***Spoilers Ahead for Devil’s Reign Spider-Man #1***
Mayor Wilson Fisk’s introduction of the Powers Act has not been kind to many of New York City’s heroes, and arguably none have suffered as much as Spider-Man. Par for the course for the webhead, Spidey is now on the backfoot as the world closes in on him. With Peter Parker hospitalized from radiation sickness, his clone Ben Reilly has taken up the main mantle of Spider-Man and is being backed by the Beyond Corporation.
Unfortunately for Ben Reilly, not even a titan of industry such as the Beyond Corporation could protect him from Fisk’s reign of terror. Through the events of Devil’s Reign #1-2, Ben Reilly has been put in a bad place, now he must contend against the villainous son of the Kingpin, Richard Fisk; now taking up the mantle ROSE, he’s on a mission to prove he’s better at taking down spandex-clad heroes than his dad ever was.
With writer Anthony Piper, penciler Zé Carlos, colorist Erick Arciniega, and letterer VC’s Joe Caramagna, Devil’s Reign: Spider-Man #1 further delves into the effects of the Powers Act on the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Delivering more beatings and bruises than Ben would prefer. The highlight of this issue’s story is the emphasis it places on Ben’s relationship with those he works alongside at the Beyond Corporation, mainly the head of his support team Marcus Momplaisir.
Like other Spider-Man stories, his allies have been placed in the middle of the conflict between him and his foe however it is recontextualized to fit within the environment that Ben Rilley exists in; it allows the conflicts that he faces to feel connected to Peter Parker whilst unique to his specific version of the mantle. Moreover, Piper provides agency to Marcus by making him integral to the takedown of ROSE. This use of cooperation furthers Ben’s connection to his team at the Beyond Corporation and strengthens Ben Reilly’s characterization as his own Spider-Man.
He now has a collection of friends and loved ones that fight beside him that aren’t gathered from Peter. Piper makes a point of stating that Ben is in an immense amount of pain throughout the issue and noting that it is almost a constant part of the Spider-Man role to push through the agony, further cementing his worth in this role.
Sadly for Spider-Man, the villain he is facing is not particularly charismatic or memorable. This is especially unfortunate due to how impactful Richard Fisk could be to the overall arc that Kingpin experiences across the Devil’s Reign event. Along with Piper being negligent of fact that both Ben Reilly and Richard Fisk share the characteristic of being born in the shadow of their much more popular predecessor. Whilst there is potential for ROSE’s involvement with the marvel universe to expand in any upcoming issues, his reintroduction into the universe via a tie-in issue to a major event doesn’t necessarily bode well.
On top of being a rather compelling Spider-Man tale, Devil’s Reign: Spider-Man issue one is a treat for the eyes. Fans of Ryan Ottley’s work on the Spider-Man book will likely enjoy Carlos’ pencils, with his character designs and proportions being similarly strong and sharp. Alternatively, detractors of Ottley’s style may not enjoy the issue due to the similarities. A standout part of this issue’s art is how expressive Spider-Man is; his eye lenses are constantly changing and contorting in shape and therefore allowing for emotions to be expressed without the need for Ben to be unmasked or through internal dialogue.
Some fans may take issue with the design of Ben Reilly’s Spider-Suit due to the asymmetrical logo. Rather than it being a critic of Carlos, it is more a negative side-effect of his reintroduction as a part of the Beyond Corporation in The Amazing Spider-Man #81. However, Carlos’ pencils display it in such a well-done fashion that many fans may begin to enjoy seeing it in classic Spider-Man poses.
The colors from Arciniega strongly compliment Carlos’ pencils, with them offering a vibrant color palette and allowing the pencils to pop, especially in the effects department. With every laser blast and electric shock standing out as a violent explosion of energy. The most intriguing use of color, however, is the application of Kingpin’s classic white and purple palette to ROSE. This choice allows Richard Fisk to be more easily associated with his father whilst holding the mantle of ROSE, as it creates a pattern for those related to Fisk to visually adhere to.
Devil’s Reign: Spider-Man #1 is a fun expansion on the experiences of Ben Reilly’s Spider-Man throughout these turbulent times within the marvel universe. Although some of the major beats reflect some of Peter’s stories, they are remolded in order to suit Ben’s current circumstances. Unfortunately, this Spider-Man story is let down by a fairly by the numbers villain in the form of Richard Fisk, who is stuck in his father’s shadow both in-universe and in the real world.
Regardless of your opinions on the story, this issue offers some solid visuals that allow the action to be engaging in spite of a lackluster conflict. Ultimately this issue leaves open room for more tales around how Ben Reilly and his team at the Beyond Corporation will be battling against the iron fist of Mayor Fisk.
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