Marvel’s latest ongoing event Devil’s Reign gets its third chapter today, just one day after Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto were (again) named the ongoing writers of Daredevil in June. We already know this event is going to have longstanding effects on multiple characters — so many it commands an epilogue issue in May — and that’s backed up by one character becoming a target in Devil’s Reign #3.
If you haven’t been following along, Devil’s Reign is a story about a New York superhero registration act enacted by Kingpin that’s meant to send NYC’s heroes to jail. He’s got dirt on everyone, even Sue and Reed Richards, which has sent heroes into hiding and Kingpin’s Thunderbolts into the streets.
Similar to the first issue, Devil’s Reign #3 is a tightly-written drama that just so happens to have superheroes as its focus. That’s because their powers and abilities are mostly unused as they question what to do, or get interrogated in police custody. The issue opens with Spider-Man badly beaten getting the bad-cop routine right to the face, and really, the heroes get to add very little to the win column in this issue. Kingpin’s law has put Spider-Man in a bad way, but luckily for him Thing and Human Torch arrive to forcibly remove him.
Soon, we’re witness to Luke Cage giving a speech as he runs for mayor and other developments involving Sue Storm and Kingpin transpire. Each scene is paced well, drawing you into the characters’ experiences while advancing their part of the story forward ever so slightly. This event continually moves forward towards new conflicts and ramifications based on character actions with not a single scene feeling purposeless or unimportant.
That’s on full display as a few heroes including Captain America, Miles Morales, and Iron Man attempt to question Kingpin about his use of the Purple Man to win reelection as mayor. This scene serves as the main conflict of the issue and features the Doc Ocks of other universes, the Superior Four. It’s the biggest action scene yet in the series and it’s impressively done. The heroes take a major beating and seem incredibly outmatched with only Doc Ock’s disinterest in killing them being their salvation. As the main action of the issue, Checchetto and color artist Marcio Menyz give each blow and body slam realistic weight and energy. It’s short but to the point.
No matter the scene, the realism is apparent in a police procedural sort of way rather than Kirby-esque comic book. You can see it in the colorful and bulbous bruising on Spider-Man’s face in the opening scene, or the grit and grime on the walls of the superhero hideout. One feature that makes Checchetto and Menyz’s artwork stand out so well is that it’s entirely believable whether there’s a multi-armed Hulk jumping into the frame, or Foggy Nelson getting smacked in the face. The grandeur of comics is a bit absent, although it is apparent when Human Torch melts a door and Thing casually walks through a wall. In general, the superhero element is reduced to allow a more grounded story to transpire.
I’d argue that realism is too literal with the stakes never feeling high enough for an event-caliber superhero comic. The grounded nature is welcome, but the book lacks big splashy moments or huge twists and turns. Maybe we’ve been conditioned by DC and Marvel’s multiverse-sized events to want more, but even in the smaller dramatic sense, this event feels not so large and thus somewhat uninteresting. A major character is involved in a potentially life-changing moment by the story’s end, but so far the story seems to be holding back.
Devil’s Reign #3 continues to tell a thoroughly grounded story with heroes fighting for what they believe in as the enemy grows ever stronger. The art is phenomenal, although it never goes too big with splashy moments. Devil’s Reign continues to tell an interesting, albeit lower-stakes story.
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