Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin of Crime, might have debuted in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #50, but there’s no doubt that he’s Daredevil’s villain. He’s not just a member of Daredevil’s rogues gallery though, he’s his arch-nemesis (Bullseye eat your heart out). Ever since he shifted into the pages of Daredevil during Frank Miller’s run on the character, this pair has come to define one another. They have been the leading duo in Daredevil comics, movies, and television shows for decades.
That rivalry has resulted in some of the best superhero stories ever told across multiple mediums. Daredevil and Kingpin simply go together like a justice-seeking peanut butter and exceedingly corrupt jelly. Even in their worst combinations, like the 2003 feature film, there’s a spark that makes their showdowns exhilarating. Whether their battles come in the form of a no holds barred fistfight or a battle of wits over the soul of Hell’s Kitchen, there’s always something to relish.
Now Kingpin has a unique hold over Matt Murdock in the pages of Daredevil after being elected Mayor of New York City. He has outlawed vigilantes and turned Daredevil’s favored tool and moral compass against him. This story is setting itself up to be one of the best battles between this classic Marvel Comics pairing, but how does it stack up against what has come before? Here are the five greatest Daredevil and Kingpin showdowns to date so you can decide if it makes the cut.
Daredevil (vol. 1) #227-233
Written by Frank Miller
Art by David Mazzucchelli
Colors by Christie “Max” Scheele
This isn’t just the best showdown between Daredevil and Kingpin, it’s the best Daredevil or Kingpin story of all time, full stop. “Born Again” defined both men by setting them on a collision course in which each was determined to absolutely destroy the other, and they each succeeded to some degree. Kingpin takes everything from Matt Murdock in this story, showing both the depths of his cunning and his cruelty. But at the end of his plot, there’s still no body.
It’s that setup that allows for Daredevil to perform a comeback like few others in superhero comics, rising from nothing to defeat both Kingpin and the most unstable elements of the United State military in some stunning action sequences. “Born Again” is perfect because it stretches both of its lead characters as far as they will go, showing both why we appreciate them individually and together. Even after 30 years, it’s a highlight of Marvel Comics, and hopefully the basis for Netflix’s third season of Daredevil.
"The Autobiography of Matt Murdock"
Daredevil (vol. 4) #15-18
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Chris Samnee
Colors by Matthew Wilson
This is the most recent comics entry on our list, and it’s here for two very good reasons. First of all, this is the finale of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s already classic take on Daredevil. After almost five full years with the character, they concluded their run with the biggest villain imaginable: Kingpin. The series finishes with the same style and deft storytelling that made it one of the best in modern superhero comics.
The second important factor is that this showdown builds on all of the history between Daredevil and Kingpin. It’s not just another battle, but one that utilizes decades of hatred to make it effective. A single page by Samnee shows the pair standing in an art gallery dedicated to images of Daredevil suffering, displaying Kingpin’s loathing of his nemesis and the inability for anyone to see just how deep his emotions run. It’s a stunning moment that perfectly encapsulates why this is the best modern battle between the pair.
"The Ones We Leave Behind" / "Daredevil"
Daredevil Season One, Episodes 12 and 13
Directed by Euros Lyn and Steven S. DeKnight
Written by Douglas Petrie and Steven S. DeKnight
Starring Charlie Cox as Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin
The finale of the first season of Daredevil on Netflix might still be the best moment to come from Marvel Studio’s many projects on the streaming service. That’s largely due to the incredible performances from Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio finally paying off in a confrontation so much larger than the back alley in which it takes place. D’Onofrio’s Kingpin is the best live-action take on the character and one of the best villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is as complex as any character in the films or television and his ability to destroy anything in his path is simply terrifying.
When the pair duke it out, the action is as good as it gets within the series. Each punch lands with a visceral impact, and there’s no doubting the hatred that exists between the two. It’s raw and ugly, and just the catharsis that’s needed after everything Kingpin has done to the innocents of Hell’s Kitchen over the past few episodes. This duo of episodes is, without a doubt, the best live-action adaptation of Daredevil or Kingpin to date.
Daredevil (vol. 2) #46-50
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
This is the climax of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s stunning run on Daredevil in many ways. It’s the moment in which both Kingpin and Daredevil were broken when Daredevil defeats his arch-nemesis. This came as a surprise to many fans, especially in how it inverts the character arcs of “Born Again”. Rather than have Kingpin break down Daredevil, Daredevil finishes an already beaten Kingpin, but destroys a part of himself as he becomes “The Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen”.
“Hardcore” is a classic dynamic swap that shows how shifts in power can corrupt or undermine characters. A lack of loyalty and fear makes the Kingpin a pathetic shell, while a thirst for control takes away the most noble elements of Matt Murdock. It’s frightening for how unfamiliar it is and an important reminder of what makes these characters great, but also how human they have become in the hands of creators like Bendis and Miller.
Daredevil (vol. 1) #170-172
Written by Frank Miller
Art by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson
Colors by Glynis Wein
This showdown is notable simply for being the initial encounter between Daredevil and Kingpin. It’s the point when Miller chose to introduce his favored nemesis to one of the best runs in Marvel Comics history, and in which he redefined that nemesis. While Kingpin had always been effective in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, it’s here that he became a killer.
Within “Gang War” Kingpin would create both a new mythos, with his family and motives clarified, and persona, with a much more cold-blooded set of tactics. It’s here that Miller made him a genius who could appeal to the public, a brawler made of pure muscle, and genius capable of philosophy and warfare. This is the story where Kingpin became Daredevil’s arch-nemesis, and for that we owe it a lot.