The X-Axis by Paul O'Brien (

Kingpin #1

So, let's look at a new ongoing series from Marvel, KINGPIN. At least, I think it's ongoing this week - they announced it as a miniseries and then changed their minds for some reason.

Whatever, it's here now, and it's a series about the early years of the Kingpin when he was building his empire. It's not an origin series as such - we pick up with the Kingpin already building his criminal empire, so really the key motivation stuff has already been and gone. This seems to be about how he achieves his goal.

I have my doubts that there's really an ongoing series in this. We know how it all turned out, which doesn't do wonders for the dramatic tension. And this is a character created to be a villain; I'm not sure how he's meant to work as the lead character in his own series. This first issue is a solid enough piece of crime fiction but it doesn't really answer my concerns about the viability of the series.

Basically, this issue sets up the future Kingpin's current status (minor crimelord on the rise), and his grand strategy for success - take drugs out of the ghetto and to the middle classes. That's an interesting idea, and one that might well merit a lengthy storyline, depending on what direction writer Bruce Jones chooses to take. However, the first issue is more of a masterclass in Fisk's tactics - manipulate everyone, make them think they're the one guy who knows the real scheme, and then kill them once their expendable.

It's a good little story, and it leaves it up to the reader to try and extract Fisk's true feelings and attitudes from in amongst the deceit - which accounts for about 99% of his dialogue, so it's more about reading between the lines. Okay, the chess metaphor is rather obvious, and the idea that Fisk is a fearsome master manipulator isn't exactly going to come as news to anyone. But it's the first issue, and Jones does establish these key points cleverly.

Art comes from Sean Phillips and Klaus Janson, and as you'd expect from that combination, it's effective rather than pretty. Spider-Man looks thoroughly out of place when he drops by for a cameo and seems to be about the only character in the book with a normal complement of curved lines. They're great storytellers, though, and that's the key thing. For the most part, they've round the right angle with the Kingpin - they make good use of shadow to swtich his intimidating presence on and off according to the scene.

Perfectly good as an issue in its own right, but it doesn't really answer my questions about how there's going to be a series in this character.

Grade: B+

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