First off a little free advertisement. My wife loves little hole in the wall places. While she has no problem heading to a chain restaurant or coffee shop, she’s the type of person who would much rather pay a little more money to keep a mom and pop place in business. One such place in Portland is a place called The Spritely Bean. It’s a beautifully run place run by a nice couple that really appeals to both ladies and gentlemen out there. The coffee and pastries they offer second to none. My wife loved the egg nog latte she ordered. They also offer comics from independent companies. While they did offer selections from companies comic fans know of like Image Comics and Valiant Comics (they also had Spawn #2 on sale. If they had a #1 I would have squealed like a little girl.), they also offered selections from local comic book makers that I will be posting reviews on in the coming days. To top it off, once my wife mentioned that I had reviewed Holy F*ck, Addam Poole, the owner along with his wife, mentioned that he knew of the series and had actually had communication with Nick Marino. Anyone who likes Holy F*ck is tops in my book! If you are in Portland and want to not only support local coffee shops but the local comic book scene in the area, this is THE place to go to.
Now on to the review. The Amazing Spider-Man #51, which had the second ever appearance of Kingpin, Mr. Wilson Fisk. One of my favorite shows of late has been Daredevil on Netflix. Vincent D’Onofrio did a fabulous job as the Kingpin. What I love about the character is the fact that he’s smart as a whip. Looking like he does you wouldn’t expect it but the Kingpin is someone who has thought twelve moves ahead of you. He is a cold blooded mother who has thought about every possible way to grasp and maintain power. He realizes as well that he can use his appearance to give people the false impression of weakness.
When you think of fat guys you don’t think of them as particularly scary. Sometimes they can be jolly like Santa. Sometimes they can be pathetic like Val Kilmer. But never do you think of hefty guys as vicious. Run twelve steps ahead of them and they’ll have a heart attack trying to keep up. Toss a jelly donut their way and you’ve successfully distracted them like showing a dog a card trick. But Kingpin is pure muscle, whether it be physical or mental muscle.
This is the issue after the famous story of Peter Parker contemplating hanging up the tights forever. Peter Parker has changed his mind and is now Spider-Man again. When he comes back he foils the Kingpin’s plans. Thanks to an editorial from J. Jonah Jameson, he’s looking for the man who is behind a recent crime wave in the city. The Kingpin is aware of the articles and hatches a plan to kidnap JJJ to either convince him to lay off the story or else.
The story in this issue is light in terms of content but that’s not a bad thing. The goal of the issue which I think Stan Lee accomplished amazingly well was to showcase the viciousness of Wilson Fisk. We get a showcase of how a man was able to unite the crime families of New York. He knows that these people are not loyal to him so he keeps a cane that could instantly kill anyone who disobeys him. The fact alone that by the end of the issue he was able to subdue Spider-Man speaks volumes as to how strong this guy is. Other characters when they made their debut against Spider-Man were easily defeated by the end of the issue. But the last thing we see if Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson surrounded by Kingpin and this thugs.
Speaking of JJJ, I’ve always found his character fascinating. On the surface you think he is quite one dimensional. He hates Spider-Man and will go to any length to let people know. But every now and then they show little glimpses into his mind as to why he hates Spider-Man. In a previous issue, I happen to forget which one specifically at the moment, we find that he is jealous of Spider-Man because he wishes his son had the same level of adoration from people. He knows Spider-Man does good but due to petty jealousy he wants to stop him. But as this issue shows, while he very much wants Spider-Man stopped, when it comes to someone looking to actually kill him, he draws a line. He may be jealous but that doesn’t involve murder. It’s little moments like these that pop up occasionally which go towards making JJJ such a fascinating character.
The art. A John Romita classic. John Romita, along with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others, pretty much set the template for these types of stories. The fight scenes were great in this issue. While they ended up being filler to be quite honest, you do not get bored or distracted. The action makes sense. I’ve noticed in some comics that when fight scenes happen, they want to throw in as much action as they can so it ends up getting to be a garbled mess. You don’t know what is really going on apart from punches and kicks. The action in this issue is quite clear and well drawn. Little things like the impact lines when Kingpin hits people showcase the power of the character. Who would have thought that simple lines could showcase such power?
This is a must read issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. While admittedly the previous issue is more well known and for obvious reasons, this goes a long way towards establishing the character of Kingpin. A person could judge the story based on way stories are told now but they would be missing out on one hell of a story. I would be the first to admit that some of Stan Lee’s writing doesn’t stand the test of time. Granted, with the sheer amount of content him and others have to put out not everything is going to be a gem. But the foundations he laid for modern comic book stories should never, ever, be diminished because some of the stories may seem a little corny by today’s standards. We have today’s standards because of stories like this. This is the type of story that any comic book writer would study to see what works so they can either apply it to their own work or find a way to do something different that would still give you the same results. I compare Stan Lee’s stories to The Beatles. While I do find some of their songs quite simple by today’s standards, without The Beatles, popular music as a whole would sound much different. To become a master of anything, you have to learn from the masters that came before you. Stan Lee and John Romita are two such masters that any comic creator would do well to study.