SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Defenders #8 by Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez, Michael Avon Oeming, Justin Ponsor and Cory Petit, on sale now.
Brian Michael Bendis’ near-twenty year tenure at Marvel Comics comes to a close next year, but before he heads to join the DC Universe, his current stories are on their way to being wrapped up. While Jessica Jones faces off against her old enemy The Purple Man and The Search For Tony Stark continues, Bendis is tying up some other loose ends by linking two titles you’d never think would have any reason to cross over. This week’s issue of The Defenders featured a surprising flashback to the origin of The Kingpin, a scene we’d seen previously in the pages of Spider-Men II.
The main crux of Spider-Men II has been examining the history of the Miles Morales of the Prime Marvel Universe (formerly Earth-616). As the Miles Morales we’d come to know and love is a refugee from the deceased Earth-1610, it stood to reason that there would be another Miles Morales somewhere in the world, post-Secret Wars. Spider-Men II revealed that the Prime Miles Morales is considerably older than the teenage Miles, which stands to reason -- the Peter Parker of the Prime Earth was older than Ultimate Peter after all. What's more, instead of being a hero, the Prime Miles is a criminal and old friend of Wilson Fisk, AKA The Kingpin.
Prime Miles saved a young Kingpin in prison decades ago, and as such, Fisk felt he owed Morales his life. When it came time to take over the crime industries of New York City and put the former Kingpin of Crime, Don Rigoletto, out to pasture, Morales was right there with Fisk at the takeover. However, as we saw in this week’s issue of Defenders, he wasn’t the only notable character to get a first hand look at the changing of the guard, as we saw the same scene from a different perspective and how it has an impact on the current story going on in the present.
In Defenders #8, we see that Willis Stryker, the supervillain turned crime boss known as Diamondback, was also in the room and saw the whole thing. He was part of Rigoletto’s crew at the time and after the deed was done, Fisk called on Stryker and his friend Carl Lucas to dispose of the body. At the time, Stryker said he thought Kingpin just chose him as a random lackey but in the years since, he came to realise that Wilson Fisk is a man who plans things out twenty-five steps ahead of everyone and knew exactly who Stryker was, and the potential he possessed.
Interestingly, Diamondback's recollection doesn't quite line-up with the unbiased flashback we see in the pages of Spider-Men II. Specifically, Morales' involvement is downplayed heavily, including some of his more intimidating lines being given to Fisk, as well as the absence of Rigoletto's blatant racism towards the Afro-Latino gangster, while adding a firefight missing from the original scene. It's likely these aren't errors on Bendis' part, and instead are clues for keen-eyed readers to spot that Diamondback isn't telling the full truth so much as it's the truth that suits his story.
Of course, Carl Lucas would eventually be sent to prison on trumped up charges and emerge with bulletproof skin as the Hero For Hire, Luke Cage. While the revelation that Diamondback was in the room is one thing, Luke Cage being in the room is a whole other matter. Luke has come a long way from his criminal days and became a husband, father and leader of the Avengers. He still has some dark skeletons in his closet, and Diamondback has been a threat to all of The Defenders all year.
While Spider-Men II presented the scene as a way out of his life of crime, for Diamondback it provided him with the inspiration to follow in Fisk’s footsteps. If it wasn’t for that moment, The Defenders wouldn’t be in the pickle they’re in now and Diamondback wouldn’t slowly be taking control of the city’s crime families.