I consistently give the issues I’m reviewing on this blog a high score, with almost all of them ranging from 6.5-8.5 on a 1-10 scale. This isn’t just because I’m trying to be nice. True, I may be one of those glass half full kind of people, but I’m also a spoiled Daredevil fan. Daredevil is an amazingly solid read, month in and month out, and even the issues that don’t knock it out of the park for me (such as last month’s Daredevil #507) are still by no means a bad read.
However, when I sat down to review this issue I found myself wishing I could add a couple of points to the scale. It was that good. Great pacing, nice character work, good story progression, and plenty of exciting intrigue. I found myself completely invested in this story to the point where I wanted to yell at the characters on the page to warn them or set them straight.
Where Shadowland #1 was larger in scale and added some crucial pieces to get the event puzzle started, Daredevil #508 takes us under the surface, and down on the streets in some really satisfying ways.
Before getting to the writing, I have to give extra props to the art team of Roberto de la Torre (pencils and inks) and Matt Hollingsworth (colors). I’ve been a fan of de la Torre’s work on Daredevil since his very first panel, and this issue doesn’t disappoint. Combined with Hollingsworth’s pitch perfect color palette, the streets of Hell’s Kitchen come alive. You can almost taste the nighttime atmosphere and feel the chill in the air.
There are a couple of places on the first few pages where Dakota’s and Becky’s faces fall short of the standard set by the otherwise top notch artwork in this issue, but de la Torre’s excellent sense of proper anatomy and perspective shines in almost every single panel. In fact, my only real complaint – and we’re in nitpicking territory right now – is that Becky Blake (still) uses a wheelchair that looks like it came from a 1970s veteran’s hospital.
One of the things that really helps this issue take off is that we get the chance to be reacquainted with Daredevil’s extensive gallery of supporting characters. Matt’s civilian friends are back, as are Detective Kurtz and Master Izo. We even get a surprise visit from a certain someone from Matt’s past in a final page that had me all giddy.
Daredevil #508 shows us the reactions of Matt’s closest friends to his killing Bullseye in Shadowland #1, and what happens when they try to seek him out to confront him. We also get a different “common man’s” perspective from Dakota’s cop friend Detective Kurtz who fills a role here that is usually filled by someone like Ben Urich. He relays the mood of the people living under The Hand’s control and gives us a sense of the wider picture. We learn that the police have officially withdrawn from Hell’s Kitchen – in one of the few slightly illogical developments this issue – and that people live in constant fear of the new powers that be. This information rounds out the issue nicely, and provides some extra depth to the story.
Real spoilers below the image
The consequences of White Tiger’s status as a double agent starts having some pretty dire consequences this issue when she comes head to head with Foggy and Dakota, as well as when we see her trying to manipulate Matt, in ever so subtle ways. As much as I like Angela, and would love for her to one day be able to go back to playing nice with the good guys, having a traitor smack in the middle of the story does add a lot to the intrigue. Black Tarantula, meanwhile, is mentioned this issue, but not seen, and it will be very interesting to see what lies ahead for him. He is quite possibly the only character in The Hand’s rank that isn’t morally bankrupt at this point.
I know lots of people who regularly review comics try to stay away from other reviews, as well as message boards, in order to keep themselves free from outer influence. I’m the other way around myself. Hearing what others have to say, whether I agree with it or not, helps me see things from new perspectives. Having said that, I must say that I’m surprised to see people being so dead sure about what’s going on in one of the issue’s more controversial scenes – the one which sees Matt go through a very real inner struggle with some decidedly mystical overtones. One verdict seems to be that Matt is now clearly possessed by a demon, this is a cop-out by writers Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston, and the event is now boring and pointless.
Needless to say, I don’t agree with any of these points. In fact, one of the things I appreciated about this issue was how well it kept the mystery of The Hand’s machinations going. It has been very clear from Daredevil #507 and onward that Matt must fall prey to his own weaknesses, and not outside influences. At the same time, something “mystical” will clearly happen once he does. This particular scene is perfectly in line with this previously hinted at scenario. It also contains many of the elements we remember seeing during Matt’s recurring dreams.
I quite liked the scene for several different reasons: It is beautifully illustrated, delivered with just the right amount of ambiguity, and also serves to foster some level of sympathy for the main character. The latter is absolutely vital to this kind of story, in which an occasionally misguided though generally decent hero takes a trip to the dark side.
With so many things happening in this issue, I’m incredibly excited for next month, which sees not only new installments of Daredevil and Shadowland but the premiere issues of a whole list of one-shots. I will cover every single one of them right here on the blog, so if you’re not reading all of them, you don’t have to worry about missing the bigger picture.