The Marvel Comics event Devil’s Reign was the culmination of years of storytelling primarily within Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil run which chronicles the Kingpin’s steady rise in power both in terms of villainy and political pull over New York City and all of its residents. But, the details of the story had actually happened before as Marvel made superheroes illegal long before the events of Devil’s Reign.
In the six-part limited series Devil’s Reign by Chip Zdarksy and Marco Checchetto, the Kingpin uses his influence as the mayor of New York City to make superheroes illegal. Once his law is passed, Kingpin wastes little time in rounding up every known hero in New York, including Moon Knight and the Fantastic Four, and throws them in prison after deputizing a number of ‘reformed’ villains to do his dirty work. When the initial strike is complete, only a small fraction of heroes remain to fight back against the unjust law and reclaim their right to protect people through their vigilante methods.
In Avengers #22 by Stan Lee and Don Heck, the Avengers are forced to disband after two supervillains, Enchantress and Power Man, secretly framed the superhero team and made the world think they are dangerous criminals. So, in response to the Avengers’ apparent descent into villainy, the city council voted to make being a superhero illegal in New York City, and the Avengers were seemingly all but history as a result.
The similarities between this issue of the Avengers and Devil’s Reign continue past the nearly identical anti-superhero laws as the original was also met with extreme opposition. However, while the heroes who weren’t arrested in Devil’s Reign banded together to form a team of powerful allies, the only hero in this Avengers issue who had the nerve to stand up against this unfair legislation was Captain America. Just as the heroes in Devil’s Reign were able to clear their names and fix the legal damage the Kingpin did to the city, Captain America proved that the Avengers weren’t a group of villains and got the unjust law overturned.
While the broadstroke plot points between the events of Avengers #22 and Devil’s Reign are practically the same, the scale of Devil’s Reign was far greater. Not only were superheroes made illegal in Devil’s Reign, but all of the villains became law enforcement officers and operated across the city with impunity, turning New York into a truly terrifying, authoritarian hellscape. However, just because Devil’s Reign was much more impactful to the wider Marvel Universe than this Avengers issue, that doesn’t change the fact that Devil’s Reign wasn’t the first time superheroes were made illegal in Marvel Comics.