The new series has already left a huge mark on the character, with the first issue revealing Frank has become The Hand’s top assassin and has reunited with his resurrected wife, Maria. But even as the series charts a drastically different status quo for Frank Castle, it’s also shedding light on his past and the early events that forged the Punisher. Issue #3 paints a 12-year-old Frank as a troubled delinquent whose violent tendencies and habit of doodling skulls in class have made him a social outcast. As this issue reveals, Frank’s disturbing behavior stems from a traumatic incident that unfolded two years earlier.
In a scene seemingly inspired by the infamous Kitty Genovese murder case of 1964, Frank sees a mobster’s son brutally murder a woman and her boyfriend in broad daylight. To his horror, everyone within earshot closes their windows and looks the other way. Disturbed by his discovery that some criminals are above the law, Frank hatches a plot to kill the mobster himself.Frank dons a Captain America Halloween mask (Cap being the one superhero whom Frank admires) and lights him on fire with a homemade blowtorch. As the killer runs screaming through the street, everyone again closes their windows and looks the other way. And just like that, the Punisher claims the first of countless lives.
That’s not the only major development in issue #3. In the present, the Punisher has just declared war on Ares, whose minions are flooding the streets with gamma-powered weapons. But the opening battle in that war goes poorly, after Frank elects to stay behind and send his ninja minions to be slaughtered in his stead. Maria is beginning to regain her memories of the tragic day she and her children died, leaving Frank no choice but to turn to the Beast of the Hand and beg for his children to be resurrected, too.