“…Daredevil killed the Kingpin?”
(Marvel Comics, 1989)
Writer – Danny Fingeroth
Penciller – Greg Capullo
Inkers – Akin and Garvey
Letterer - Michael Heisler
Colorist – Evelyn Stein
Greetings from the Wasteland
Caution! In order to carefully describe the events herein, I’m going to have to spoil the hell out of a couple of storylines. Fortunately, these are stories that took place in 1989, so if you haven’t read them yet, it shouldn’t affect you too much.
I’m a sucker for an alternate 1985. It captures my imagination. To take characters that you know and love and change just a small part of their story, make them behave differently at a given moment, is a fascinating exercise, and one that I continue to do in my own writing. My love for this idea comes not from Back to the Future (reinforces, totally) but from Marvel’s What If… series.
What If… debuted in 1977, showcasing Uatu, one of the Watchers, a race destined to watch history as it unfolded. The beauty of these books was that they could go in any direction. From the first What If…Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four? (Which later happened) to #11 What If…the original Marvel bullpen had become the Fantastic Four?, these books walked a wide path in terms of content. From the serious to the ridiculous, it was all fun. But there are hidden gems as well.
What if…Daredevil killed the Kingpin? is the second issue in the second iteration of the series, resurrected in 1989. It follows the “Born Again” storyline written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzucchelli. Karen Page, Murdock’s girlfriend, sells his secret identity for heroin, and that information gets back to the Kingpin, who then uses it to slowly dismantle Murdock’s personal life, ended in a mental breakdown. He faces of with Wilson Fisk, and is severely beaten, but escapes and recovers, eventually saving Page and defeating the Kingpin of Crime.
Enter the Watcher, who likes to spend his down time looking around the multi-verse and seeing what kind of crazy stuff is going down. In this world, Murdock goes to the Kingpin’s tower, and shoots him in the head. He immediately spirals into self-doubt and guilt, which overtakes his already weakened mind.
The power vacuum left by the death of the Kingpin results in a gang war, listing all of Marvel’s great hoods, including Hammerhead. The Hobgoblin arrives at the home of the Rose, Richard Fisk (Kingpin’s son), and proposes a union to take over everything. The Rose declines, deciding to take his vengeance out alone.
Murdock is on the streets, mad, and encounters both the Punisher and Spider-Man, who try to help but are bested by the broken man. Matt comes to the realization that his only option for redemption is to go to Richard Fisk and ask for forgiveness, or accept whatever punishment it waiting.
Just as he arrives at Fisk’s apartment, the Hobgoblin shows up with a group of thugs from Hammerhead’s gang, and a fight begins which ends with the dual deaths of Ned Leeds (Hobgoblin) and Matt Murdock. The Rose, seeing that heroic death, vows to stop the gang war as Murdock would have done, in the costume of Daredevil.
I can’t fault anything that writer Danny Fingeroth has done here. That’s the beauty of the What If… books. They are whatever the writer wants them to be, and they usually end in one issue.
And here’s how I came to re-read the book. I heard in a recent interview that this was Greg Capullo’s first penciling job at Marvel. For those of you who have been hiding in a cave for the last two years, Capullo is the artist responsible for the current look of Batman in Scott Snyder’s New 52 run. When he mentioned the title in the interview I remembered it instantly, and rushed to my collection to read it. There has definitely been a change in style over the years, but you can see that it is Capullo’s work, and that even 24…(holy crap!)…years ago he was an extremely good artist.
What if… comics have always been a favorite, as well as the Elseworlds line that DC runs. Any time you have a chance to pick up something like this do it, and see what the Watcher sees, worlds that could have been. (Or will be in the not-to-distant-future.)
Follow Brad Gischia on Twitter: @comicwastleland