Marvel Comics‘ latest Punisher series introduces a new vigilante into the reality of Earth-616. This new character has no connection to the original Punisher, Frank Castle. He is, however, cut from the same cloth, though lacking the baggage that led to Castle’s retirement in June 2023.
Punisher #1 by David Pepose, Dave Watcher, and Dan Brown, introduces the new Punisher, Joe Garrison. A former agent of SHIELD, Garrison is forced out of retirement after a terrorist uncovers his identity. Framed for the murder of his own family, Garrison turns to his old handler, Triple-A, for help in bringing down the criminal organization that ruined his life. This leads to Garrison being dubbed the new Punisher, thanks to a pattern on his armor resembling Frank Castle’s trademark skull.
Joe Garrison Shares Many Traits With Frank Castle
While not setting out to emulate Frank Castle, Joe Garrison has much in common with him. Apart from both men turning to violence to avenge their families, both men are career soldiers who had a hard time readjusting to civilian life. Both men also enjoy the aid of a master technician, with Triple-A filling the same role that Microchip held with Frank Castle.
However, these similarities are skin-deep. The two Punishers have little common ground outside their training and shared tragedy. While having a comparable background and similar motivations, Joe Garrison is an entirely different sort of hero than Frank Castle.
New Punisher Is More Tech Dependent
Frank Castle would make use of exotic weapons given the chance, but tended to rely on simple pistols and rifles. Joe Garrison, by contrast, utilizes more unusual weapons. This is in keeping with his background as a former Agent of SHIELD.
The best example of this comes during Garrison’s raid on the hideout of the terrorist called the Sokovian. He utilizes an advanced rail gun, which magnetizes any nearby metal. This allows Garrison to disarm the Sokovian’s henchmen far faster than he could kill them with a standard assault rifle.
New Punisher More Concerned With Saving Lives
The other major difference between Frank Castle and Joe Garrison is one of focus in the field. While Castle had a strict code against killing innocents, his chief goal was killing as many criminals as possible. By contrast, Joe Garrison’s first priority in any mission is protecting the people his terrorist enemies make into targets. This is a fine, but important distinction.
The final scene of Punisher #1, in which the Sokovian tries to cover his escape by taking a hostage, drives this point home. The thought of an innocent woman dying as his wife did gives Joe Garrison a moment’s pause. It also gives him the focus he needs to make an impossible shot, shooting around the hostage to drop the Sokovian. The issue ends with Garrison reflecting that his own punishment has just begun.
Why Marvel Created a New Punisher
In recent years, the Punisher’s skull logo has been adopted by several groups that Marvel Comics and Disney did not want to be associated with. This association continued even after Marvel changed the logo in the comics, and published several stories where Frank Castle condemned their attitude. Apart from this, many of the more deconstructive Punisher storylines warped Frank to the point that he could no longer be considered an anti-hero.
Marvel addressed this with the final 12-issue Punisher miniseries that retired Frank Castle, who refused to give up his war on crime even after his beloved wife was magically resurrected. Faced with the knowledge of how far he had fallen, Frank was transported to Weirdworld, a dimension of endless war. After encountering a group of lost orphans, Frank finds a new resolve to be a guardian rather than a death dealer.
The new Punisher series sets a similar standard, with Joe Garrison being more concerned with protection than punishment. This addresses the worries regarding real world peace-keepers who seemed to view Frank Castle as a role model. While Garrison has the same backstory, he lacks Castle’s baggage and brutality. This makes him a worthy heir to the legacy of the Punisher, while still being a more heroic anti-hero.