It may have taken two failed movies and a guilty pleasure to get to this point, but Netflix's Daredevil Season 2 did the impossible: It gave the Punisher (a.k.a. Frank Castle) a good live-action interpretation. Not only did Jon Bernthal steal the show from Daredevil's titular character, but his performance impressed both viewers and studio heads so much that a Punisher Netflix show was greenlit and fast tracked into production right away. With Netflix assuring long-time fans that Frank Castle's war will be given the successful Marvel treatment, here are five recommended enemies that the Punisher can face in his continued resurgence.
5. The Slavers
The Punisher has a long history of fighting criminal organizations, but none have been as irredeemable as the Slavers. In the fifth Punisher: MAX arc, the Punisher first hears of the Slavers — Romanian ex-soldiers who migrated to America with the intentions of making a profit through means of human trafficking — during what was supposedly just another routine pimp assassination.
The Slavers were not the first organized crime elements the Punisher fought, but they were one of the most formidable groups he's faced. With them having military skills on par with that of the Punisher, they forced the Punisher's hand, with him using disembowelment, torture and burning someone alive just to end their prostitution racket. Jon Bernthal and Netflix teased fans by saying that the Punisher seen in Daredevil isn't anything yet, so having the Punisher face opponents who force him to go to the extreme would be a great way to fulfill this promise.
4. The American Government
In his more controversial story arcs, the Punisher was not fighting in a gang war or a drug bust because he had the American government in his gunsights. The specific motives may vary depending on which government agent was talking, but one thing remained constant: They wanted to use the Punisher as a means to their end.
Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is taking great efforts to make their stories socially relevant, as seen in how the recent Capt. America movies dealt with oversight and accountability, it would make sense for the MCU's Netflix branch to deal with similar themes. Just like how the Punisher: MAX comics implied that a secret cabal of corrupt US Army generals were masterminding the chaos Frank Castle saw, a similar story arc could be used in the Punisher's Netflix show where a group of corrupt government officials would serve as the show's version of The Hand in Daredevil.
Jigsaw has the distinction of being one of the few Punisher villains to have fought the one-man army more than once and get away unharmed. Formerly a hitman by name of Billy Russo, Jigsaw was just another mobster until the Punisher threw him face first into a plate glass window. Now with a mangled face and anger flowing through his veins, Jigsaw resurfaced in the criminal underworld as a sadistic murderer who would kill the Punisher for free.
Netflix's Jigsaw would give the character the chance to return as an intimidating foe the Punisher can take seriously, since his last live-action portrayal in Punisher: War-Zone (2009) — which turned the character analysis of the best Punisher comics into a trashy B-grade action movie straight out of the '80s — made him resemble a cartoon character more than the vengeful sadist he is known to be:
Despite fighting countless criminals and psychos over the years, the only one to have made it really personal for the Punisher was the nigh-unstoppable force of nature called Barracuda. True, Nicky Cavella from the Up is Down, Black is White arc also made things personal, but his claim to fame was pissing on bones, not breaking the Punisher. Just like the Punisher, Barracuda is a veteran of the Vietnam War and other conflicts, making him a dark reflection of what Frank Castle could have become if he was as much a bloodthirsty psychopath as Barracuda is.
Barracuda only appeared in two of the ten major arcs in Garth Ennis's Punisher: MAX, but he was the antagonist who had the most impact. Not only was Barracuda able to beat the Punisher to an inch of his life, but he also dealt personal blows to the Punisher by killing old friends and threatening to either kill or eat Frank Castle's illegitimate daughter. If Netflix wants its take on the Punisher to have a draining fight where the stakes are at their highest, Barracuda is the man for the job.
1. The Defenders
Before I get lynched for this blasphemous suggestion, hear me out.
It's no question that the Punisher does not get along with the other costumed heroes in the same line of work, especially given his preference for a more permanent solution to crime. Some of the most memorable Punisher stories showed him fighting other Marvel heroes, where they would always find themselves at odds with the Punisher when it came to the value of a convicted criminal's life. The Marvel Knights arc Confederacy of Dunces had Daredevil, Spider-Man and Wolverine trying (and failing) to arrest the Punisher for mass murder and cult favorites like Punisher vs. the Marvel Universe had the titular vigilante putting the Marvel icons in their place after they get too sanctimonious for his tastes. While doing the same for a Marvel TV series may sound controversial, taking the property to risky territory may be the best way for these Marvel brands to grow and mature.
Daredevil Season 2 already planted the seeds of this conflict and it would be a waste for Netflix not to expound on this clash of ideals and bring it to its violent extreme. With an all-out war between the Defenders of Hell's Kitchens and the mysterious ninja clan known as The Hand already on its way, it would be impossible for the Punisher not to bring his cynical brand of justice to the war zone and make his presence felt.