Secret history stories can sometimes fall flat on their face. Look at the vast majority of the Original Sin event. But Devil’s Reign: X-Men is based on an extremely interesting retcon, one that’s going to come back to haunt the X-Men in some potentially exciting ways.
Gerry Duggan, Phil Noto and Cory Petit bring the secret history of the White Queen and Kingpin to life here. It was a retcon I wasn’t sure about when we first learned about it in Marauders, but after this issue, I’m very interested to see where things go.
Wilson Fisk’s iron grip on New York’s superheroes are reaching the X-Men’s Treehouse, and it looks like the Thunderbolts and the X-Men are nearing a clash. Until, that is, Emma Frost flexes her diplomatic prowess to have the Treehouse declared Krakoa’s New York consulate. Unfortunately Emma forgets, what the Kingpin wants, the Kingpin gets… especially when he has leverage thanks to the deeds of her past…
Reuniting this high-profile creative team for an event tie-in might seem like a weird choice. They make sure immediately to justify it. This isn’t just an event tie-in. This is a story that addresses loose ends in the main X-Men title, it adds depth to Emma’s pre-Hellions history, and it puts Krakoa eye to eye with Wilson Fisk, daring each other to blink.
It could have gone bad really easily, too. Thankfully, it doesn’t. The issue is not perfect, as it makes assumptions that the reader knows why flashback-Emma is doing favors for the Kingpin, without as much as an editor’s note pointing back to the reason why from Marauders. It does execute the flashback extremely well, and immediately sets up the mystery that’s clearly going to drive the rest of the miniseries. Now that Duggan has his feet underneath him with the new X-Men team, it feels like things are getting good, and I’m excited to see more.
The star here is far and away Noto’s art. His characters are expressive, with distinct personalities apparent just through how they carry themselves, or even just tilt their head or smile. His action remains dynamic as well, with the tense confrontation between the X-Men and the Thunderbolts always feeling engaging and compelling, even if it doesn’t explode into a full blown brawl. Petit is also able to add to the art with his lettering, making it feel natural, instead of making the dialogue feel pasted on like some letterers do with more painted art.
This is a compelling as hell tie-in, and while it could go off the rails in the next two issues, I’m very interested to see where it goes, and what it means for Emma Frost.
Devil’s Reign: X-Men #1 is available now from Marvel Comics.
A retcon that could have easily gone badly clicks. The story is compelling and the art is fantastic. A compelling addition to the tapestry of the Marvel Universe.