This is a tough call. I really wanted to rate Civil War II: Kingpin #1 higher, but I just couldn’t. The story (well, technically two since there’s a back-up tale too) was well written, so why didn’t I rate it higher? First, let’s take a look at the stories themselves.
With the second Civil War brewing nicely, Wilson Fisk – the villainous Kingpin himself – makes his less-than-triumphant return to Hell’s Kitchen to rebuild his criminal empire. At a business dinner straight out of The Untouchables, he explains what the current state of affairs is with heroes, villains, Inhumans and ordinary people: Because crimes are now predicted before they happen, life has been rough for those who make a dishonest living. However, the Kingpin has a plan.
When he’s nearly assassinated in the street by minor villain Bushwacker, Kingpin naturally kills him. But the reasoning behind it is shocking – he’s found a secret weapon which apparently means his own crimes can’t be predicted accurately. This weapon is meek low-level gangster Janus Jardeesh, and Kingpin is going to take full advantage of the situation. After all, with the heroes now no better than fascists and the other villains afraid to act, someone has to fill the void.
The back-up tale in Civil War II: Kingpin #1 is how Janus got his supposed power. It’s short, sweet and tragically amusing as we see a criminal so low down on the food chain struggle to do anything right. A self-professed punching bag for superheroes, it’s hard to tell if his power is even real. Or maybe he’s just so insignificant that he’s been lucky to stay off the radar of the good guys?
Both tales are told with a playful wink at the reader. We’re backing the villains here, and from what’s on the pages we’re right to do so. Kingpin is disrespected by Hawkeye – who makes cruel jokes about his weight – and is bullied by three other heroes who think that just because they’re wearing costumes they can violate his civil rights. Yes, Kingpin kills Bushwacker, but the point here is that we’re cheering for Fisk with just cause. It may not be as funny as Deadpool, but it’s still pretty damn amusing to have a villain for a hero.
Unfortunately, what could have been a great comic is let down by the art and the story arc.
I’ve long been a proponent of story over art, but even I have to admit what publishers, editors, and artists all know: Art is the first thing any reader takes notice of, and can make or break any comic book. While there’s a playful, almost cartoonish, style to it (and with bizarrely amusing sound effects too) it doesn’t quite gel. If it were in 2000AD it would be brilliant, but for this it’s somewhat distracting.
As for how this fits in with the whole Civil War II story arc or whether it’s just an add-on, only time will tell. It looks like it probably won’t add much to the big picture, and if that’s the case then it’s hard to claim this as essential reading. Still, the story is just so good..!
If you’re looking for a break from the grim-and-gritty Civil War II titles, Civil War II: Kingpin #1 is just what’s needed. It’s great to see that not every installment in a major crossover has to be serious, and Marvel has to be credited for that. Is it for everyone? No. But it’s still a great read!