Devil’s Reign: X-Men

Devil’s Reign: X-Men
Devil's Reign X-Men review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 978-1-302-93459-0
  • Release date: 2022
  • UPC: 9781302934590
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

It may seem there’s no obvious connection between the X-Men the way they are post their 2019 makeover and the world of Devil’s Reign where the Kingpin is Mayor of New York and has outlawed superheroes in the city. However, there’s always the past to be excavated, and that’s where Gerry Duggan starts, looking back to the days when a young Emma Frost used her psychic talents to earn money. The Kingpin paid well. Will that come back to haunt her in the present day?

This is by a country mile the best of the three Devil’s Reign tie-in graphic novels as Duggan sets off a game in exploring the political and legal ramifications of a criminal in charge of the local justice system. When the X-Men trump the Kingpin’s plans to evict their transfer gate from New York he takes it very personally and institutes a murder investigation for a crime committed in the past.

Phil Noto’s precision isn’t always best suited to superhero comics, but with the action deliberately limited in favour of cat and mouse manipulation his style is exactly right. As seen on the cover Elektra is facially modelled on Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn, which is a novel piece of casting, and that being the case readers may recognise other faces. Noto cleverly frames his action scenes in order that prelude and aftermath predominate, yet because he does this so efficiently it’s not immediately obvious, and the story never suffers.

Duggan supplies some surprising guest stars, some funny moments, and a thoughtful extrapolation of how far the Kingpin’s reach extends. Not many people would consider taking on Emma Frost knowing who she is, and that alone establishes his confidence. Clever moments are plentiful in a game of chess that captivates from beginning to end. A couple of spelling mistakes should have been caught, though. It’s also worth noting that the complexity of X-Men continuity can be off-putting, but beyond needing to know who Emma Frost is, this is accessible to any curious reader.

With the lead strip being first rate, the back-up Winter Soldier strip is diminished in comparison, but it’s also better than the remaining Devil’s Reign tie-ins, if not as competent as it ought to be. For starters there’s some excellent art from Nico Leon, atmospherically drenched in shadow and darkness, but he has problems with storytelling, and there’s no consistency to people, who’re sometimes exaggerated and sometimes not. Co-writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing suggest the possibility of the Kingpin having files about Winter Soldier’s past, files that he’s interested in. Their connecting the characters through lack of sleep is a viable idea that they don’t quite pull off, as inconsistency again intervenes, and their Winter Soldier is strangely lacking confidence.

If you only buy one of the three Devil’s Reign tie-ins, it has to be this one. It’s also available along with the remainder of connecting material in the forthcoming Devil’s Reign Omnibus.