harry Ebbing met Barracuda in prison over 20 years ago. On Harry's first day in prison, after being threatened by two inmates who made it clear that they planed on raping him as soon as they got the chance, Ebbing took upon himself to find the most dangerous inmate in prison and offered him large sums of money in exchange for protection. That inmate's name was Barracuda. Shortly after a deal was struck with Barracuda, the two aforementioned inmates were found with their eyelids sewn shut, with each man's eye sockets containing the other's testicles. Their eyes were never found. And the worst part? Both men were left alive after this.
Man Of Stone
- The story about how General Zakharov, "The Man Of Stone", got his moniker: he rounded up a whole Afghan village and forced them to march off a cliff, one by one. Women, children, the elderly...every last one. A woman asked him to kill her and spare her baby. He takes the baby from her hands, walks up to the cliff and throws it over the side without a second thought. AND HE DID THIS TO ANOTHER SIX VILLAGES!
- Jennifer's heartbreaking backstory; from being beaten and raped half to death by her sadistic husband to being forced to "entertain" his friends, the poor woman's entire married life is this trope in spades. It's entirely understandable how she became so cruel and emotionless.
Long Cold Dark
- The sheer lengths Barracuda is willing to go to in order to get revenge on Frank, from going all the way to England to track down Frank's old comrade Yorkie Mitchell and torture him into giving him what he needs to hurt Frank with, before killing the old Brit and his wife to strolling casually into a daycare, kidnapping Frank's illegitimate daughter with O'Brien and killing a daycare worker who tries to stop him, and showing baby Sarah to Frank, taunting him about how he's about to torture her to death right in front of him.
- Near the end of the arc we finally get a glimpse of Barracuda's childhood, and the scenes are...unsettling, to say the least.
- First, we see him apprehending a schoolyard bully by gouging out his eyes to such a severe degree that paramedics are called in to take the boy away. Next, we see him in a juvenile detention center, where a lecherous bully attempts to sexually assault him, only to have his testicles sliced off with a hunting knife.
Other Story Arcs
- From the Girls in White Dresses Arc, we have Jigsaw again. Much like his mainstream counterpart, his face is horribly disfigured.
- In his introductory arc, we get to see how Fisk became a Self-Made Orphan. After having to endure years of abuse from his monster of a father, he finally got his revenge by slipping some drugs into his beer; drugs that would leave him paralyzed, but still allow him to see and feel everything. Once this was done, he pulled out a bag filled with some of the hungriest, dirtiest rats he could gather, then proceeded to have the rats eat his father's face.
- Bullseye's attempts to get inside Frank's head.
- In one attempt to get into the mind of Frank, Bullseye kidnaps a woman along with her son and daughter after killing her husband and tries to reenact that fateful day in Central Park. It doesn't work. So what does Bullseye do? He tries again with three more families, all with the same results.
- The Valley Forge Massacre. In October 1971, the N.V.A. launched an assault on Firebase Valley Forge where Frank was the top dog. Due to bad weather and other problems, they couldn't receive reinforcements in time. After the battle ended and the smoke cleared, 700 men were dead, including 200 US Marines. Frank was the only survivor, with no other survivors, ally or enemy; he was found still standing, surrounded by twenty enemy soldiers with their heads smashed in, holding a broken rifle and riddled with bullet holes. The story arc Valley Forge, Valley Forge has typed interludes that are excerpts from the book of the brother of one of the men who died, featuring interviews with those involved (the sister of his brother's friend, the man on the radio and one of the men who first arrived at the aftermath). All three of them combined paint a picture of the events surrounding the massacre and its effect on Frank Castle, and it's a very scary picture. The massacre itself is detailed in the Born miniseries and reveals why Frank survived: he made a deal with either The Devil or Death.
- The aftermath of this is also horrifying. Frank is slowly healing in a decent VA hospital. He knows he'll walk again, but his neighbors are missing arms and/or legs. Except for one physically healthy but psychotic patient who is strapped to his bed for everyone else's safety, and who tries to beckon Frank into indulging in his homicidal urges, as he sees a kindred spirit in him.
- Punisher: Soviet: Frank meets his Russian counterpart, an Afghan War veteran whose unit was sold out to the Mujahideen (he only survived - albeit crucified against a tree, with knives thrust through his hands - because they needed a messenger, the others were all flayed alive, and yes, we get to see them) by Colonel Pronchenko, their CO. Said CO later went into organized crime, then moved to America, always taking great care not to get personally involved in all the murders and torture. After the vet dies to Pronchenko's goons, Frank goes up for revenge, finding him in talks with a corrupt and treasonous U.S. senator who'd repeatedly made deals with the Mafiya. So Frank orders Pronchenko to skin him alive, and fortunately we don't get to see it because he botched the job so badly. The senator has a heart attack... fifteen minutes into the flaying.
- Basically invoked by Frank himself:Frank: You're a businessman, you only ever give orders...but you handed out a lifetime's worth of nightmares, so that's what you're going to get. You rear echelon mother fucker.
- During the vet's flashbacks, we also see "puppets": Soviet soldiers whose limbs have been hacked off and eyes torn out, left by the roadside to beg for a Mercy Kill when the Soviet forces roll up.
- Basically invoked by Frank himself:
- "Tiny Ugly World" has Bobby Boorsteen, an utter lunatic who tortured a man to death over twelve hours. And was molested by his mother, who also removed his penis before slitting her own throat, apparently in a moment of self-awareness.