Chip Zdarsky’s superlative run on “Daredevil” could end right now and I would be happy. “Devil’s Reign” has been the zany, over-the-top conclusion to the latest tangled conflict between Wilson Fisk, Matt Murdock, Elektra, and the superheroes of New York. This isn’t the end for ‘ol Chip. We’ve already seen releases of “Daredevil: Woman Without Fear.” The story will continue. But “Devil’s Reign” was one hell of a season finale.
Written by Chip Zdarksy
Illustrated by Marco Checchetto
Colored by Marcio Menyz
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Wilson Fisk’s hubris as mayor of New York has cast the city in the waiting arms of a cadre of dangerous and deadly super villains! Worse still, Fisk’s vendetta against the heroes who have stood against him for so long has left the city defenseless. You may think you’ve heard a tale like this before, but there will be no last minute bargains struck between Fisk and the heroes, no truce to stop the fighting and no mutual parting of the ways. Just blood, sweat and tears! Trust us, True Believer, you have NO IDEA what’s coming — or the effect it will have on the Marvel Universe!
This is the last issue of a humongous mega crossover, which followed a popular run. I assume you have a passing understanding of the story. But in case you need a quick refresher: Mayor Wilson Fisk is cracking down on superheroes and installing villains in places of power. Using powers he has stolen from the Purple Man, he can mind control all opposition. This issue mostly covers the climactic showdown between Mayor Kingpin and Daredevil. Oh and of course, Matt Murdock’s made-up evil twin brother Mike Murdock was magically conjured into reality, but then Kingpin murdered him because he thought he was killing Matt. Normal comics stuff, right?
What absolutely blows my mind into stardust is how… conventional this setup is. Nothing in that summary (except maybe the evil twin wrinkle) is happening for the first time. In fact, a lot of this whole run is reheated leftovers. Like way back at the beginning we had a meditation on superheroes and murder, a retread of an earlier story. Then we had an arc with Daredevil in jail, which was written memorably by Ed Brubaker almost two decades ago. A villain stealing Purple Man’s powers is right out of the “Emperor Doom” arc of “West Coast Avengers.” Having a villain replace all the superheroes with supervillains is literally the premise of “Dark Reign.” And how many stories end with a Murdock/Fisk duel like this one? I bet more than you could count on all your fingers and toes.
And this story exceeds all of those others. Zdarsky “Daredevil” might be a remix of many earlier comics, but this cover beats the original. It’s hard to explain exactly one reason why. Part of it is rooting the comic in politics that are more familiar to us today. Fisk may be powerful, but even he is being manipulated by shadowy American billionaires. There’s also great characterization for all he leads, not to mention Luke Cage, Doctor Octopus, and a ton of other great characters. The story is stuffed with humor and tragedy and heart.
More important than any of that though: this comic is fun. There is an evil Fantastic Four made up of four Doctors Octopus! The Thunderbolts are back, a compelling squad of creeps menacing the heroes of the city. The young heroes, already fighting against legislation and regulation are now in a position for righteous payback. Luke Cave runs for freaking mayor! This issue, this story, this run, have all remembered that the Marvel universe is a heightened place, full of zany surprises. That the comic can take that seriously without taking it too seriously… that’s a rare thing!
Full credit is due to the art team, with Marco Checchetto on art and Marcio Menyz doing colors. Their Doctor Octopus is truly intimidating, even while being goofy. Their action is clean, cinematically, and frankly better staged than most of the Marvel movies. This is the kind of comic that reminds me why no other medium can compete in terms of excitement and imagination. It’s a wonderfully paced action story that left me inspired, nervous, and rooting for the villain to find peace. It’s everything I could want in a story.
I’ll be honest, this ending was so strong, I almost don’t want to continue on. I will because I am sure I will be shocked again, but the story ended with a status quo I’d like to see continued indefinitely. A lot of comics end their runs by putting all the pieces back in the box. Sometimes a run will end by flipping the table, tossing a challenge to the next writer (“Daredevil” is famous for this). This comic ended in a surprising place, with some characters coming into the forefront while others retreat into the background. “Devil’s Reign” has been fist-pumping triumph, that left me with a smile on my face.
Final Verdict: 9.6 – Superhero comics don’t get much better than this.