Monday, June 16, 2003

Kingpin #1 - A Review

Written by: Bruce Jones
Penciled by: Sean Phillips
Inked by: Klaus Janson
Colored by: Lee Loughridge
Lettered by: Cory Petit
Editor: Alex Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Wazup, peeps? Starman, chillin’ like a villain here. Ready to represent the 411 boyz and give you the beat from the street on a whole new story. It’s a super-fly tale of a brother from the old school of gangsta. Its all about his struggle to….


Starman : (answering phone) Wazzzzup?

Daron: Uh, Matt? This is Daron.

Starman: “Yo-yo! Wazup my Dark Overlord brother?”

Daron: I’m not your brother. I’m sure my mother would have told me. Why the hell are you talking like that? Did one of those Scott Kurtz fans hit you in the head with a brick again?

Starman: Nah, G-dog. I’m talking streetspeak ‘cause of this new book. It’s all about life on the mean streets of the city and a badass white boy trying to make his way in the world in a tough black neighborhood. It’s about how he fights past all these obstacles and rivals and how he rises to power and wealth.

Daron: Matt, if you wanted to review “8-Mile”, you should have submitted that to the Movies editor….

Starman: Don’t talk crazy, fool! Like I’d waste my words on that jive-sucka honky Eminem! Only “M N M” going anywhere near me melts in my mouth and not in my hand.

Daron: Matt. I am going to tell you this once. You cannot speak Urban slang. You started out okay, but now you’re mixing Luke Cage with Mr. T and… it’s just not funny anymore. So knock it off or I’ll cut your pay in half.

Starman: I don’t get paid anything.

Daron: Allright, then. I’ll assign you to be the sole writer of a new “Image Comics” review column… just think of it, Matt. Every Spawn spin-off…. Every Top Cow title that ignores story in favor of bootylicious artwork…. Waiting in anticipation for the all too rare Rising Stars issues that are actually worth reading…

Starman: * sighs * Thy will be done, Dark One.

Daron: Excellent!


Right. Anyway, Kingpin is about “The Kingpin”. Wilson Fisk. The Kingpin of Crime. Long time pain in the butt of Daredevil and Spider-Man. Of course this title is geared towards those of us who know and love “Big Willie” (as he is called in this issue) from his time as a villain in those titles. Rest assured though that previous experience with the character or the heroes he has fought is not essential… though we are treated to a quick cameo of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler.

This is, first and foremost, an origin story; a look into the past with Wilson Fisk starting as a minor gang-leader who is working his way up to become the head of all the organized crime in the city. We see “Willie” as he manipulates various other players into an organized team under his command, like the pieces on a chessboard. Indeed, we see him playing chess while planning with is lieutenants. While this kind of story is nothing new (and indeed, is reminiscent of such movies as “The Usual Suspects” and “The Godfather”), Bruce Jones makes it seem like new with sparkling dialogue and the dark sense of humor that Wilson Fisk is famous for.

The art by Phillips and Janson is, in a word, perfect. Phillips has gained fame recently for doing another quirky “true crime” comic: Sleeper. And his disjointed, but not completely disproportionate style, is a good fit for the larger-than-life but still very real character of the Kingpin. It reminds me a bit of Sam Keith without the surrealism or Phil Hester with more detail. Janson is perhaps best known as the preferred inker of Frank Miller on most of his Daredevil projects and he adds a depth of shadow to things that is a perfect match for the partly-hidden yet still open and unavoidable nature of the title character.

When this book was originally solicited, it was to be a limited series. Since then, Marvel Editorial has been impressed enough with what they have seen that Kingpin has been made into a regular monthly book. Time will judge the wisdom of this decision, but one thing is certain: I’ll be around for a few more months to see if what follows is as good as this first issue.

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