Wilson Fisk has been laying low for a while, weakened by a decisive victory for Daredevil that seemingly ended their decades-long blood feud. But the Kingpin of Crime is creeping back into power in a most unusual way.
The Kingpin started off as a Spider-Man villain, a gaudy strongman/master planner who had a cravat stickpin that sprayed sleep gas. Fisk later became the primary nemesis of Daredevil during a Frank Miller-led run that turned both hero and villain more noir-inflected and menacing. The two men waged personal vendettas against each other for years until the Man Without Fear won a decisive victory during the stellar Mark Waid/Chris Samnee tenure a while back.
With his long-term popularity and a high-profile spotlight in the Netflix Daredevil series, it was inevitable that Fisk wouldn't be on the sidelines long. But the mechanism of his return is an intriguing left turn from how the character has been portrayed in his latter-day appearances. Fisk's comeback is happening in a tie-in miniseries tethered to Marvel's current big crossover. Titled Civil War II: Kingpin it is written by Matthew Rosenberg with art by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz, Dalibor Talajic, Jose Marzan, Jr. and Mat Lopes.
Proximity to big splashy events like this has been rare for the Kingpin, as there's seemingly a lot of dissonance between high-flying superheroics and the gritty, ground-level tonality that has become synonymous with the character. When the miniseries begins, the set-up is that the appearance of Ulysses Cain and his visions that seemingly forecast events in the future has made it harder for street-level bad guys to get away with anything.
Fisk is freshly returned to New York City and dodging predictive justice just like other criminals and gangsters. He's smarter and tougher than most of his peers but even he is staring down superheroes a lot more than he used to.
But when he finds out a man named Janus Jardeesh has been breaking one of his personal rules of business, he discovers a way to slip through Captain Marvel's predictive justice dragnet. Like Ulysses, Janus is a freshly transformed Inhuman. His power is to, essentially, be a blindspot in Ulysses' visions.
After discovering this, Janus becomes Fisk's new right-hand man while the Kingpin zealously guards the secret ability that's letting him consolidate the rackets again.
I didn't think I'd like this miniseries at first because, for a long time, the Kingpin has been a character that doesn't mesh well with the majority of Marvel's costume-wearing population, whether they're good guys or bad guys. He's used superpowered folks before, but primarily as assassins or middle-management project managers; Fisk was always presented as chief strategist with plans brewing enigmatically in his own head. But I've been enjoying how Rosenberg's using the "superfolks fighting each other over philosophical differences again" premise of Civil War II as a mere backdrop to the Kingpin's bloody resurgence. Fisk doesn't give a damn about whether Captain Marvel or Iron Man is right; he's an opportunist. Yet, his dependency on Janus is a big crutch, as seen in his reaction when the Inhuman suddenly falls ill.
The tenderness in the panels where Janus is recuperating in last week's issue #2 is a nice tonal offset to the brutality of the rest of the book. But the issue's last-page cliffhanger makes it seem like Janus won't be a character destined to be around as a long-term part of the Kingpin's organisation. Wilson Fisk has been presented as a self-made man, someone with enough devilishly dogged resolution and sumo muscle to claw his way back from setbacks over and over again. If Janus winds up not being dead and part of the Kingpin's new status quo, it will be a very atypical turn for the man who's trying to rule New York City's underworld again.