While Strange comes nowhere near Punisher’s body count, he more than makes up for it with his cruel and creative forms of violence.
Among Marvel Comics‘ most ruthless killers, The Punisher is often seen as king, but Doctor Strange has recently used his own brand of magical punishment to deliver fates far worse than a swift and bloody death. Stephen Strange has access to endless dimensions and spells that can make any fantasy a reality, and while he’s used that power to save the universe countless times, he has also exacted revenge in some truly twisted ways.
Doctor Strange and Baron Karl Mordo have been rivals from their earliest encounters. Both sorcerers vied for the title of Sorcerer Supreme under the tutelage of the Ancient One, and Strange’s success has driven his rival to madness. Mordo has long sworn to become Sorcerer Supreme at all costs, often wielding dark magic and enlisting dangerous inter-dimensional allies in his cause. Strange has not shied away from using the demonic spell book the Darkhold in his own heroic pursuits, and while the master of mystic arts does fight for good in his realm, recent events have shown the iconic hero to be much more brutal than fans might expect.
Strange and Mordo’s latest confrontation, in Doctor Strange: Nexus of Nightmares #1, by Ralph Macchio, Ibrahim Moustafa and Neeraj Menon, saw the two come to blows yet again over the title of Sorcerer Supreme, with Mordo enlisting the aid of the demonic villain Nightmare, to cast doubt in Stephen’s abilities to be the protector of his dimension. When Mordo was eventually thwarted by Strange (thanks to some sage wisdom from Wong), Nightmare appeared to punish Mordo for his transgressions, dragging him into the Nightmare realm, a horrific destination. Strange witnessed his capture without objection, saying later there was “little [he] could’ve done” to save him. Mordo involving Nightmare in his plot may have threatened the fabric of reality, but Strange was able to dispatch him with relative ease, yet still showed no remorse in the gruesome fate the Baron is now fated to.
It reveals in Strange a type of ruthlessness often associated with the likes of Marvel’s most notorious killer, The Punisher. Frank Castle’s blind crusade of killing for justice has earned him a reputation as a twisted murderer, but in recent months, Strange may have him beat. Despite a much lower body count, Doctor Strange has doled out punishment in some truly horrifying ways. Not only did Strange condemn Mordo to the Nightmare realm, but in Savage Avengers #23 by Gerry Duggan, Patch Zircher, Java Tartaglia, and Travis Lanham, Strange microwaves the head of a minion of the evil magician Kulan Gath, delivering a dramatic speech as the still-living head slowly cooked and exploded — a truly intense and disgusting way to bring about justice.
Compared to The Punisher, whose methods of killing often involve a swift spray of bullets and a swift death for his targets, Strange has become a perverse killer in his own right. Like Castle, Strange has shown no remorse for his actions, and while Strange comes nowhere near Punisher’s body count, he more than makes up for it with his cruel and creative forms of violence. At least when The Punisher comes after you, he’s just looking to kill you, not trap you for endless eons in a dimension made of literal nightmares. Doctor Strange, on the other hand, is content to unleash hell on his victims.
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