Lucifer is dead! Malek killed the ruler of the underworld and now hopes to take over. However, each layer of Hell holds a sin-related boss who will not quietly accept Malek as the new Reigning Devil. With the artwork of Juan Manuel Almiron, this Kickstarted comic book features an inferno landscape and a very large assortment of monsters. Armed with a sword made of fire, Malek travels through each circle of Hell to individually confront an entity that resembles one of the seven deadly sins. The basic premise of the story provides the possibility for some intense storylines and malevolent-looking artwork, but MALEK: REIGNING DEVIL might need a few issues before reaching its full potential.
In the first issue, our title character confronts Glutton and Lust, and both sins get represented with amazing character design and visuals, and the monster’s artwork only gets cooler as Malek gets deeper into the battles. However, the hero of the comic gets less attention and comes off disproportionately, with the hatching and line art coming off a bit rushed.
Story-wise, writer Jeffery Haas creates an exposition dump in issue #1. The mythos involved in the story does not follow any canonical version of Hell and instead pulls from multiple faiths and interpretations, with the closest version being a reverse telling of Dante’s Inferno (the 2010 video game, not the 14th-century Italian epic poem). While the story offers numerous possibilities for creative villains, the development of the main character does not come off as very compelling. Malek is an angry former angel trying to act out his daddy/creator issues. So, as the story develops, hopefully, Haas fleshes out the character’s motivation more. Perhaps delving into free will and the effect it has on Malek. The fights come off artistically appealing, but with no strong character details, it is hard to root for the success of the reigning devil.
Probably the best part of the book comes from Almiron and the colorist Chris McAuley. With lots of lines/cross-hatching and more stylized forms, the artwork possibly takes influence from John Romita Jr of Marvel fame. Instead of relying on a digital design, the coloring creates an old-school visual which works really well with the blue and purple trippy depictions of Hell. Furthermore, the grittiness of the lines gives the impression of constant action which encourages the reader to continue their trek through the Underworld.
MALEK: REIGNING DEVIL is a pretty decent indie comic. Not a diamond in the rough (yet), but after a few more issues the team at Vector Comics can expand on the character and further stretch their monster-making muscles. Overall, despite some criticism for some rough shading and issues with defining and using frames, the artists are early in their development and are definitely on the right track to refine and further their own style.
123GO! most recently wrapped their Kickstarter for the second issue of MALEK: REIGNING DEVIL. You can check out the Kickstarter here for further updates on that second issue!