Why Marvel’s Most Brutal Avenger Is The Leader Of Its Deadliest Cult

One of the most brutal heroes in the Marvel Universe is about to take the reins of one of its most twisted organizations, and it’s completely unclear why.

WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Timeless # 1, available now from Marvel.

Of all the futures that Kang the Conqueror has seen across endless time frames, nothing has been more astounding than the events foreshadowed in Timeless #1 by Jed MacKay, Kev Walker, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy, Marte Gracia and Ariana Maher of VC. Of the significant events hinted at in Kang’s fractured glance at one point, Frank Castle’s new role was perhaps the most shocking. The image suggests that the Punisher will wage his war on the other side of the fight.

Kang the Conqueror has been traveling through most of the time, but he’s never seen a pirate timeline. Unfortunately, this is precisely the threat he faces. While the master of time quickly discovers the disruptive force and eliminates it, visions of the future do not fade so easily. Much of what Kang has seen staggers him, unsure of what will come next. One that might not have caught his attention so easily, but one that will definitely catch the attention of fans, is about the future of Punisher.

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Predictably, Castle will be embroiled in further violence. It is expected that over infinite time frames, only two, maybe three, do not involve the Punisher engaging in bloody combat. The twist in this pirate timeline is that Frank has a team this time around, a personal army. A preview tells you right away what’s going on: Frank Castle is now directing The Hand.

Given their respective histories, it’s nearly impossible to imagine how the Punisher would find himself in such a position in the first place. Castle has spent years rooting out crime in the most brutal way imaginable. Along the way, he’s faced many overpowered or otherworldly threats, but never openly aligned himself with such a twisted organization as The Hand.

Since their first appearance in 1981 daredevil # 174 by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson, The Hand is only known as a highly organized death cult wearing the thin veil of an organized crime syndicate. On the surface, this collection of ninjas is everything Frank Castle has opposed throughout his career.

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Then again, that’s not the only big change coming for the Punisher, and the two seem to go hand in hand. Fans already know that Marvel has announced a revamp of the iconic Punisher skull logo to something a little more demonic. Specifically, many have likened this new emblem to a Japanese oni mask. The Hand has long worshiped the Beast. According to their tradition, this mysterious and powerful demon has lent his power to the group for centuries. Frank’s new look might reflect The Hand’s allegiance to The Beast or another demonic force ninjas have faced in the past.

Yet this line of speculation responds to Castle’s change in attire, not how he fell into the cult. Hopefully his leadership is an act of undercover work, much like when he joined the mob to take them out from within. Certainly, it seems a safe bet to assume he’s in the service of a bigger plan, the end of an even more insidious foe.

History suggests that reforming The Hand is an impossible task. People like Daredevil, Elektra, and the Kingpin have all tried to bend the cult to their will, only to lose control or be corrupt themselves. In light of this, the chances of Frank having a lasting impact on the ninja’s methods or morals seem almost nonexistent. So anything that prompts the Punisher to join the Death Cult is sure to be epic, especially given how much he would have to sacrifice or ignore about himself. Hopefully when the time comes for Frank to pick up a sword, it won’t come at the expense of a part of himself that he can’t afford to lose.

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