Comic books which have focused on villains instead of heroes have always been a slightly tougher sell with readers, and results over the years have been a mixed bag. For all the great villains out there, there are few who are so interesting that they can sustain their own series. Thankfully, the Kingpin can and does. If there’s one comic book which seems to be driven forward solely by the force of will of its title character, it’s this one.
Wilson Fisk – Marvel’s classic Kingpin of the criminal underworld – is slowly rebuilding his empire. After suffering several indignities upon his return to the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, he’s now beginning to re-establish himself as the ultimate crime boss. With the assistance of his new henchman Janus, Kingpin is successfully avoiding the predictive justice currently happening throughout the Marvel U.
But what’s a criminal mastermind to do when his own henchman, the key figure in his new-found success, doesn’t have the will to be a hardened criminal himself?
The answer is to toughen him up. What follows is the unlikeliest of bonds, as the Kingpin becomes mentor and friend to his timid new partner. From teaching him the basics of how a criminal can establish a tough reputation to lectures on how they’re the benevolent bad guys, Kingpin helps Janus to grow. However, when Janus collapses and it appears that his new Inhuman DNA might be rejecting him, their relationship changes more to one of parent and child. But is there more to Janus than there appears, and is the Kingpin making a fatal mistake by turning him into a force to be reckoned with?
After a solid start, astonishingly, this series has gotten even better.
While there’s very little action to speak of, this issue puts us squarely in the mindset of Fisk and tells a wonderfully textured tale. With all the feel of classic mobster films like The Godfather, Little Caesar, Goodfellas and Public Enemy, it’s a quick-fire A-Z of how gangsters make their way up the ranks in the criminal empire. Lessons are taught and the Kingpin’s motivations are explained in equal measure, with both being handled well.
There are so many small touches that stand out, from mentions of Jimmy Cagney to the Sun Tzu philosophy of “turning” spies and informants, all pointing to attention to detail. Between that, the touching humanity on display and Fisk’s eloquence, it’s impossible not to praise Rosenberg’s writing. The plot continues to progress forward smoothly and it’s great to see attention being shown to Marvel’s street-level criminal underworld like this.
This isn’t a Kingpin who needs a Daredevil to make the stories worthwhile, this is Wilson Fisk commanding his story with power and style. For years he’s been considered as Marvel’s Lex Luthor, and with good reason, but here that comparison is an insult; instead Fisk is Marvel’s Al Capone, and deserves – no, demands – your respect. Forget the capes and masks for a while and all hail the Kingpin.