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How did Marvel's Punisher get replaced? New sold-out series explores the transition from Frank Castle to Joe Garrison

Who is Joe Garrison, Marvel’s new Punisher?

Punisher #1 second printing cover
Image credit: David Wachter (Marvel Comics)

Frank Castle has disappeared, but a new Punisher is stalking the streets. Meet Joe Garrison, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. gravedigger who is using his talents to extinguish the underworld. Garrison’s journey begins in Punisher #1 (written by David Pepose and penciled by Dave Wachter), as the former black ops agent sets his sights on Marvel’s criminal element. Who is this new Punisher, and why has he taken up Frank Castle’s old mantle? Let’s dive into his bloodied backstory…

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Punisher #1

Who is Marvel's new Punisher, Joe Garrison?

Joe Garrison and his family
Image credit: Marvel

Joe Garrison is a retired S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Before the organization was disbanded, Garrison worked as their hatchet man. Using his special skills, Garrison would covertly assassinate high-ranking HYDRA officials, and wipe out entire Latverian splinter cells. Joe was married to a secretary named Stephanie. Together, they had two young children, Laura and Danny. As a cover story, Joe told his friends and neighbors that he was an accountant. After spending years as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secret weapon, Garrison retired to spend more time with his family. Unfortunately, their time together would be brief.

How did Joe Garrison become the Punisher?

The new Punisher's family is killed
Image credit: Marvel

Admit it, once I mentioned his wife and kids, you knew they were toast. Like Frank Castle before him, Joe Garrison is the sole survivor of a family massacre. One of Garrison’s former enemies contracted a terrorist known as the Sokovian to assassinate Joe. The mercenary planted explosives throughout the Garrison household, killing the family in a fiery blaze.

Joe was returning home with groceries when the explosives went off. From his driveway, he watched as his family home exploded. Had he been home a single minute earlier, he would have perished alongside his family. Grief-stricken by the loss of his family, Garrison used his former S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform and weapons cache to hunt for their killers.

After massacring a bar of smalltime criminals, the media began referring to Garrison as the Punisher. This suits Garrison fine, since he believes it will cause his enemies to look in the wrong direction. Garrison is being assisted by Triple-A, his former S.H.I.E.L.D. handler. Like Micro and other Punisher handlers, Triple-A acts as Garrison’s mission control and weapons manufacturer. She’s also the voice of reason when Garrison needs it.

Oh, there is one more wrinkle in Garrison’s origin story. The police think that Garrison was behind the explosion that killed his family. In addition to hunting for the true killers, the new Punisher has to dodge law enforcement, and find a way to clear his name.

Is there any connection between Joe Garrison and Frank Castle?

The new Punisher enters battle
Image credit: Marvel

As of this writing, there is no confirmed connection between Frank Castle and Joe Garrison. As a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Garrison ran in different circles than Castle, so it’s unlikely that they met. When the news mistakes Garrison for the Punisher, his reaction doesn’t show any emotion or familiarity towards Frank.

Garrison doesn’t have to worry about Castle anytime soon. The original Punisher is currently exiled in a realm known as Weirdworld. After serving as the leader of the Hand, Frank’s empire crumbled, and he used the ancient society’s magic to transport himself to post-apocalyptic realm. Seeking to repent for his violent past, Castle is currently helping the realm’s refugee children.

Does the new Punisher have any connections to the larger Marvel Universe?

The new Punisher takes the shot
Image credit: Marvel

As of this writing, there are no confirmed connections between Joe Garrison and any other Marvel Universe characters. In other words, he’s not secretly Captain America’s cousin or Silver Sable’s ex-husband. However, it’s possible that the years he spent as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent put him in touch with some of the major players from Marvel’s espionage circles. Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and Black Widow probably have an entire dossier on him.

Does he still use the skull logo?

The media begins calling Joe Garrison the Punisher
Image credit: Marvel

The Punisher’s iconic skull logo has become controversial in recent years. The logo has become a symbol for violent hate-groups in the real world, which has put Marvel in a dilemma. How do you continue to use the Punisher, when his symbol has become a calling card for real world violence? It hasn’t escaped our notice that the last volume of Punisher gave Frank Castle a new chest symbol.

Joe Garrison has his own skull logo, with a slightly different design. This wasn’t intentional on Garrison’s part. He was just wearing his old S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform, which had an armored chest plate that coincidentally looked like a skull. Joe’s belt of ammo completed the imagery, making him look like a new version of the Punisher.

Is it a bit contrived that Joe’s S.H.I.E.L.D uniform happens to look like a Punisher skull? Probably, but it’s no more contrived than believing in a planet devouring giant or magic stones that can alter reality.

What’s next for the new Punisher?

The new Punisher and his handle Triple-A
Image credit: Marvel

We don’t want to spoil everything about the debut issue, but we will say that Garrison’s quest for vengeance hit a dead end. Now he must learn who hired the Sokovian and why. Was Joe their original target, or did they purposely detonate the explosives when he wasn’t home? The answers to these questions won’t come easy.

Speaking to Comics Beat, David Pepose gave some teases on how Garrison’s origin story will progress. ”I’ve pitched this Punisher series as John Wick meets The Fugitive, where Joe’s opening mission, and sort of our origin story with him, is him trying to figure out who set him up and why,” Pepose shared.

The Punisher legacy has begun anew, and if the first issue is any indication, we’re in for a wild ride.

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