Warning: SPOILERS for Cosmic Ghost Rider #3
If Marvel fans thought Thanos couldn't get any worse, they're in for a surprise - now that the Thanos who becomes The Punisher has entered comics canon.
Its only the latest twist in Cosmic Ghost Rider, the ludicrous adventure born out of this year's Thanos comic series. That series took Thanos to the end of all time as the final immortal being of the Marvel Universe - with nobody by his side but Frank Castle, the last Ghost Rider. After witnessing his evil up close, Frank went back in time to kidnap Thanos as a baby, hoping to change history so the purple Eternal never became a murderous monster.
What Frank didn't expect was Thanos growing up to be the new Punisher... just like his daddy.
As most fans would expect from a comic in which the immortal, borderline insane Frank Castle sets out to kidnap baby Thanos, things went wrong quite quickly. That's mainly due to the time-traveler Cable who shows up immediately in Cosmic Ghost Rider #3, claiming Frank had created a terrible future through his actions. Cable needed to kill Thanos to prevent it... and brought his future Guardians of the Galaxy to do it.
Naturally, Frank takes a stand, insisting that his entire plan was to prevent Thanos from witnessing such hatred and violence, and as a result give him a better example to follow. But as X-Men fans know, Cable isn't one who changes his mind easily - especially not when it's a flaming Frank Castle making the argument. When Cable makes his move, Frank has no choice but to slay the entire team. But not before Cable can travel back to the future he hails from for a new team of recruits just as eager to kill Frank and Thanos.
There's no way to tell how many times the cycle repeats, but the message is clear that Cable spends decades of his life training and re-training for the fight that will finally allow him to defeat the Cosmic Ghost Rider, and slay the baby Thanos. Eventually Frank pleads with Cable to give up his stubbornness, and give him a chance to save, instead of slay.
Until Cable reveals the truth: Frank does manage to change Thanos... into something so much worse. And finally, the grown up Thanos hears his cue to enter:
That's right, hard as it may be to believe, Thanos becomes the Punisher in this strange future. Continuing the family legacy, meaning Frank's attempts to give the baby Thanos a better role model world a little too well. Even if "Frank Castle" isn't exactly the same man who now possesses the powers of the Ghost Rider and the power cosmic, as a former Herald of Galactus. Perhaps the Punisher identity has been adopted by Thanos as a tribute to the man his "father" truly was.
In a comic series filled with unpredictable twists, this introduction of "Thanos the Punisher" may be the most incredible cliffhanger yet. What remains to be seen is just how this version of Thanos is "worse" than the one Cable and Frank knew before. That's only Cable's opinion, but he shares it with what appears to be every other superhero living in the Marvel Universe he comes from. Is it possible that the worst thing in the world that Frank Castle, the Cosmic Ghost Rider could ever have instilled in Thanos... is a morality?
Those questions will surely be answered in completely shocking fashion come Cosmic Ghost Rider #4, now promising to take a bigger look at Thanos, son of Frank Castle, and successor to the role of the Punisher.
Cosmic Ghost Rider #4 will be available on October 3rd, from Marvel Comics.