After Project Superpowers, I found myself interested in a whole new group of Dynamite heroes. If you know me, then you know that I have a soft spot for a lot of these older heroes. Since I didn’t grow up with them, many of them had the tendency to be a breath of fresh air from everything else put out on shelves from the modern heroes. I was anxious to jump into Death-Defying Devil #1 because this was one who I knew nothing about. Project Superpowers also didn’t give much insight either. So this was the best opportunity to get to know this character. My hope was that this first issue would allow me to.
All I knew before this first issue was that the Devil was a guy whose name was Bart Hill, had a spiked belt, and a boomerang as his weapon of choice. There was only one thing I was left uncertain about, and that was if Gail Simone was aiming to write the version of the Devil that could speak, or the one that can’t. The one I experienced could speak, but there’s no telling what kind of continuity can be shared between these books. I found it clever that she spent a lot of this issue leaving the answer to this up in the air. You could have assumed he could speak, you could have assumed he couldn’t, but you wouldn’t know for sure till the very end. At times like this, it is rare to run into a character like him who does not speak. I mean, how do you write a character like that? Especially one who is the actual main character? I was impressed that Gail Simone had no issue with her approach to a character like that. I actually enjoyed the way that most of these conversations ended up one-sided. Even when you’re the quiet type, you know how the world can be when everyone wants to talk and have you listen. Even then, nothing was certain about whether he could talk, till the end.
For the story, it was interesting that this began as one where something already happened, and we got to work up to that point from there. The most any of us saw from the preview was a scene where the Devil was lying in a bed and looking like someone gave him a run for his money. It made you wonder just who this person could have been. There was only one thing you knew for certain, and that was that the Devil is as ordinary as it gets, aside from his physical ability that is above average.
With Gail Simone as the writer, you also knew that this was going to be a story that at the very least would be aware of the world it exists in. The choice to focus on a neighborhood troubled by so many real issues was bold, but the pay-off is great. For a vigilante like the Devil, it would be right up his alley to help people who are being tormented by criminals, ignored by the law, and treated like they are less than human. Sounds familiar, right? When actually grasping that this would be a story where The Death-Defying Devil and this group of neighbors would do what it takes to keep their home, and each other safe, that is where I began to feel true investment in this book. This could have been a lot of things, but street-level is the best you can ask for most vigilantes like the Devil.
The art team of Walter Geovani and Adriano Augusto did a solid job with this first issue. What stood out to me most, was the way that they also were able to create engagement through this vigilante who struggled with communication. If a face could tell a story, then they nailed it through the many expressions that the Devil’s face shifted through when others were trying to make conversation with him. This could have been a scrunch of the face, raised eyebrow, or just looking in another direction altogether, but you saw someone who had layers to him. Now of course I do still find it strange that he has the kind of mask where the mouth opening is form-fitting, but that’s just a things and it works. Aside from this, the coloring was tame. This is a book where you expect things to get a bit brutal, though I appreciate that they don’t get too wild with the blood. Never a problem unless it interferes with what you should take from a scene.