Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Ben Torres
Colors: Jordan Boyd
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
A Review by Gregory Brothers
Kingpin has long been considered one of the best villains in the Marvel Universe. Other criminals’ number one goal may be world domination, but Wilson Fisk works from inside the establishment, willing to sell out or work with anyone as long as it moves his goals forward, grows his empire, and makes him money. Fisk is also one of the smartest criminals as he is always several steps ahead of both his adversaries and collaborators. Over the years, he has been a thorn in the side for many a Marvel hero. Not only is he detailed and deliberate in his plans, but his charm and charitable donations have made him a bit of a hero for a public that doesn’t know of his criminal activities.
Maybe the most important fact about Wilson Fisk is that he knows how to manipulate the prying eyes of the public when conducting his private business. Kingpin #1 begins with Fisk wanting to have his biography written. But of course, he doesn’t want just anyone to write the story. Sarah Dewey has become known for some of her international politics pieces, but what has drawn Fisk to approach her is the pieces she has written about local amateur boxers. Sarah has been a little down on her luck as she has recently gone through a divorce, become an alcoholic, and lost custody of her children. These facts have not escaped the through research that has been done by Fisk and his men. The rest of Kingpin #1 follows Fisk and Dewey as he tries to impress her in his attempt to get her to write the biography about him.
Rosenberg’s storytelling is done in such a way that you’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop and Fisk’s true motives to be uncovered, but it’s not until the end that we’re exposed to the possibility of the true Kingpin showing up again. The dialogue between Fisk and Dewey and then Dewey and others such as Matt Murdock shows the two sides of Fisk remarkably well. While trying to impress her, we see the debonair side of Fisk as we see he made sure that the bar had been stocked with sparkling apple juice for the recovering alcoholic and the fact that he had sent her two expensive dresses to choose from for the party. Rosenberg handles what could have been an awkward plot point (Fisk sending Dewey the dresses) with the perfect dialogue that makes it obvious how ridiculous the scenario sounds, while also cementing the fact that Fisk can get what he wants through charm or violent means when needed. Rosenberg’s portrayal of Dewey is perfect also. Several times we see flashes of the strong independent reporter that is currently being held down by her personal demons. It makes it even more powerful for us the reader when we see her making choices that could have dire circumstances for the reporter later down the line.
As much as I loved the story, I found myself at times distracted by the art of Kingpin #1. The solicits described the art as noir. If Torres had gone all out noir I may have enjoyed the art more, but instead we end up with this hybrid of styles that feels occasionally disjointed. This inconsistency from panel to panel was bothersome, as the same characters would have completely different looks from one panel to the other. Things like eye position, facial hair and sizes differences all stood out. The depiction of Kingpin himself was unfortunately one of the biggest missteps. Kingpin has always been this larger than life character who is built more like a brick wall, while Torres’ version seems to make him more fat than muscular.
Buy It! Thankfully, Rosenberg’s script and writing outshines the lack art and makes Kingpin #1 a must read. The story takes you on a trip where we get to see both sides of Wilson Fisk and how easily he can slide between charm or violence. Add in the story of Sarah Dewey and all her demons and Rosenberg has developed a new character that draws you in from the beginning and leaves you wanting more. Hopefully in future issues Torres can nail down the noir and give the wonderful writing the art that it deserves.