Spinning off from Alex Ross and Jim Krueger’s “Project Superpowers,” this series is meant to give readers a little more information regarding the Death-Defying ‘Devil and his place in the 21st-century. With Joe Casey on board to co-plot and script the series, things were looking good, but this first issue doesn’t really give the reader much of an idea who the ‘Devil is.
That choice is a purposeful one with the ‘Devil silent throughout the issue and supposedly mysterious as a man called the Dragon, who wears the same costume with different colors and wields the same boomerang weapon, shows up, claiming that the ‘Devil isn’t who he’s supposed to be. However, instead of intriguing and mysterious, these choices are just boring and annoying.
Since the goal is to throw into question the validity of the ‘Devil’s claim that he is who he appears to be, having him silent and a closed book throughout the issue works against that purpose. An enigmatic hero works, and so does a supposedly fake hero, but, together, the reader is lost at sea, because there’s no frame of reference to work with. How are we supposed to know, or care, if this is the real ‘Devil? Say that he isn’t and there’s no pay-off, because it’s just a silent guy in a costume.
That Casey and Ross are trying to explore this character in such a unique manner is commendable, but it fails on most levels. Many of the individual scenes in this issue work well — particularly the action scenes — but artist Edgar Salazar should get the lion’s share of the credit for those.
Salazar’s art is a cross between a Neal Adams style and the work of some of the guys at Avatar Press. The mixing of these two different styles really works well, allowing the ‘Devil and Dragon to look both “traditional” and fit into the modern world. He also captures the absurdity of the ‘Devil simply standing around, doing nothing. When not in motion, the character stands out but, when the action begins, he fits in perfectly, which is an oddly realistic way to approach the concept.
Hopefully, future issues will provide some insight into the ‘Devil and actually give readers a character they can invest themselves in. That there isn’t such a character here is a surprise since, say what you will about Alex Ross, his love of his characters and desire for readers to feel the same almost always comes through. But, not here, and that’s a shame.
(Give Edgar Salazar’s art and the great John Romita Sr. variant cover a look in CBR’s preview!)