Written by Matthew Rosenberg (We Can Never Go Home, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, Rocket Raccoon) and drawn by Ben Torres (Knight Watchman, Daredevil) with colors by Jordan Boyd and letters by Travis Lanham, this first issue of a new series brings us a fresh look at the King Pin and is set to track his movements as he tries to reinvent himself in the public eye. Key in that agenda is convincing the person he has set his sights on to write a biography in which he can “confess” his sins and dispel some myths about the man he has been and the man he will be. In this age of information and public image, his plan has a convincing edge. The release of a first biography of a man so feared and so headline-grabbing would hit all the major media cycles regardless of their normal coverage. It would become the talking point for his rebirth. By saying he is going to stage a come back, he would actually end up doing it.
Ben Torres’ artwork on this issue is eerily great. It’s eerie because it feels so old school Hell’s Kitchen to me that I keep forgetting what exactly I’m reading–the texture of 80’s and 90’s noir in the marvel universe seems to seep into the panels. His linework and detail on faces for emotional shifts and reactions may well remind you of the great Garth Ennis as well. What’ll impress you most about Torres’ work, though, is the way he composes around his chosen focus. There’s a stylized quality about his use of backgrounds and background characters (often in silhouette or reverse silhouette), and angling background elements that actually forces the eye toward the main focus of the panel. It gives the moody world of the comic a maze-like feel, which fits well with the mental states of the main characters.
Speaking of which, we have Sarah Dewey, remarkably versatile journalist, who apparently has a passion for both foreign policy and boxing in her work, though the shift to the former might have to do with some personal crises in her life. Rosenberg has done an impishly good job making her a multi-faceted sharp-edged instrument in her environment, constantly puzzling things out, correcting, and always seeming to just f&^% try to make her life work the weirder it seems to get. Her verbosity is a big draw, cutting through the multiple versions of “story” people present her with. By “story” I mean everyone else’s take on her career, her options, their slanted worldviews and their stated goals. She’s an odd choice in many ways for Wilson Fisk’s biographer. But maybe Fisk and his cronies understand her better than the reader even knows at this point. They know her pressure points–money, alcoholism, possibly even boredom. But whatever the reason, Fisk’s choice certainly makes for a great read.
Which brings us to Wilson Fisk and his characterization in this comic. I haven’t read other treatments of Fisk widely, though I have my own impressions of his presence in Marvel Comics. I do feel as a reader that there are some remarkable things about this portrait of Fisk, even though we are only in the first issue of this series so far. I actually don’t think it’s remarkable that Fisk wants a biography, for the reasons stated above. It’s a very smart, media-savvy move. Which seems in keeping with his machinations. I think Fisk’s dialogue with others in this issue is surprising, and interesting, and leads to fresh character development.
His actual use of language and interaction with others is more responsive and flexible than I’ve seen in other comics, and that makes him seem more dynamic. He doesn’t rely as heavily on formulaic responses or conformity to a certain image in the way he speaks. That could be seen as a reflection on Rosenberg’s innovative writing, but if you want to take it thematically, it would read as Fisk breaking out of his old narrative to create a new one. He’s always been heavily into a constructed image and controlling the story of his identity. Maybe he still is, but this is just an entirely new tack.
The strongest sense of character development in this issue comes from a certain degree of harmony between Fisk and Dewey, however, when we seem led to the conclusion that neither Fisk nor Dewey fit anywhere in standard social narratives. Fisk’s commentary on Dewey’s Spidey pajamas, their doughnut shop encounter, and walk in the park all suggest this degree of common ground. Sure, Fisk is probably manipulating Dewey, but it’s Dewey’s truth that is interesting here. We already know Fisk is an outsider. Dewey has had an evening of being told who she is, and it’s a multiplicity of versions of herself, none of which she seems to find correct. There’s an eerie sense that Fisk is the most correct about her, out of the lineup of that night’s frustrating social encounters at least.
This is a bang-up start to a new series, and given both Torres’ engaging artwork and Rosenberg’s fairly relentless many-angled examination of character, this is going to be a compelling read all the way through.