Darkdevil originally appeared in Spider-Girl #2 and became a semi-regular supporting character in that series. He has Daredevil's general outfit but with darker tones and flaming, glowing batons instead of a billy club. He also sports fanged teeth, a bluish-white skin tone, and shoulder pads big enough to stretch back all the way to the nineties. Oh, and he can teleport!
In the first dozen or so issues of Spider-Girl he acts as a superhero mentor of sorts, alternating between handing out disparaging comments and inspiring speeches to our protagonist. Along the way, he's also dropped cryptic remarks about his connection to Daredevil (and that hero's death), and even hints at a connection to the original Spider-Man. So, let's see who he really is and what he's really about. And if all this mysteriousness is warranted...
We start with a close-up of Darkdevil gritting his teeth. Half his face is in shadow and the other half is the standard dark red. Very striking.
We can tell from the look on his face that he's a man on a mission, but what's the mission? Well, it's twofold - he's out to save Kaine from the clutches of the Scriers and prevent an assassination attempt on a mayoral candidate. At the moment, however, he's doing what he does best – roughing up a bunch of low-rent hoodlums hanging out at a dingy bar in order to get a lead.
We then switch to a newscast, where once again we are reminded that there are indeed two candidates running for mayor - Marcus Stone and Glynis O'Neil – and they will be having a televised debate tonight. We also peek in on an gunman hiding in the rafters. Just in case you missed that first bit about an assassination attempt.
Then we return once again to Kaine, who isn't much better off than the last time we saw him. He's still chained up and being used as a punching bag by the Scriers. The mook that hired the Scriers to capture Kaine in the first place (from issue #1) shows up again and reminds them that the Kingpin wants Kaine to suffer before he dies (which, uh, is exactly what the Scriers were doing before he interrupted them). So it's the Kingpin that's been pulling all these strings, including arranging for Kaine's release from prison, the whole time! No big surprise there.
Of course, this is exact moment that Darkdevil choose to make his dramatic entrance. The Scriers are taken by surprise that the hero has come to Kaine's rescue. DD frees Kaine and starts dropping Scriers left and right. The Scrier that poisoned DD (again, see issue #1) returns for round two. Kaine whips his chain around that Scrier's neck and starts choking him out. DD reminds Kaine not to kill, and he releases the Scrier. Kaine says it comes to the same thing as the cult demands suicide for failure anyway. So, now our two protagonists are reunited and lean on the Kingpin's goon to get the info they need. Namely, which candidate is going to be assassinated and which one is really the Kingpin's stooge.
Now, the race is on to save the day. Kaine and DD leap across the rooftops while Kingpin watches the televised debate in his prison cell. Along the way, Darkdevil shares that he still wants to bring Kaine to justice and that he still hasn't forgiven him for “that Zarathos thing” that was revealed last issue. We are then treated to one last flashback...
Even though Zarathos was defeated by the spirit of Matt Murdock, he still left his mark on Reilly, giving him the appearance of a demon (blue skin, fangs, and purple tattoos all over his face) as well as aging him several years. The youth lashes out at Kaine, blaming him for everything he's gone through (and he's kinda right, Kaine blew it big time here). Kaine skulks off and our hero almost gives in to despair.
Eventually, Reilly learns that he's gained new abilities along with his new look. He can now teleport, create flaming constructs, and even transform his body so he can appear normal. (That's not too shabby of a consolation prize for an attempted demonic possession!) In addition, his body was imbued with a portion of the “spirit of Matt Murdock” which he uses to get him through law school. He even goes to work for Matt's old partner Foggy Nelson. Along the way he adopts the full name of “Reilly Tyne”. Reilly for his “father” Ben Reilly and Tyne for his mother Elizabeth Tyne (which is a name I don't recognize).
We return to the present where Kaine is trying to apologize for getting Darkdevil into this whole situation. DD is having none of it, though. He just wants to team-up to prevent the assassination and then they can both go their separate ways. Of course, now is the perfect time for Scrier Prime to show up and attack the two vigilantes.
Kaine quickly kicks him away, thinking he's the assassin they were looking for. SP reveals that the Scriers subcontracted that part of the plan to someone else. Then Scrier Prime knocks Kaine away, but Darkdevil saves him from falling off the roof. DD states that he thought SP was dead. Scrier Prime reveals that he is actually Zarathos who has returned to eliminate an old enemy (Kaine) while at the same time getting in some personal revenge against Darkdevil.
Our heroes decide to split up, so Scrier Prime will have to chase one while the other one stops the assassination. Of course, SP chooses to follow Darkdevil. Then, he smacks him so hard that DD's mask shatters. Yowza! DD attempts to run away, but SP throws his sword at him and blows a big hole in the ground. SP gives Darkdevil the whole “you and I are not that different” speech, pointing to DD's long, single-minded pursuit of vengeance against the Kingpin as proof.
Meanwhile, Mackenzie, the informant from the first issue, is backstage at the mayoral debate. We once again see the assassin up in the rafters as Kaine rises up behind him. Meanwhile, Scrier Prime begins to gloat before delivering the killing stroke. He reveals the assassination is supposed to fail. It's merely an attempt to gather sympathy for Kingpin's stooge so as to ensure they win. DD escapes into the sewers through the hole that SP so kindly opened up earlier. SP then tries the ol' “I'm your real father” routine, but Darkdevil retorts that he has many fathers, such as Matt Murdock and Ben Reilly, and even an Uncle Peter who believes that “with great power there should also come great responsibility”. While he was speechifying, DD subtly maneuvered SP near an underground pipeline and opened up several of the valves. And this is where we learn that hellfire is just as flammables as natural gas as everything goes BOOM!
Time for a quick wrap. Darkdevil teleported away from the explosion, natch. He knows Zarathos' spirit is still out there somewhere, but the human shell he inhabited is toast. Meanwhile, Kaine was successful in preventing the assassination attempt. It turns out that it was Glynis O'Neil that was the Kingpin's crony and Marcus Stone wins the election in a landslide. DD returns to his secret lab, hoping to catch Kaine lingering, but he is nowhere in sight. He decides to go to take a rest after a long, hard couple of days.
A tidy little diversion. Even though his origin is convoluted and tied to the Clone Saga it was still an interesting read. Three issues is a good enough length for something like this. It doesn't overstay its welcome and all the superhero tropes keep the pacing brisk.
I wish miniseries like this would have continued for supporting characters from Spider-girl's series. They were really high quality and their compact nature provides just enough space for some great character insights.
I recently got a reply to one of the questions I posed in the course of this review:
"In your most recent review, you mentioned that you didn't recognize the name Elizabeth Tyne (Reilly Tyne's mother). She was a romantic interest of Ben Reilly. She was in the Spider-Man: Redemption limited series. I, personally, loved this little touch in Darkdevil's backstory - it shows that the writers of that series had a deep knowledge of Ben Reilly when they were writing this series. This is one of the many things I loved about the DeFalco/Frenz creative team!"
Thanks for the info Daniel!