If one thing can be said about The Devil You Know is that it is (pun intended) metal as hell. I recently took a look at Satanic Hell and while that actually had a heavy metal band in it, The Devil You Know feels like I should have a Black Sabbath album playing in the background. However, while the concept is sound, the execution has something left to be desired as the story moves with wild abandon without taking its time to develop any of its characters in the first place.
The Devil You Know begins by introducing us to the Greydon Cross, an unspecified executive at and undefined company, who comes home to find his wife and child murdered and is then shot by Satan himself. When he wakes up in Purgatory, he is met by God who describes the relationship between Heaven and Hell as somewhat mutually beneficial agreement, but Satan has been a bit of a pain lately, so he wants Greydon to kill Satan, and take his place. Greydon agrees, and dives (literally) headfirst into Hell without any hesitation – and that’s only the first eleven pages.
There is nothing wrong with packing a story with so much that it is overflowing. In fact, the first issue of any new series is going to come across this challenge. The problem with The Devil You Know is that it has so much within its first 22 pages alone, that any character comes across as a vessel for the action rather than a living, breathing, person. The murder of Greydon’s family takes two pages, and it doesn’t seem to affect him at all beyond a few swear words- in fact it doesn’t even seem to come up again throughout the next two issues at all. I’m not saying that this series has to be centered around the grief and heartbreak of Greydon losing his family, but on one page he says that “my family was really the only thing I cared about” – so even a mention of them would have been nice, considering that they are the reason he is taking on this mission in the first place.
Greydon isn’t the only character who suffers from flat characterisation. God comes across as a vessel for exposition and plot developments – without any hint of immense power or stature. Every other person Greydon meets fall into a small pool of character archetypes, like the noble savage or the tough woman, without exploring the possibilities offered by them. It feels generic and flat and doesn’t give any tension to any of the action, of which there is plenty.
What does stand out for the most part is the art. Kellik’s pencils invoke a grittier version of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and the monster designs while fairly standard, are fun and well executed. Nunun Nurjannah’s inks and Victoria Pittman’s colouring do make the art look a little too clean in the first issue, but they begin to compliment the pencil work of Kellik nicely by the third. The action is expressive, and while it it may be hard to place the positions of the characters in some scenes, for the most part the action is easy to follow.
The Devil You Know has all of the ingredients of a great story – the art is fluid and the premise sound – but the creative team hasn’t quite found a way to put them together yet that satisfies, putting all of the courses on a single plate without letting the reader enjoy each individual bite. If the team can slow down, and place a bit more focus on character, then they could have a winning book on their hands.