Back in 2013, I clamored for Marvel to release a Kingpin solo series, and three years later, my prayers have finally been answered in Civil War II: Kingpin #1. In this comic, writer Matthew Rosenberg (We Can Never Go Home) and artist Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (Zero) use both the conflict between heroes and the fact that Ulysses, a new Inhuman, can predict crimes before they occur to craft a clever crime yarn in the shadow of yet another summer event. And speaking of shadow, this is where artist Ortiz and colorist Mat Lopes (The Wicked + the Divine) dwell as the Kingpin tries to rebuild his criminal empire in a world where superheroes can protect you’re committing a crime before it happens.
Ortiz and Lopes’ art kind of reminds me of Michael Lark’s on Daredevil in the mid-2000s when that comic was a straight-up crime book, but where Lark evokes stylish film noir, their work looks like the indie crime books at Image or Black Mask, like The Fix or Rosenberg’s own 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank albeit with a subtler approach to humor. (Kingpin is the master of condescending sass.) It’s a word of tattered newspaper and backroom deals where one false move leads to a spray of bullets. Ortiz also draws some potentially character-defining images for the Kingpin that fits his cynical attitude towards people outside the law (Superheroes) upholding the law like a powerful panel of him pressing a finger down on the star symbol on Sam Wilson’s Captain America costume that cuts to a pair of panels of Kingpin towering over the hero. Even if he is down in resources and soldiers, the Kingpin’s sheer presence can’t be discounted, and his bluffs look like threats. But a later scene of Hawkeye buying a coffee on Kingpin’s dime while he’s slumped impassively at a table shows that maybe the crime lord has lost a step when in fact he is biding and preparing to strike instead of picking fights with the Avengers’ bow and arrow guy. Ricardo Lopez Ortiz’s work in Kingpin #1 shows how important body language is to building and especially reintroducing a character in a comic.
Matthew Rosenberg makes Wilson Fisk a slightly sympathetic if highly opportunistic character in Kingpin #1. In the second half of the comic, he takes on the mantle of the “bad guy fighting worst guys” as he and his all time favorite lackey Turk fight human traffickers that the superheroes have neglected. But he’s not some uber dark vigilante as this exercise in “heroism” is just Kingpin asserting his power over Janus, who has started working more morally unsavory crime jobs to make ends meet in the Civil War II era Marvel Universe. Kingpin digs up the worst of dirt on the nebbish Inhuman so his future prediction blocking ability will always be in the pocket of his organization. Up to this point, Rosenberg has portrayed Wilson Fisk as an underdog as he gets shot by C-list villain Bushwhacker, pushed around by various superheroes, and only two crime bosses show up to his meeting. But the last few pages jolt you out of sympathy and show that the Kingpin is back and is ready to reach the heights when guys named Miller, Bendis, and Brubaker were writing him.
And if the $4.99 price tag on Civil War II: Kingpin #1. scares you, wait there’s more. Rosenberg pens an origin story for Kingpin’s Inhuman sidekick Janus that is part early David Cronenberg movie, part a darker version of last year’s hilarious Secret Wars tie-in Hank Johnson, Agent of HYDRA. Janus is utterly an outcast as he can’t even do basic warehouse duty for Black Cat without getting into some Terrigen mist even though it seems like the only side effect is puking and spacing out 24/7. (Think Peter Parker after he got his powers turned to eleven without the genius intellect.) And he gets zero acknowledgment from the Inhuman community, much less Medusa or the royal family. His initial connection to the Black Cat is kind of poetic because she has bad luck powers whereas he is extremely lucky to have the ability to somehow block Ulysses’ future predicting powers. And of course, he ends up a pawn in the hands of the Kingpin, who is ready to become the ultimate war profiteer. Dalibor Talajic and Jose Marzan also create a nice continuity from Ortiz’s grimy artwork and even create a nice Steve Ditko vibe, which fits a character, who has great abilities, but is underappreciated by the world around him. Also, colorist Miroslav Mrva leaves the shadows occasionally to show the trippy, mind and body altering nature of becoming an Inhuman. Making the first issue extra sized was a smart decision from Rosenberg as Janus’ backstory is out of the way, and the main story as well as future issues can focus on the rise of Kingpin’s rebellious enterprise.
If you’d rather watch old Sopranos episodes on HBO Go instead of the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster for and are okay with a touch of Philip K. Dick to go with your turf wars, Civil War II: Kingpin #1 may be the comic for you.
Story: Matthew Rosenberg Art: Ricardo Lopez Ortiz, Dalibor Talajic, Jose Marzan
Colors: Mat Lopes, Miroslav Mrva
Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy