The Punisher’s new followers have brought out the worst in Marvel’s very own God of War, and Ares is finally getting back to his terrifying roots.
The following contains major spoilers for Punisher #3, available now from Marvel.
Ever since Frank Castle took up the reins of The Hand, he has been faced with an endless battle against Marvel’s greatest warmonger Ares. While Frank has made it The Hand’s mission to put a stop to Ares’ murderous plot, the God of War has come to realize that this is not the Punisher he once knew. In fact, seeing just how far Frank has fallen has also given Ares reason to reflect on his own journey. It may seem horrifying, but Ares is currently exactly where he is supposed to be, and he’s about to use it to bring the Punisher back to his own rightful place in the world.
Punisher #4 (by Jason Aaron, Jesús Saiz, Paul Azaceta, Dave Stewart and VC’s Cory Petit) finds the Apostles of War gloating over the latest bout of destruction they have allowed others to wreak with their weapons. Their patron god Ares, isn’t nearly as content, as long as Frank Castle is being led astray by The Hand. Ares can see that Frank has chosen to allow others to do his bloody work for him. Not only that, but the “work” that The Hand is trying to do isn’t even the Punisher’s. This becomes clear when Ares pays a visit to the Archpriestess of The Hand, demanding to know what she has done to the Punisher. It might seem like Ares is trying to help Frank find his true calling, but the God of War is only doing so because he has finally come to terms with his own.
When Ares made his first appearance in 1966’s Thor #129 (by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby), he was one of many Olympians to debut during the God of Thunder’s then ongoing feud with Hercules. While the God of War has long propagated violent clashes between mortals on Earth, he began taking a more direct interest in human affairs after coming to a vaguely pacifistic agreement with his half-sister Venus and Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Eventually, this gave way to Ares making a life for himself as a civilian, carpenter, and father, giving him a quaint kind of peace that he had never known in all his centuries on Earth.
Unfortunately, the first superhero Civil War would see his hopes of settling down dashed in favor of joining the Mighty Avengers. While Ares helped to defeat the likes of Ultron, Doctor Doom, and the Skrulls, his twisted moral compass also made him a perfect fit as one of Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers. Of course, this would only lead to a gruesome end for Ares when Osborn turned on the God of War. Even after this, Ares continued to try and fight on behalf of others, yet seeing Frank do exactly the opposite seems to have opened his eyes to why neither of them should.
Ares might be a powerhouse, but he is first and foremost a God of War. As such, it is not his place to step onto the battlefield and carve a path for humanity to follow. Rather, Ares has only ever been meant to act as something of a guide for mankind. As he puts it, showing the world how to “sharpen their rocks” is his true nature, and fighting what he is supposed to be is a war that he can neither win nor afford to wage any longer. It also isn’t a war that he wishes to see the Punisher waging within himself, especially when Frank has spent so many years as Ares’ greatest albeit most unwitting disciple.
Ares may have come to see how far the Punisher has fallen, but the God of War has also found a way to reflect on his own past which sheds a new light on everything he has done over the last century. By casting aside his own propensity for violence, Ares has finally returned to the vantage point from which he can take in the full scope of the battle at hand. Thankfully, that has in turn allowed him to recognize all the missteps he has made, as well as those Frank Castle is on his own way towards making. Even though Ares’ intervention might set off yet another war with The Hand, here’s hoping it helps the Punisher avoid as many of them as possible.