On December 12, 2006, Marvel announced that issue #1 had sold out through Diamond Comic Distributors and that a second printing would be released. The series has been compared to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a comparison which Marvel has also quoted when promoting Reign. As well as the thematic similarities between the two stories, both of which revisit aged heroes after the end of their careers, The Dark Knight Returns is also acknowledged within the pages of Reign by the inclusion of a character named Miller Janson (the name reflects Dark Knight Returns creators Frank Miller and Klaus Janson). The book also has several themes relevant in the post 9/11 world, most notably Mayor Waters taking control of the city of New York to protect it, and the WEBB, an energy field that seals all of New York inside it so no one can leave.
Thirty years in Spider-Man's future, New York City is a relatively safe zone, although it is under total control of its mayor. Super-criminals are a thing of the past, but the authoritarian government utilizes a merciless police force, "The Reign". Some teenagers are brutally attacked by the Reign after spray-painting a message, "Where did you go?", presumably directed to Spider-Man. The group runs away. A middle-aged Peter Parker works at a florist, and he is fired for ruining a couple's wedding by sending the wrong flowers. He bumps into one of the fleeing children as the Reign show up and arrest the youth, and is beaten by a cop. Parker returns home and is haunted by memories of his deceased wife Mary Jane, as Mayor Waters announces the WEBB system to protect the city from attacks. Behind the scenes, he keeps a vegetativeKingpin prisoner, mocking him. At Peter's apartment, J. Jonah Jameson delivers him a package. Jameson also apologizes for his years of abuse, saying he sold the Daily Bugle because he realized he was running it on lies. Jameson leaves, starts a riot, and inside, Parker opens the package, revealing a camera and his old black-suit mask. He defeats the officers wearing only the mask and civilian clothes, imagining himself in his prime. After Jonah asks if Spider-Man is back, the webslinger punches him and walks away without a word. Mayor Waters is shocked at the return of Spider-Man and releases Electro, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, The Sandman, Scorpion and Hydro-Man from prison. "The Sinister Six", if they defeat their old nemesis, can leave New York. J.Jonah Jameson announces the return of Spider-Man while hiding, as the Reign locks down on the citizens. Following the news of Spider-Man's return, an elderly Hypno-Hustler comes out of retirement in hopes of aiding his former foe. Unfortunately, the boombox he uses to hypnotize the police soon runs out of battery power. The Reign reacts swiftly, firing at and killing Hypno-Hustler. Peter's apartment is shot with a missile as he struggles with his Mary Jane hallucinations, acting as a guide for his actions in the present day. After the smoke clears, Spider-Man leaps out cheerfully, using his old tactics of taunting his foes. Spider-Man is cornered by the Sinister Six (called the Sinner Six), but in the final moments, Kraven rips his mask off, disheartening the crowd when they realize their hero is an old, defeated man. His life is saved at the last moment by Dr. Octopus, who is now dead, but a final command to his tentacles (He had referred to them as his "Four Sons") cause them to show Peter three grave-markers: those of Mary Jane Watson-Parker, May Parker, and Ben Parker. The tentacles dig up Mary Jane's body, and Peter recalls how he accidentally caused her death giving her cancer due to prolonged exposure to the radioactivity in his seminal fluids. He was given a choice to stay with her as she died, or attend to gunshots outside. After he returned from the gunfight, Mary Jane had already died, prompting Peter to give up the Spider-Man mantle. After being buried in Mary Jane's coffin by Doc Ock's tentacles and coming face-to-face with and conquering his past demons within, Peter emerges in his famous red and blue suit, which he secretly buried with her after her death. In the Mayor's office, a detained Jameson attacks him, only to realize that Edward Saks, the mayor's assistant, is actually Venom. Venom uses the WEBB system to project his suit, converting the population of New York into an army of symbiotes that does his bidding. He calls the Sinister Six back to guard the building as Peter begins his assault. The unconverted population use bells to drive the symbiote invasion back, and Sandman decides to go back to the good side of the law when the Reign attacks his daughter, whom he had never met before. Spider-Man defeats the remaining members of the Sinister Six and battles Venom, perhaps his last fight. Sandman comes at the last minute, gives Peter a detonator telling him that the six of them were implanted with detonators that would explode if they ever disobeyed Waters' orders. Peter activates the detonator causing the Six to explode, and killing Venom in the process. After Venom and the Reign are defeated, Jameson reports that all crime levels are back where they were years ago, but so are heroes. As Peter visits Mary Jane's grave, he states that he will join her in peace one day, but until then, he has "responsibilities".
Now a lonely senior citizen, Peter Parker lives alone in a small apartment, and suffers hallucinations of Mary Jane. With the reappearance of J. Jonah Jameson, he faces his past life as Spider-Man and gradually faces his isolation and fears to re-accept his responsibility to those he has sworn to protect.
New York's current mayor. Waters backs a "laser-powered protective barrier", the Webb, which will supposedly protect the city from any "super-terrorist attack". He has also suspended the normal electoral processes, remaining in office without an election and justifying this as a security issue. His office is known as the Reign.
A seemingly senile old man, often compared to Citizen Kane, he returns "from the mountain" to spread a message of impending disaster. He comes to suspect the Mayor is colluding with the Venom symbiote, and laces his rants with metaphorical allusions to the threat. He raises a small army of children to help him in bringing Spider-Man out of retirement to save the city again.
The long dead wife of Peter Parker. Though dead, she appears as a recurring hallucination to Peter. It is revealed that she died of cancer brought on by exposure to Peter's radioactive bodily fluids over the years.
A version of the Sinister Six, composed of super villains now in their senior years. Dubbed the "Sinner Six", this version of the team is forced into the employ of New York's fascist mayor, Mayor Waters. If the team manages to kill Spider-Man, they will gain their freedom from New York, which is sealed within the "Webb" security system. The team consists of Scorpion, Electro, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, Hydro-Man, and The Sandman. Spider-Man faces each as he attempts to reach the top of Olympus Tower.
An aged super-villain, now sympathizing with Spider-Man. Realizing that Spider-Man is coming out of retirement and the Reign will be challenged, he attempts to help by using his old hypno-music to distract Reign officers and encourage citizens to revolt. Unfortunately, his boombox loses power and the officers swiftly retaliate with deadly force, killing him immediately.
Dr. Octopus has died years ago as of the start of the story. The four arms remain connected to the skeletal remains of Otto Octavius. Still powered, they act on artificial intelligence to carry out his final wish – to find Peter Parker and return him to his costume, in an effort to encourage him to retake the mantle of Spider-Man.
Waters' assistant, Venom is the mastermind behind the WEBB system allowing him to summon a symbiotic army. He replicated his symbiote a hundred times and strives to have his final revenge on Spider-Man for abandoning him years ago. He mentions a person named Eddie, mostly likely Eddie Brock. It is unknown whether he and Brock are one and the same.
Kept alive via an IV drip, the former Kingpin of crime is reduced to being a prisoner visited every year by Waters upon the anniversary of the latter's takeover of the city.
A pre-teen girl who was never named. She is fashioned as tomboy in slacks and a jacket over a striped shirt. She is a recurring character and is witness to several events in the story, which builds her courage to lead a group of children in revolt against the symbiote attack. She reveals herself to be the daughter of the Sandman, with the ability to turn herself into cement, and dies in defiance of Reign officers.
Set in a distant future, New York City has traded its freedom for security. Mayor Waters has turned the city into a dictatorship, and his enforcers are a police unit called the Reign, who brutally carries out the Mayor's laws. His plan is to completely isolate the city inside of a laser powered barrier called the WEBB. Most of the public are in favor of it, while one man senses something amiss, former Daily Bugle owner J. Jonah Jameson. He vows Spider-man will return some day to free … more