This post of Kingpin: Born Against by author Matthew Rosenberg, Illustrations Ben Torres and Jeff Dekal has been adapted from two previous posts. First is the spoiler free review followed by the spoiler full review and summary.
Spoiler Free Review
Kingpin: Born Against is a 5 issue standalone run. Although it is only 5 issues long it packs in a lot of detailed character development and plot.
It follows Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, as he works with journalist Sarah Dewey to write his tell all memoir book.
Sarah Dewey is a journalist who has plateaued career wise and is hesitant to work with Fisk but too curious and desperate to pass on the opportunity.
I really enjoyed reading Dewey’s story. She’s an interesting character that is uncommon for Marvel comic books. She’s just a journalist, no bonus super powers, and she’s not highly successful. She’s a recovering alcoholic in the midst of a really nasty divorce and custody battle for her children. She’s a real person with real flaws and real emotions. Things do not come easily to her.
She fights with herself every day of this story, just trying to come to terms with working for someone she knows to be a criminal but isn’t experiencing the crimes firsthand. Fisk does a really good job of only showing her the good and helping her personally with everything that she needs. It makes it easy to understand how easily she can try to delude herself into thinking that working with Fisk could be safe.
By the end of the book she’s had an emotional roller coaster of events and has developed in ways that she probably never expected to. Additionally, the reader is treated to seeing the duality of Fisk and Kingpin in full detail.
He’s a terrifying villain. One who also doesn’t have any super powers. He’s just cruel, manipulative, and extremely smart. He knows what he wants and how to play anyone and everyone in order to get it. He doesn’t need super powers, he just has enough pawns and is willing to make the sacrifices.
There is a cameo from our good friend Daredevil but the book never loses focus of the subject. It’s Kingpin’s book, make no mistake. It’s refreshing to see a standalone that stays on topic and actually enhances the larger canon. It’s not a throwaway.
There are companion standalones available, ones for Bullseye and for Elektra. I am very much looking forward to reading them and hope that they will reach the bar this one has set.
I can definitely recommend Kingpin: Born Against for any Daredevil or Spiderman fans who see him come up as a bad guy over and over again but want a deeper dive into how he operates. Hell’s Kitchen is Kingpin’s domain. Born Against shows why.
Kingpin: Born Against Summary
Kingpin: Born Against is a 5 issue mini series that stands alone from Daredevil or Spiderman. It showcases Kingpin as a conniving crime lord while also giving him new depth we don’t often see. A lot is packed into these 5 issues.
The run begins with Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, approaching journalist Sarah Dewey about writing a tell all memoir about him. She’s hesitant but is looking for a way to turn her career around.
Fisk and Dewey go for a walk to discuss terms when they’re mugged by a common street criminal. Fisk gladly turns over his wallet and watch without escalating the situation and we see Dewey soften towards him.
At the end of the issue we see the mugger dead in an alley and it is assumed that Fisk had him murdered as revenge. It’s left vague enough though that it could have been coincidence. Should we be on his side or not?
The book deals a lot with the duality of Fisk/Kingpin. He does a great job of putting on the right face for the right crowd.
In issue 2 Tombstone crashes a charity event that Fisk is holding so Fisk takes him out back, away from investors, and beats the pulp out of him. Immediately after, Dewey witnesses Fisk grieve over a young girl at the hospital ward he owns and offers to pay all of her family’s medical bills.
Dewey gets to see the righteous Fisk, not the violent Kingpin. She remains curious and questioning throughout the whole book but her guard does get lowered the more she sees his well crafted humane side.
Dewey herself has just gone through a nasty divorce due to her own alcoholism. She’s in the process of losing all custody of her children to her ex husband. She’s an interesting character. Flawed in ways that are both realistic and atypical for female characters in comics.
Daredevil makes a cameo appearance to warn Dewey about Fisk. However, he does this by breaking into her house and scaring her. Fisk buys her a security system to prevent it from happening again.
Then Tombstone shows up at Dewey’s place and she is granted an interview despite him being very threatening.
She records their interview and promises to keep it to herself for the sole purposes of the book she’s writing but the tapes somehow get leaked to the press. Now Tombstone is definitely going to kill her.
Fisk promises protection and delivers. He’s very good to Dewey. Which causes her ex to believe that she’s sleeping with him and he slaps her hard during a visitation.
Fisk has his lawyer, his very expensive lawyer, help Dewey with her custody case. She’s allowed to still see her kids! She’s over the moon!
Until Tombstone kidnaps her. She’s rescued by some random man causing her much confusion and no cessation in fear and worry.
Throughout the story Dewey has been seeing a boxer as her romantic interest. Fisk’s men tell him that he needs to throw his next match. Just like Matt Murdock’s, aka Daredevil’s, father was told to do prior to being murdered.
The boxer doesn’t want to throw the match. All of this stress causes Dewey to lose her grip and she disappears for 3 weeks in a drunken stupor. When she awakens from her bender her boxer boyfriend says he’ll throw the fight and she gets the courage to tell Fisk she can no longer write his book.
The boxer actually doesn’t throw the match and it is implied that the same fate befalls him that befell Jack Murdock. Dewey does finish the book and it becomes a huge best-seller.
She is filled with self loathing but cannot escape Fisk. He’s just too powerful.
This run does a really good job of filling out Fisk’s character. He’s manipulative and smart. He’s crafty and terrifying. Hell’s Kitchen is his domain and his alone. And with reason.
Rosenberg manages to pack a lot into only 5 issues. The story is concise and well crafted. It’s also not bogged down with too many cameos or superfluous easter eggs. It’s a Kingpin standalone 100%.
Honestly, I’d like to see more of Sarah Dewey as well. She’s a tragic figure with a complex story that deserves more page time. She’s an interesting foil to Kingpin.
I can definitely recommend this run and am looking forward to reading the Bullseye and Elektra standalone companions to this one. Hopefully they live up to this bar!
4/5 Pins, Kingpins… 🎳🎳🎳🎳
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