Wilson Fisk is the rising star of the underworld. Sure, he's incredibly strong and large and merciless in combat, but it is Fisk's mind that makes him the Machiavelli of Marvel. Through careful manipulation and murder of several people, he has gone from being the small-time leader of a juvenile gang to being at the head of a small army. This army is ambitious enough to take on the reigning Five Families. Rest assured, a war is brewing, and Fisk intends to win it and take New York as his prize.
One of the early casualties of this war was Lou Rocko, who Fisk betrayed. His life was spared, however, when he was found by an enigmatic middle aged woman named Portia. As it turns out, Portia is a high society divorcee turned potential crime author. Lou Rocko allies himself with her, offering her information on the underground for her book in exchange for a shot at revenge.
Portia dresses for a meeting with her book editor when Rocko, who's feeling much better, barges in. Rocko looks at a photo of Portia's daughter, Rachel, who's at college. Portia adamantly insists that Rocko stay away from her. Rocko proceeds to flirt with Portia (read Mrs. Robinson) instead. When she leaves, Rocko looks through her things and finds a picture of Portia's ex-husband, Myles Clennon.
As fate would have it, Gino Ferzini, lieutenant to Wilson Fisk's uber-gang is looking at the front page of the Daily Bugle, which features Mayoral Candidate Myles Lennon, who's aheas od Bianco in the polls. When Gino suggests Fisk run for mayor, Fisk notes that politicians are puppets and he wants to be the puppeteer.
Meanwhile, Mac, the book editor insists that Portia is out of her depth when it comes to Fisk and should just reconcile with Myles. When Portia reveals that Rocko didn't die and that she's harboring him, Mac admits that this is a dangerous game she's playing. It's not Rocko or Myles she should worry about...it's Fisk, that stone psycho.
Speaking of whom, Senator Myles Clennon finds Fisk sitting in his office. Clennon calls the 15th Precinct, but Fisk is undettered and offers to ensure Clennon's victory in the mayoral race by eliminating threats...human or otherwise. Fisk drops a name for example: Diane Wellesely, wife of another senator that Clennon is sleeping with, mostly to gain access to Myles' money (since her husband lost it on the market.) Fisk offers to off the Wellesleys, make it look like a murder suicide. When Clennon claims the police are coming, Fisk (a Hell's Kitchen native) notes that you don't call the 15th Precinct from that part of town, thus calling Clennon's bluff.
Fisk also offers to off Wellesley's detective brother, but notes that these are merely local threats. Fisk panders to Clennon's ego, offering to clear obstacles in the path of the White House. Fisk advises Clennon to get married to some New England class soon to help get the male vote (the female vote not a problem due to Clennon's charisma). Clennon calls Fisk a madman, but Fisk notes that fellow madmen Napoleon and Hitler nearly conquered the world.
Fisk reveals to Clennon his designs on New York, his plan to off the competition, taking drugs from the ghetto and selling them in rich white neighborhoods where there's real money. Fisk apparently envisions a world where marijuana and coke because as common for adults and liquor and cigarettes, a new prohibition of which the Jimmy Sanguinos of the world stand in the way.
Fisk promises the White House to Clemmon if they ally themselves, but picks up a picture of Clennon's daughter Rachel to indicate what would happen if he Clennon stood against Fisk.
Back at the Havelston, Portia returns home and shares an elevator with a delinquent-looking man with a scarred chin that seems to terrify Portia. She stays on the elevator for two extra floors just so he doesn't follow her. Returning to her loft, she finds Rocko in her bed with a woman and "Johnny B. Goode" playing in the background.
At Clennon's office, his hired goons advance on Fisk. Fisk explains, while beating the tar out of the goons (and throwing one out the window), that he's not the threat to Rachel, but Jimmy Sanuino is. Clennon is in disbelief as he and Sanguino were supposed to be partners. Fisk reveals that Sanguino has opted for a new partner...one of Italian origin. All this time, Clennon has a gun pointed at Fisk. Not that it matters once Fisk reveals that he's long since removed the bullets.
In swings Spider-Man, knocks Fisk to the side. Spider-Man accuses Clennon of associating with criminals, but Fisk explains that he's an employee of Clennon's. Spider-Man doesn't buy it, since he saw the gun pointed at Fisk. Fisk offers some advice..."Never judge a book by it's cover." Spider-Man remembers Fisk from when he saved the boy 2 issues ago. He only introduces himself as someone who has the city's best interests at heart. He webs off, while Clennon and Fisk...new partners...ponder Spider-Man's choice of garb.
Political intrigue. Machiavellian masterstrokes. A budding summer-winter romance. The story gets richer with each and every issue. This book is truly a crime comic fan's dream.
If it seems cinematic, that's because Bruce Jones borrows from Hollywood quite a bit...using ideas from The Godfather, The Sopranos, heck, even The Graduate. The story is multi-tiered, and while it reeks of the slow build that NuMarvel is infamous for, it seems to be building for something big, definitely big enough to keep the reader coming back.
All of the characters are well developed, as well, save Clennon, who comes off as your run-of-the-mill corrupt politician. But it's the sign of a good artist like Sean Phillips when you can see in his face that, even when he first sees Fisk, he's fascinated by this young up-and-comer. I like where Portia and Rocko's love-hate relationship is going, and Fisk's clarity and focus force you to respect him, despite the reprehensible things he's done.
Spider-Man comes off as the anti-hero, inadvertently giving Fisk the opportunity to help the good Senator save face. Fisk was quite prepared to deal with Spider-Man and it shows.
The art really helps to relay the times. This story seems to take place in the 50s or early 60s, and plot and pencils help to convey that feeling. Only problem with that dating is that it places the Spider-Man of today in middle age. But, when you take away concerns of continuity (as most Marvel books do anyway), the story stands by itself as a must read.
After a slow second chapter, the story's finally cooking with gas. Why is this chapter named "Thug, Part Three" when the other two had names of their own? Chalk it up to an editorial mistake, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Kingpin is a compelling read , only rivaled by "Dardevil" for the title of Best Crime Comic Published By Marvel.