Comic Book Review – Daredevil: Lockdown and Devil’s Reign

Daredevil: Lockdown (2021)
Reprints Daredevil #31-36
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Mike Hawthorne, Marco Checchetto, Stefano Landini, Francesco Mobili, and Manuel Garcia

Devil’s Reign (2022)
Reprints Devil’s Reign #1-6 & Devil’s Reign Omega
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Marco Checchetto

Throughout Chip Zdarsky’s current run on Daredevil, he’s made it a point to show how it’s not just organized crime that creates problems in urban environments. The police & the city government will agitate the public to serve their own purposes, often to continue a flow of money & power from criminal enterprise. Lockdown finds Matt Murdock serving time in prison while being allowed to keep his identity secret due to a Supreme Court ruling within the Marvel Universe. Being spotlighted as Daredevil doesn’t afford him any benefits, though and he quickly becomes targeted by his fellow inmates but also a corrupt warden.

Matt isn’t the only person backed into a corner, though. Elektra is still operating as Daredevil in Hell’s Kitchen and is training Alice, an orphan girl she rescued as a protege. Alice was forced to shoot and kill a criminal in the last volume, which weighs heavily on her. Elektra has been desensitized to killing and argues that Alice didn’t have a choice. That doesn’t sit well with the girl who pushes back that it has fucked her up in the head. Elektra doesn’t take the feedback well and tells herself the girl is just displaying the sort of “disgusting weakness” Elektra has come to loathe in civilians.

You also have Mike Murdock, Matt’s fictional brother, made real by an Inhuman years prior. He’s posing as Matt to keep the law practice but is also buddies with Butch, a young criminal quickly rising up the ranks. Being perceived as Matt creates some expected danger. Then Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin and now mayor of NYC, has lost track of Bullseye. Previously, it had been revealed that Fisk was funding a program to clone Bullseye and install components that would make him more “manageable.” Unfortunately, the villain escaped and is now terrorizing the city with a bloody crime spree. Bullseye decides to make it his goal to murder every person who lives in New York and starts going about it one by one. I was also shocked by the depth of character development given to Fisk and his lover Typhoid Mary, a profoundly toxic couple who Zdarsky manages to make the reader have a lot of empathy for. 

I was worried that Lockdown might just serve as a time killer before Zdarsky could get Devil’s Reign rolling, but no. It continues the high quality of writing and art from Zdarsky’s collaborators that you expect from this run. The art styles frequently change throughout this volume due to Marco Checchetto getting a headstart on Devil’s Reign, but I didn’t find the guest artists to be objectionable. So many storylines come to a powerful climax here; some get resolved while others create interesting situations to explore in the upcoming big event. Some people get happy endings; there’s even a wedding. On the other hand, some characters meet an untimely end as power jockeying within New York’s crime families. The biggest revelation, unlocking Fisk’s memories that had previously been safely tucked away, lead into Devil’s Reign.

I was hyped going into Devil’s Reign, and it’s a lot of fun, but it suffers from a big problem that event stories always seem to have. The core mini-series is constantly setting up and hinting at storylines in other books or tie-in mini-series. That can result in a narrative that feels as if it has a handful of missing pieces. For example, you might be teased about Emma Frost and the X-Men’s involvement, but you’ll need to read a separate mini-series. Or the reintroduction of the Thunderbolts. They pop up here and there in the pages of Devil’s Reign, but you have to read their mini-series to understand precisely what is going on with them. As a kid reading comics, I loved events because I saw many characters in one book. As an adult, my love of them has waned significantly, and I wish for a coherent story. That said, Devil’s Reign is one of the better executions of an event story, and I think that’s due to Zdarsky clearly setting boundaries with Marvel.

Fisk’s realization from Lockdown carries over into the first part of Devil’s Reign. He confronts the newly released Daredevil and holds a press conference to announce a citywide crackdown on all masked vigilantes. This stirs up old feelings from way back in Mark Millar’s acclaimed Civil War event, and it plays out so much better than Brian Michael Bendis’s Civil War II he attempted a handful of years ago. Characters like Miles Morales and Moon Knight are pulled into the conflict, and Fisk unleashes the Thunderbolts, former villains like Rhino and Electro under his command.

Once again, Zdarsky does some fascinating things when applying the presence of superhumans to a universe much like ours. Fisk is terrified of losing the mayoral election and uses the mind influencing Purple Man to sway voters to his side. Once this is made clear to the heroes of NYC, they strike back, but Fisk continues to abuse Purple Man’s powers to turn the public against them. This may seem like previous Marvel storylines, and it is in a tradition of certain types of stories that don’t span the universe. Even though some of the tropes may feel well-tread, Zdarsky manages to keep it fresh and introduce twists and new angles that are often unexpected.

This is where the emphasis on Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk throughout this Daredevil run pays off. Devil’s Reign is just as much a Daredevil story as a Kingpin one, and I would argue it’s more of the villain’s story at the end than the hero’s. The big finale sees justice restored to New York City as expected. However, Fisk does manage to get a happy ending, one that feels deserved with the right touch of bittersweet karma. It certainly sets up the character for a new direction down the road. I hope Zdarsky chooses to leave Fisk where he is in the next story arc, at least. 

I found some moments were rushed because of the nature of the story. Luke Cage plays a massively important role in the story and looks to be a new part of Daredevil’s supporting cast when the fallout from Devil’s Reign hits. However, he defeated Purple Man, and I didn’t understand how. I guess we assume it’s his superior willpower, but the actual writing & art lose that in the chaos of the ending. I don’t expect this will be anyone’s favorite piece of Zdarsky’s run when all is said & done, but it does deliver enough great moments for Daredevil and Kingpin that it is certainly worth a read.

One thought on “Comic Book Review – Daredevil: Lockdown and Devil’s Reign”

  1. Pingback: Summer 2022 Digest

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