#6: Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime

#6: Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime

Art by Esad Ribic

Wilson Fisk was a poor and obese child. As he grew up, he began bodybuilding and training in the art of sumo wrestling as a means of self-improvement as well as self-defense. He educated himself through stolen books and took an interest in political science. He took to using these skills in his criminal enterprises, vowing to never become anyone else’s subordinate. He also knew the importance of never being directly connected to his own operations, and he stayed out of the line of fire whenever possible. This was the start of his path to becoming the Kingpin.

Fisk was careful to invest his ill-gotten gains in above the table businesses, the first of which was an Asian spice company. Long into his career, he met a woman named Vanessa, whom he quickly fell in love with. She gave him a tranquility that he could find nowhere else. They married and had a child named Richard.

It was after his power had been firmly established in New York that the modern age of heroes began. He was wary of their potential threat to his organization, and he made a point of avoiding them at first. When Spider-Man briefly retired, he took the opportunity to make moves against the international criminal enterprise, the Maggia. He united a number of smaller gangs and initiated a criminal uprising throughout New York. However, Spider-Man returned and challenged the Kingpin. The truly damaging blow, however, came when J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle outed Wilson Fisk as the Kingpin of Crime.

He was further challenged by Spider-Man in following plans and even clashed with his own son, Richard, then disguised as the Schemer. He was later invited to head the Las Vegas contingent of Hydra, and he had Richard serve as his right hand man. The available resources gave Kingpin the opportunity to achieve even greater power, but, upon discovering that the Red Skull was subverting his authority behind the scenes, rejected the organization and abandoned his plans with them.

After the numerous failures and dangers that assailed Wilson, Vanessa pleaded with her husband to abandon the identity of the Kingpin. He acquiesced, and the two moved to Japan. She persuaded him to turn over information on his former colleagues to authorities. His associates were angered by this, and they made an attempt on her life that Wilson was led to believe was successful.

He moved back to New York and returned to his criminal activities. He turned information on his rivals over to authorities through the vigilante Daredevil. This depowered the Maggia and gave Fisk the opportunity to even further increase his influence in the New York. Kingpin then began making inroads into the city government through Councilman Randolph Cherryh. When the politician became elected to the office of mayor, Daredevil discovered the criminal connection. He also found that Vanessa Fisk was still alive. He promised to return her to Wilson if he convinced Cherryh to deny the position. Fisk agreed. This was the beginning of the vicious rivalry between Daredevil and the Kingpin.

It was around this time that Kingpin hired insane super assassin Bullseye as his main hitman.

He soon stumbled upon the then heroin addicted and impoverished Karen Page, former secretary to Nelson and Murdock. Fisk had, at this point, been inconvenienced by the two attorneys on a number of occasions. Upon offering to feed her addiction, Page gave the Kingpin Daredevil’s secret identity of attorney Matthew Murdock.

With this information, Fisk relentlessly targeted Murdock. He had the man rendered impoverished and disbarred. Upon being confronted by Murdock, Kingpin assaulted him and left him for dead. Daredevil survived the experience, but Fisk continued his assault on the hero. He sabotaged his personal relationships, continued to inhibit his law practice, and sent more threats against his life, such as the insane mutant seductress, Typhoid Mary.

After much abuse, Murdock found a weakness in the Kingpin’s armor, and he exposed Fisk’s criminality to the public. He took his wealth, his power, and his position away from him. He also sent Vanessa into hiding in Europe. Fisk was able to escape incarceration, but he was left completely broken.

He resurfaced in Japan as a part of the Stark-Fujikawa company in Japan. There, he came into possession of the Elixir Vitae, the only known cure to the then-rampant mutant Legacy Virus. This led him to conflict with the X-Men and Shang-Chi. He had intentions of using the cure to regaining his wealth. However, Storm destroyed it. Regardless, his corporate gains allowed him to once again obtain a footing in the New York criminal underworld.

He gained an adopted daughter in Maya Lopez aka Echo, whom was the daughter of a deceased enforcer formerly in his employ. Though Fisk himself killed the man, he convinced Maya that the killer was Daredevil. After Echo and Daredevil clashed, she realized that the true murderer was the Kingpin himself. Echo went after Fisk and temporarily blinded him in the assault.

Fisk lost his empire once more when an employee, Samuel Siikes, and his own son, Richard, staged a coup against the Kingpin that left him severely wounded. Vanessa killed Richard in revenge and fled abroad. Fisk himself killed Siikes and also left the country. He attempted to take back his power, but Daredevil beat him back and pronounced himself Kingpin. This led to Fisk being incarcerated at last.

However, this was short-lived. Fisk had left little evidence of his criminal dealings. He was constantly being antagonized by other inmates in prison, making him a legal liability in the eyes of the federal government. He had another advantage in his knowledge of Daredevil’s secret identity, and he leveraged this information with the FBI. Murdock was arrested, but the FBI reneged on their negotiations and kept Fisk in prison with Murdock. The hero was able to stage an escape with Fisk, but he betrayed the man as well, leaving him in prison with a wounded knee from fellow inmate Bullseye.

Fisk tried to angle a release through collaboration with Tony Stark during the Super Hero Civil War. He claimed that he knew of a base of operations for Captain America’s forces. In reality, it was a hideout for the Hammerhead. Fisk also put out a hit on Peter Parker, whom revealed his own identity as Spider-Man in accordance with the Superhuman Registration Act. This led to the shooting of May Parker. Spider-Man retaliated by brutally beating Fisk, promising to kill him if he ever threatened his family again.

Vanessa Fisk came into contact with Murdock, on the run in Europe from his own legal issues, and arranged for the lawyer to take on Wilson’s legal battle. She passed away shortly after, and Matt Murdock aided his nemesis. He had all charges dropped, but on the condition that Fisk was exiled from America. Fisk agreed, and went to visit the grave of his wife.

When Daredevil took control of the Hand and established the supernatural prison, Shadowland, Wilson Fisk saw this as a new opportunity to strike at his foe. He returned to America and began working against Daredevil, leading Luke Cage and Iron Fist to challenge the Hand as well as summoning the Ghost Rider to go after Daredevil. When Daredevil was defeated by his former comrades, Fisk took control of the Hand.

Fisk next hired Hobgoblin to steal an experimental metal from Horizon Labs, a company that employed none other than Peter Parker (whom had since wiped the knowledge of his secret identity from the world through a deal with Mephisto). Spider-Man and Black Cat pursued the metal and destroyed the sample. The resulting explosion brought down Fisk Tower.

He ran into conflict with Spider-Man once again (this time the “superior” incarnation that was in reality the mind of Otto Octavius in Peter Parker’s body). The Web-Head attacked Shadowland and destroyed the Hand’s base of operations in New York. Fisk went underground once again and faked his own death.

He resurfaced in San Francisco, where Daredevil had relocated in the interest of soul-searching and starting a new law firm. This new ploy involved using the Owl as a human computer processor, Lady Bullseye, and Ikari to manipulate Matt Murdock through his loved ones, Foggy Nelson and Kirsten McDuffie. He also took advantage of the crazed vigilante, the Shroud, whom ended up killing Ikari. Daredevil was able to gain the upper hand once more and defeated the Kingpin.

In the new world that formed after the new Secret Wars, Wilson Fisk has established a company called Fisk Industries and has regained his wealth once again. He has shown himself to still be interested in criminality by using the Inhuman, Janus, to avoid the premonitions of Ulysses, whom has made it difficult for the criminal faction. Kingpin has used this advantage to set up a number of new criminal allegiances and his new plays remain to be seen.

He has a new solo series aptly called, Kingpin, set to be released in coming months. Of course, I’ll let you know how that is here, as I will most certainly be trying it.

Wilson Fisk is a man who started in rags and made himself into a proper emperor. He has used ruthlessness and brute strength, but he also believes that intellect is the greatest weapon. He is not without the capacity for love, being more committed to his now-deceased wife, Vanessa, more than anyone else. He has also shown something of a code of honor, almost always living up to his end of bargains and not killing when it is unnecessary.

Admittedly, Vincent D’Onofrio’s superb performance as Wilson Fisk in Netflix’s Daredevil series is part of what has drew me to the character originally. He brought the character to life in a manner that I had never seen before. However, it was Fisk’s intrigue, intelligence, and determination in the comics that maintained my love of the character. He’s a ruthless and terrifying crime lord, and this is what earns Kingpin the position as my 6th favorite Marvel Villain of all time.

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Civil War II: Kingpin #1

Civil War II: Kingpin #1

 

“Shouldn’t Have Come Back”:

Matthew Rosenberg (W), Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (A). Mat Lopes (CA)

“The Death and Birth of Janus Jardeesh”:

Matthew Rosenberg (W), Dalibor Talajic (P), Jose Marzan Jr. (I), Miroslav Mrva (C)

Cover by: Aaron Kuder and Israel Silva

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $4.99

I love villain books. When written well, the bad guys are just as interesting as the good guys. I love seeing what makes these kinds of characters tick and what exactly their motivations are. Often times, you can find that they’re actually sympathetic and even relatable. Magneto does what he does for his people. Baron Zemo is constantly grappling with his ambition and his father’s legacy. Black Adam wants to defend his country. Deathstroke just wants to leave a legacy and provide for his family.

Lately, villain comics have been a bit tenuous, but that’s really the case with any form of entertainment. The current Thunderbolts title is one of my favorite pulls. Cullen Bunn’s recently ended Magneto and Sinestro were both really good. His ongoing Uncanny X-Men (which has leads like Magneto and Sabretooth) is a really solid read. Carnage is pretty good. The current run of Deathstroke has its ups and downs. However, then you have the New Suicide Squad and the Illuminati which are nigh-unreadable. Don’t get me started on Harley Quinn, Deadpool, and their myriad of titles.

That discussion is coming soon, but it’ll have to wait for another day.

So where does Kingpin stack up in this mixed landscape? Ehhh, really not good.

Before I get to the plot, I want to get back to talking about what makes a good villain book, so I can show you one of the major places where this book fails.

A good villain book makes you want to root for the bad guy. For my example, I’m going to use my go-to for great comic reading: Cullen Bunn’s fantastic run on Magneto. This is a book that puts you right in Eric Lensherr’s headspace. You feel his pain. You see what he’s gone through and how it still haunts him every day. You see how it feeds his ongoing brutality. That book actually made me tear up at one point. Seriously, check it out. It was Magneto #17, it’s a masterpiece. I very much intend to write a Barely Retro Review of that issue at some point.

To get back to the point, a good villain book tries to raise the protagonist up to be on par with the heroes, even if their actions can be grievous. It makes you root for them.

A copout to this is to make the heroes look scummy without making the villains look any better. This book does it a lot. The Illuminati and often times Deadpool do it as well.

To move onto the plot: it’s confusing. Yet, at the same time, it doesn’t really do much. Wilson Fisk is trying to organize the criminal underworld to take advantage of the current Civil War between the heroes. He has a NuHuman by the name of Janus whose only apparent power is being a blind spot to Ulysses’ premonitions. It also shows (in a very confusing manner) how Fisk came to find Janus. The backup story is how Janus got his powers and how he has been shuffled around between crime lords for some time.

Guys and gals, this book is really not good. It makes so many missteps. It honestly reads kind of sloppy.

The plot is a meandering mess. That telling of how Fisk and Janus met is told in a flashback that occurs completely without warning or signal. The book just jumps back in time and hopes you catch up. I had to go back and reread a couple of times to figure out what exactly was going on. A book should not force you to disengage from it just to understand the order of events.

The Kingpin doesn’t have much room to be himself. There’s one spot where he intimidates Jigsaw which was kind of tense, but beyond that, he’s just sort of the tent pole that this comic surrounds. The mere existence of Janus’ character in this book defangs Wilson Fisk a bit. Fisk is an intelligent and dangerous crime lord that has used his mind to get through some difficult situations in the past. It would have been interesting seeing how he could work his way through the Ulysses situation where criminals are being captured before they commit the crimes. Heck, he could have used the judicial route to protest these very unlawful incarcerations. However, this book takes the easy way out and hands Kingpin a magic solution to this potentially interesting setup for a story.

The unlawful incarcerations aren’t the main thing that make the heroes that show up in this comic unlikeable. It’s the personality they are given. Sam Wilson, Spectrum, and Night Thrasher (I guess he’s active again now, that’s cool, I’m a New Warriors fan) to essentially intimidate Kingpin for little to no reason. They look like a bunch of thugs, and Wilson and Wilson have a pissing contest in which neither of them look clever or intimidating. Hawkeye shows up later to essentially look like a pompous moron.

Janus is your usual weasely, third-rate crook. He actually kind of reminds me of the character Weasel, but he’s even less likeable or appealing. He really adds nothing to this comic as a character. I’m certainly not made to care about him.

The art doesn’t do this comic any favors either. It’s very stylistic, and the characters look more like amorphous blobs than people. The details aren’t shown very well. The gratuitous gore, which I’m usually all in for, looks really unappealing. Sam Wilson ends up looking like an alien. Plus, it tries to do cute little things for humor’s sake that really just do not work. When Wilson Fisk and Captain America have their little stare down, actual red lightning is drawn between their eyes. When Hawkeye is making his coffee while trying to intimidate Fisk, he pours a lot of sugar, and the word “sugar” is written multiple times next to the stream of sugar to express just how weak Barton likes his coffee.

The colors are really washed-out looking too. I suppose this is meant to give the book an aged feel or maybe a noire aesthetic. I didn’t really get either. It just made this comic look a little worse.

The backup story about Janus’ history looks a little better in terms of art, but it’s also just giving me information and history I really don’t care about. Janus isn’t an interesting character, and I already picked up on the fact that he’s meant to seem like a loser. I didn’t need the further reinforcement that he is a loser. This space could have been used to make the main story go a little farther. As is, the main story really doesn’t do anything in this issue. It’s just a shaky setup with very odd pacing.

I don’t like rending a comic limb from limb like this. I want every comic I read to be good, especially the rare villain titles. However, this one was not enjoyable in the slightest. It’s not interesting. The characters aren’t engaging. The art doesn’t look appealing. It’s just a total train wreck. Give it a pass.

Final Score: 2/10