A bold, unique series and one of the best to bear the “Dark Reign” name, “Dark Reign: Zodiac” has been a burst of pure evil energy from Joe Casey and Nathan Fox, possibly the most offbeat series from Marvel this year (save “Strange Tales”). It’s a shame that it’s only three issues because each issue has been extraordinary, thrilling, and a whole lot of fun.
As a protagonist, Zodiac is an interesting character, a man who laughs at anyone who suggests no one thinks of himself as evil or bad: Zodiac glorifies and revels in his badness! He wears it on his sleeve, throws it in your face, it’s his raison d'être. It’s also why he hates Norman Osborn: Osborn wants the villains of the Marvel universe to reform, to become the good guys, to keep order, because it’s better for everyone. Everyone except someone who loves chaos and anarchy. Like Zodiac and his crew.
Zodiac’s plot here, faking a Galactus attack and setting Red Ronin loose here in New York is merely sending a message to Osborn and the world, that proper villains still exist and will always be around to cause mayhem and destruction. Beyond that, it also acts as means for Zodiac to steal a powerful item that sets him up as a major future threat —- and for his crew to settle some old scores.
The second half of the issue has Zodiac deliver a long explanation/speech to the only H.A.M.M.E.R. agent with the brains to see that a single man was responsible for so much death and destruction, detailing his world view, his goals, and how exactly he knew that Osborn had sold out completely and was bringing 99% of the bad guys with him, including intimate knowledge of Osborn’s Cabal. There’s even an explanation about why the Clown in this series is different than the one in previous Casey-penned comics like “Deathlok” as promised.
Along with Casey is the dynamic Nathan Fox whose depiction of the Marvel universe is one that may not mesh with the shiny heroic viewpoint of others. Sharp, angular features mark guest stars like Mr. Fantastic and the Human Torch, looking somewhat seedy and not at all movie-star like. But, it suits the material as this isn’t the MU proper but the world filtered through Zodiac where heroes are ugly and to be loathed. Fox’s Iron Patriot armor resembles an action figure more than a supposedly working armor that a person would actually wear , again working with Zodiac’s viewpoint. Beyond that, each page is packed with motion and energy and Jose Villarrubia’s dark colors that add an extra level of seediness. What’s more, Fox gets a remarkable range of expression from Zodiac despite his mask. The character is lively and fun to watch here.
Hopefully, this isn’t the last we see of this new Zodiac and his gang as this series shows a lot of promise for a villain that’s in it just to screw with people and cause destruction for the sake of destruction, especially now that the bad guys are the good guys and the good guys are, well, still good guys.