Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Do You Think of When You Hear the Name "Kingpin"?

If you are not familiar with comic books, or at least the Daredevil movie, and you hear “Kingpin” you probably think of the bowling/comedy movie.  While I like that movie, it is not the first thing that pops up when I hear the name.  My memories go further back to my childhood.

By the time I started picking Spider-Man comics off the spinner rack, and yes I am showing my age, it was the Gerry Conway era.  It was a great time to be a Spider-Man fan.  The only down side was that it only appeared once a month.  Fortunately Marvel was reprinting the old issues in Marvel Tales.  Those reprints were my first experience with the Kingpin.  The storyline I started reading featured a gang war between the Kingpin and Silvermane over a stone tablet.  Why was the tablet worth fighting over? 

 It was rumored to have the formula for a youth serum engraved on it.  The stories were classic Stan Lee and John Romita comics.  But that is a story I will revisit in the future.

Moving on through my personal Kingpin timeline, I always thought of the Kingpin as a Spider-Man villain until the days of a young upstart writer/artist taking over one of my favorite books-Daredevil.  Frank Miller turned the industry upside down by introducing noir storytelling into superhero books.  And which classic villain did he bring in to be the mastermind pulling the strings behind the scenes?  Kingpin.  This is another storyline that I will be re-reading and reviewing in the future.  But this article is focused on a more recent series.

Jason Aaron is a writer I recently started reading.  I kept hearing about his work so at the last comic convention I attended (Pittsburgh Comicon), I went on a Jason Aaron trade paperback buying binge.  Once I started reading them (beginning with the first three Wolverine collections) I could not stop.  Aaron has become one of my favorite current writers.  He is currently writing “Incredible Hulk”, “Wolverine and the X-Men, and is one of the writers of a little title called “Avengers vs. X-Men”.  But the Kingpin came into the picture during his stint on “Punisher Max”.

“Punisher Max”, like all of the Max titles, is a little more graphic than I usually like but Aaron’s scripting has me hooked on it.  His artist for this series was Steve Dillon.  Dillon is a capable artist but has never been one of my favorites.  He does a competent job on this series.

Aaron’s first arc, collected in “Kingpin”, is a classic.  He delves into the origin of the Kingpin.  He starts out as a hit man for the mob.  The difference between him and the other thugs is that he has a plan.  The Punisher has been destroying the mob in the city.  The plan is to get the various mob families to give him the money to fake a “Kingpin” who is coming to town.  The plan works to perfection.  The Punisher becomes obsessed with tracking down a kingpin who does not exist.  Meanwhile the mob is free to pursue business as usual.  Unfortunately one of the family leaders wants to cut off the flow of money to Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk.  If you are familiar with the character, this is not a good move.

Aaron has created a noir classic in “Kingpin”.  If you like gang wars and take no prisoner heroes, this is the perfect title for you.  This title tells a complete story but sets the stage for the next collection “Bullseye”.  If you have read stories about the Kingpin and Bullseye in the past, you know that the Punisher is in for a rough time.  I know I will be along for the ride as long as Aaron is writing this book.

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