Frank Castle left behind his classic Punisher logo to become the new Beast of the Hand, but now his latest enemy has claimed the icon for himself. While Castle has been leading the ninja criminal organization, he has been up against the Apostles of War led by Ares, the God of War. The Apostles of War behave as black market gun-runners according to Castle, who says in Punisher #2 that they supply “terrorists and hate groups and third-world despots with weapons that can level cities.” Ares’ main goal is to keep wars going, and he disapproves of the Hand’s new hold over Castle. When the Punisher goes to face Ares and his forces alone in Punisher #5 by writer Jason Aaron and artists Paul Azaceta and Jesús Saiz, he finds the god lunging at him while wearing a vest with his old skull logo in the hope to “redeem” the Punisher.
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As Castle lays waste to Ares’ soldiers, the god greets and yells out to the Punisher, “I hear you, Frank! Rejoice, for your god has heard your prayer! You are lost, my child! Beguiled by the servants of the Beast! But through the power of war and the grace of Ares… the Punisher shall be redeemed!” Castle agreed to lead the Hand after they restored his wife Maria to life, but he has recently realized that the Hand has more nefarious means and an ideology that does not entirely align with his own. Ares also does not agree with what the Hand is doing, particularly because it is changing Castle and affecting the endless war on crime he normally wages.
Ares’ adoption of the classic Punisher logo restores it to the series that had seemingly done away with it early on. Readers took notice of the new series when it debuted a new look for Castle, which stripped him of his controversial icon. In real life, the logo has been adopted for use by political and pro-law enforcement groups, something that Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway has previously criticized. “Any ‘cop’ who wears a Punisher logo in his official capacity is identifying law enforcement with an outlaw,” Conway said. “These ‘cops’ are a disgrace to serious police officers everywhere. They show an imbecilic level of irresponsibility and should be fired immediately.”
Although Punisher removes Castle’s classic skull logo, the status quo change for the character is also setting him up to be in the crosshairs of Daredevils Matthew Murdock and Elektra Natchios. As Castle leads the Hand in his solo series, the two Daredevils are working to form the Fist organization in writer Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto’s Daredevil ongoing series, which is intended to bring an end to the Hand. Punisher appears briefly in Daredevil #1 and the series is teasing the death of either Matt or Elektra, but whether Punisher will find an end to his ongoing war with his own death as well remains to be seen. Punisher #5 is written by Aaron with art by Saiz and Azaceta, colors by Dave Stewart and letters by VC’s Cory Petit. Main cover art for the issue is by Saiz. The issue is now on sale from Marvel Comics.