It’s hard to believe that for as long as Marvel’s Civil War event has lasted, certain characters have yet to be profiled. It’s true, though. There are quite a few of Marvel’s most prominent characters that haven’t seen the light of day during Civil War, but Marvel is certainly doing their best to cram as many of them in as possible. The omissions have occurred for one reason or another. Some are among the missing like Charles Xavier, others have been blasted into space like the Hulk, while others are currently caught up with the Annihilation Wave in Marvel’s other big event, Annihilation. Then there’s the Kingpin. Wilson Fisk’s reason for being out of the Civil War limelight is that he’s currently serving prison time in Ryker’s. But Civil War: War Crimes brings the big guy into the fray in a huge way.
The issue begins with a brief overview of Fisk’s character. He grew up ostracized as a child because of his tremendous size, leaving him emotionally scarred. But rather than lock himself in his room or become an emo kid, Fisk took matters into his own hands and learned the skills necessary to become the boss of everyone. He parlayed those skills into becoming the Kingpin of New York’s entire underworld, but recently found himself in prison, where just about nothing has changed. Even in this new environment, Fisk has adapted and now has nearly every prisoner under his thumb.
One prisoner he hasn’t been able to control is Hammerhead, a long-time rival with an adamantium skull. This issue sees Hammerhead about to be released from Ryker’s due to a technicality, leading to some banter with Fisk over who will take over New York’s underworld. While Fisk is certain his influence will remain, Hammerhead notes that Marvel’s superheroes are all at each other’s throats over the Civil War and he will use the conflict to his advantage. With that in mind, Fisk requests an audience with Tony Stark. What follows is an amazing series of events that culminates with Wilson Fisk playing nearly everyone for puppets. Tony Stark’s pro-registration movement, Captain America’s resistance, and Hammerhead’s would-be gang all become pawns in the Kingpin’s grand chess game.
The storytelling in this issue is absolutely brilliant. Writer Frank Tieri, who ironically shares a name with a notorious mob boss himself, does a great job in expressing to readers what makes the Kingpin what he is. It’s one thing to tell readers that Wilson Fisk is a criminal genius with all of New York’s underworld at his whim, but it’s another to actually illustrate what makes this fact so. Tieri demonstrates exactly why Kingpin is who he is and communicates to readers that it should be no surprise why he made it to the top. Whether Kingpin will remain a presence in Civil War after this issue remains to be seen, but if this is his only appearance, he made the most of it. In addition to that, Tieri also made both Iron Man and Captain America appear fallible. Tony Stark becomes so blinded by his mission that he allows himself to be played for a fool and Captain America becomes so blinded by his own mission that he compromises his own ideals by forcing himself to make an unholy, albeit brief, alliance towards the end of the issue. Tieri also makes good use of an old cliche: the chess game. Not only does he use the classic game to show that Fisk and Stark had a past, but it was also used as a grand metaphor for the issue at large. The chess game is an old standby, but Tieri definitely does a good job in showing how effective it can be as a plot device.
Artist Staz Johnson definitely made the most of this high-profile opportunity. He draws Kingpin, Hammerhead, and underling Underworld perfectly. He also uses a good spectrum of colors for the prison scenes, giving the readers a sense of despair within the structure’s confines. But other than these characterizations, there isn’t much to write home about. The art is serviceable, but ultimately forgettable when compared with the work of others like Steve McNiven.
The last Civil War one-shot, Choosing Sides, was a total waste. Readers picked it up and got just about nothing for their five dollars. War Crimes is just the opposite. This is 48 pages worth of solid storytelling for five dollars. This is a must-buy for fans of the Kingpin and fans of Marvel’s mafia-style underworld. It’s also a must-read to see how both Iron Man and Captain America are so wrapped up in their feud with one another that they are exhibiting more and more character flaws. Don’t let Choosing Sides turn you off to Civil War one-shots, because between this issue and the Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War issue also released this week, Marvel’s one-shot issues have shown vast improvement.
Story: 10 of 10
Art: 5 of 10
Cover: 4 of 10