Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime himself, finally gets his own ongoing series. The first arc will document his rise to power.
Leonard is with his girlfriend and her son when they first see Wilson Fisk, a man destined for great things.
"White guy. In a black bar. Have mercy!"
And so goes Leonard's, a.k.a. Smoky, first impression of Wilson Fisk, the large white man in question. A man like Fisk already stands out wherever he goes. In a black bar, he's a potential target for ridicule... for all of three seconds. Fisk is catlike in his quickness when he stabs the first one who makes a crack about his weight.
Outside, Fisk and his strongman, Rocko, are quickly and ruthlessly disposing of the Saints, a rival gang. All except Leonard, whom Fisk spares due to his fighting ability. Leonard becomes Fisk's new lieutenant and chess opponent and frequent victim of the Sicilian Gambit, wherby a player sacrifices one of his best pieces to lure the other player into a checkmate.
Uptown, Fisk and Leonard see the latest victim of a Jimmy Sanguino hit. Sanguino, Fisk explains, is at the top of the four families, the man everyone wants to work for...or be. Later on, Leonard introduces Fisk to Jazz saxophonist Charlie Johnson. Fisk admits he's more of a Chopin man, but Johnson reads the young Kingpin-to-be as a man who knows exactly where he's going.
Fisk unveils to Leonard his plan to introduce smack, which was previously only sold to blacks in the ghetto, to the white neighborhoods and the suburbs. But for his plan to succeed, he needs to enlist Gino Ferzini, the lieutenant to Carlo Sanguino, nephew to Jimmy Sanguino and head of the Blades. Fisk and Leonard run into Gino, who is less than keen on Fisk's offer. Claiming to want the Blades, Gino insists that Carlo's only weakness is his Irish girlfriend, Tina Reily. Fisk asks Gino to arrange a sit-down with his boss.
After a visit to Coney Island, Fisk and Leonard return home. Later on, womanizing Rocko returns with none other than Tina Reily. Fisk chastises Rocko for jeopardizing his deal, and, to make his point, he easily breaks the top off a rook with his thumb.
On the way to the meeting with Carlo, Fisk and Leonard see Spider-Man for the first time, who is apprehending some other, nearby criminals. Fisk actually saves a child in the melee. It's worth noting that he sees Spidey merely as "something new in town."
At the meeting, Carlo's men nearly kill Fisk and Leonard, when Fisk lets it out that Rocko has been fooling around with Tina. Carlo, undettered by Rocko's skill with a blade, spares their lives only to let Rocko know that he's coming for him. Later on, it's agreed that Carlo and Rocko will go at it in a blade fight at the park.
But it seems that young Fisk has already mastered playing sides against one another, when we see that he himself is sleeping with Tina Riley. At the knife fight, Rocko manages to kill Carlo, but then the Blades stab Rocko in the back while he's clutching Fisk's jacket. Fisk shakes Gino's hand, as he is Fisk's new and only lieutenant.
But neither Tina Riley nor Leonard are part of Fisk's future, it seems. Tina gets pushed into the river by Fisk himself. And Leonard and his girlfriend become the seeming victims of a drive-by. The book ends with Fisk accompanying Leonard's girl's son to Coney Island, not too far from the "Sacrifice" roller coaster.
Wilson Fisk as a hero? Bruce Jones makes it happen.
Granted, Fisk is hardly a scrupulous figure in this. Even at a young age (I'm guessing he's in his twenties in this), he's already like the Kingpin of today: ruthless, manipulative, devious, and brilliant. But you cheer for him anyway, just like millions of HBO viewers cheer on Tony Soprano. After all, he's hardly a one-dimensional villain. His willingness to take on Smoky, albeit briefly, and his sympathy for what organized crime has done to the ghetto with drugs, even his seemingly-out-of-character rescue of the boy, show that there's a human side to all of this ambition. Wilson Fisk is aptly characterized as crime's answer to Julius Caesar.
Plus, there's an Origin-like feel to this first arc. It's clearly the past, but by not putting a specific year on it, it can sell as Kingpin's rise in the late 40's just as well as his rise in the early 60's. The art of Sean Phillips and Klaus Janson fits like a glove as well, strong enough on its own to let Bruce Jones tell a story without any kind of narration or thought bubbles, which wouldn't fit a crime story, anyway.
Wilson Fisk very much knows what he wants, how to get it, and how to manipulate people like pawns on a chessboard. The only anticipated complication is Spider-Man, who, while appearing briefly, will seem to take on the role of antagonist in coming issues. It'll be hard to paint Spidey that way, but Bruce Jones proves he's up to the task by getting the Kingpin's character down pat without reducing him to some mob stereotype.
This series is off to an excellent start, but make no mistake--this is not a Spider-Man series, except insofar as Spider-Man is the main "villan," so to speak. If you can't get your head around that idea, then even the excellent words and art won't win you around to this book.
As for myself, I didn't think Fisk's rescue of that random boy was all that necessary, even if it was intended to paint Fisk in a not-so-evil light. I'm more than happy to cheer on the Kingpin without it, even if it led to the first eye contact between Spider-Man and Fisk.
At the end of the day, all that matters is how eager I am to see what happens next. And I'd say four webs accurately paints my anticipation. Bravo, gentlemen; bring on Issue 2!