The Punisher is about to find himself at odds with a former member of the Avengers with godly ties. Frank Castle has made a deal with The Hand, an evil organization of assassins that typically finds itself at odds with the likes of Daredevil and Elektra. The Hand recruited Punisher to be the Fist of the Beast, leading its army into war after war. Marvel’s new Punisher series by writer Jason Aaron and artists Jesus Saiz and Paul Azaceta finds Frank Castle already embedded within The Hand, leading a raid on a new group of weapon dealers called the Apostles of War. The revelation of the faction’s leader in Punisher #2 will have major ramifications for the larger Marvel Universe.
WARNING: Spoilers for Punisher #2 below.
The back half of Punisher #2 finds the antihero on his throne as The Hand bring him an agent of the Apostles of War. The man comes with a gift as a peace offering: a Banner cannon, strong enough to replicate the power of the Hulk. The Apostle of War claims Punisher knows their leader’s name, every night he prays for war. Clues to the Apostle of War’s leader are littered in this exchange, each time the word “war” is used. Also, one only has to look at the headgear the Apostles of War have on their heads as another strong indicator. Of course, Punisher brutally beats the Apostle, but doesn’t learn who is commanding them. It’s only when we get to the end of the issue that we discover Ares, the God of War and former Mighty Avenger, is commanding the Apostles of War.
Ares was a member of Iron Man’s Mighty Avengers team that spun out of the original superhero Civil War. Whereas the New Avengers weren’t registered, the Mighty Avengers were government-sanctioned and part of the 50 State Initiative, operating out of New York. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Aresdebuted in 1966’s Thor #129. He was typically portrayed as a villain, battling the likes of Hercules and Thor. However, he spent time as a hero on first the Mighty Avengers, and then on Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers. Ares met an untimely death in the Siege limited series when he was ripped in half by Sentry. Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” era saw Ares resurrected in 2015’s Contest of Champions.
Jason Aaron has teased that Punisher takes place firmly in the Marvel Universe, hinting that other heroes will begin to react to Punisher’s membership in The Hand. With Ares now serving as the series’ “Big Bad,” there are a number of possible guest stars that can come into play.