For me, the art was the single best thing about this issue. Marco Checchetto has put in some beautiful work throughout this arc, and here he spices that up with some really nice panel layouts, and very strong action scenes. Checchetto creates a vibrant atmosphere that breathes real life into this mystical and unusually foreign little tale.
Daredevil #507 also contains one of strongest character scenes I’ve seen in quite a while as Matt, toward the end of the issue, begins to show both doubt about this role he has been cast to play and an openness to remembering who he used to be.
As for the rest of the issue, those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that a 6.5 out of 10 is not a high grade for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a passing grade and this is by no means a bad issue. However, it suffers a little bit when measured against the very high expectations I had for it going in. The entire current Daredevil team has done a fine job of filling the big shoes left by Brubaker and Lark and making what could have been a too jarring change in status quo actually work. I’ve become accustomed to expecting great things from these guys, especially with how much I enjoyed the previous two issues.
One of the problems with Daredevil #507, for me, is that it reads more like the middle issue of a story arc than a final issue. Last issue left us with a huge cliff-hanger that this issue isn’t quite able to match. Because this issue leads us into next month’s Shadowland, I’d expected a different kind of send-off than the one we get which actually left me quite confused and had me reading the entire arc all over again (which did help, by the way). In order to discuss the events of this issue in more detail, I’m going to have to get into some spoilers so don’t read beyond this point if you want to stay safe.
This arc as a whole provided two big reveals, the first being that White Tiger has been turned from ally to traitor. How this happened gets a satisfactory explanation in this issue where we learn that her conditioning has resurfaced without the Black Tarantula and his healing factor around. The second big reveal, which comes at the end of this issue doesn’t feel quite as big. We learn that the other daimyo have planted the seeds for Shadowland. This is interesting, and I’m sure this will tie into the coming issues in great ways, but it’s not that suprising.
We also learn that these leaders are members of the Snakeroot. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, you’re probably not alone. Even a die hard Daredevil fan like myself had to dig through the mental archives for a minute before it came to me: Fall From Grace, early 90’s. I’m actually a fan of writers digging up obscure things from the past (though the Snakeroot clan is clearly an established, if somewhat vague, part of The Hand’s continuity) and there’s plenty of opportunity for the writers to add to the mythos and flesh out the details. However, there’s something a little anti-climactic about learning that the leadership of an evil ninja order like the Hand is just as evil as you’d expect.
This may be nitpicking on my part – and I’m sure there are fans out there who are giddy with excitement to see Snakeroot back – but I’m personally not feeling the wow factor with this particular development, which concerns me a little, mainly because it makes me feel as if I’m missing something I shouldn’t
This brings me to another thing that bothers me a little about how this arc came to a close, and that is the reason Matt was in Japan to begin with. I can see how the leadership wanted to get close to Matt and screw with his head a little (and ultimately persuade him to follow the path they intend for him), but as far as Matt is concerned, he’s there to attend to the situation with Bakuto and his roguish tendencies. Was this just an existing situation that they decided to use as an alibi? Also, at what point did Angela’s healing begin to wear off? She’s supposed to have been the one who fed him the idea of Shadowland, but that must have been long before she hit Japanese soil. I guess we can assume that Carlos keeps his healing hands off her tush.
To conclude, does this issue in any way lower my expectations for Shadowland and next month’s Daredevil? Not in the least. In fact, I remain as convinced as ever that Diggle and Johnston have a well thought-out plan for this story. And, as a whole, this has been a very enjoyable arc full of new and well-written characters and complete with a setting and atmosphere that’s been a nice breath of fresh air (and snow). As far as fully understand everything that’s going on, I may just need to sleep on it.