Best Shots Review: KINGPIN #1 'A Compelling Mixture Of Crime Story & Courtship'

"Kingpin #1" first look
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Kingpin #1
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Art by Ben Torres and Jordan Boyd
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

After delivering one of the more impressive Civil War II tie-ins, writer Matthew Rosenberg doubles down with the sophisticated and low-key Kingpin #1. Wilson Fisk is back in New York and looking to turn over a new leaf. Enter journalist and recovering alcoholic Sarah Dewey, who is pulled into Fisk’s orbit as the big man hopes she will write an honest biography and convince the city he loves that the Kingpin is no more. Staged more like a relationship drama than a Marvel comic book, Rosenberg allows both Sarah and Wilson’s personalities and struggles ample opportunity to shine thanks to his sharp and funny dialogue with a refreshingly grounded approach overall to boot.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Kingpin #1 also has the right art team to compliment Rosenberg’s noirish and indie comic plot. Penciler Ben Torres and colorist Jordan Boyd present an interesting duality in their pages, erring mostly on the side of heavy shadows and powerfully blocked character models. But while the noir trappings are ever present, Torres’ emotionality throughout gives this debut an unexpected humanity that makes it more than just an empty showcase for a reformed villain.

The last thing I could have expected after reading Kingpin #1 was to be in the corner of Wilson Fisk, but now that I have it seems like the best and safest place a reader could be.

Credit: Marvel Comics

While Matthew Rosenberg is dealing with some fairly complex thematics throughout this debut, like atonement and addiction, his consistently funny dialogue throughout makes this first issue an easier sell. Focused more on Sarah Dewey than the titular criminal mastermind, Rosenberg takes readers through the little seen streets of the Marvel Universe throwing rack focus onto the people around the marquee characters and thus showing those characters in a new, compelling light.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Like I said above, Rosenberg’s script has the cadence and narrative path of a courtship as Fisk attempts to convince Sarah to tell his story by inviting her into all aspects of his life, both in the society spotlight and in the crime filled streets of New York. Without Sarah, who is by far the breakout star of this debut, this story wouldn’t work, but Rosenberg layers all sorts of great elements on top of each other, using the somewhat audition of the Civil War II series as a bedrock. Rosenberg’s characterization coupled with his sharp dialogue and interesting new angle on a character that has been around for decades culminates in one of Marvel’s most unexpectedly satisfying debuts in recent memory.

Credit: Marvel Comics

But while Rosenberg’s script impresses throughout, Kingpin #1 is also graced with an art team that understands the human element of noir. Ben Torres, whose work here looks like a beautiful mixture of the work of Declan Shalvey and Eduardo Risso, gives readers all the trappings of noir, like shadowy back alleys and a powerful, yet damaged female lead in the form of Sarah, but he doesn’t stop there. Torres also fully leans into the pathos of Rosenberg’s script, leaning into the emotional states of the characters, especially Fisk who is rendered here, perhaps for the first time ever, like a gentle giant full of contrition and even warmth at times. This focus on feeling gives the issue a beating heart that caught me off-balance at first, but quickly pulled me into the overall world.

As for the rest of the style, colorist Jordan Boyd more than picks up the slack. Deepening Torres’ heavy shadows with liberal shading and sparse Sin City esque backgrounds, Boyd’s saturates the pencils with heavy, almost monochromatic colors and darker hues even for the brighter colors like the red of Matt Murdock’s glasses and the neon shining from an all-night donut shop. Though clearly inspired by the visual touchstones of Hell’s Kitchen’s past, Ben Torres and Jordan Boyd follow the script’s example and provide a new visual twist on all the old genre standards.

Like the issue’s introduction states, Wilson Fisk has done horrible things, but after Kingpin #1, you may be convinced otherwise. Matthew Rosenberg, Ben Torres, and Jordan Boyd’s quietly entertaining debut sneaks up on you and quickly pulls you into Fisk’s new world, keeping you just as off balance and curious as Sarah is. Standing as a compelling mixture of crime story and tale of courtship, Kingpin #1 has the potential to be Marvel’s next dark horse blockbuster.

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