Shadowland and the main Daredevil title came to an end today and this post is my chance to reflect on what happened during these final events and on what inevitable comes next. I won’t provide a score for this review (I’m not sure people find my scores that helpful anyway since I’ve only ever graded one issue – Shadowland #3 incidentally – below a 5.0/10) because I honestly feel that throwing numbers into the mix won’t really add much to what I wanted to say.
This review will contain heavy spoilers. Daredevil #512 is meant to be read after Shadowland #5 – it was originally slated to come out a week later – and I can’t discuss Daredevil without giving away what happens in Shadowland, just as I can’t discuss the future without giving away what happens in Daredevil #512. If you haven’t read these issues and want to wait to find out what happens don’t read beyond the cut. If you have, feel free to dive in and please join the discussion I’m sure will erupt in the comment section.
To those who will be leaving us now (to go to your local comic book store to pick up these issues), I’ll say a temporary good-bye with this little teaser: I finally get the premise of Shadowland. I get what Andy Diggle wanted to do. Shadowland #5 definitely suffers from some of the same issues that has plagued the entire event, a storyline that maybe shouldn’t have been relegated to an event title to begin with (and one which I still feel was poorly executed and difficult for a Daredevil fan to accept), but it arrives at a destination that fills me with hope. It’s like taking a roller-coaster ride to a nice vacation. You’re not sorry you went, but you’re wishing you could have gone in an airplane and spared yourself the motion sickness. Make sense? If you don’t mind the spoilers, come with me and let’s dissect this puppy a little further.
Matt Murdock lives! This shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone – even though we all know that, in comics, death is more like a nasty bug that people recover from than a final state of being – and I knew it for a fact before even opening the first page. I had gradually come to suspect that Diggle wouldn’t actually go down that road, and he confirmed as much himself when I had the chance to talk to him at the Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds.
With that part of the mystery out of the way, and my already being geared up for January’s Daredevil: Reborn, I approached these final two issues as just sort of the final roadblock to the new fresh start I knew was waiting for Matt Murdock in 2011. I didn’t expect to enjoy either Shadowland #5 or Daredevil #512 to the extent that I did, and I was positively surprised by the emotional punch that even the end to the thus-far action heavy Shadowland title managed to pack.
That’s not to say that the basic premise of Shadowland doesn’t continue to be very problematic for me. We’ve still had half of Manhattan running wild because Matt Murdock – one of the most grounded characters in the Marvel Universe – is channeling a demonic beast. It is a hard pill to swallow. Delivered with more subtlety (something which possibly could have been accomplished in the main title), this premise could have worked well, as this issue shows once it gets past the big final battle scene which takes up the first half of the issue. For the first time in months, we get to meet the real Matt Murdock again, and the scene where his true self begins to show trough once again and he begs his former love Elektra to kill him is even quite moving.
This scene is followed by a journey into Matt’s subconscious which is beautifully illustrated by Billy Tan and shows Matt as a young boy set against a black background. He confronts both his parents as they likely appear to the more self-loathing aspects of his psyche and is then compelled by Elektra to take his own life. It’s not clear to me to what extent this “suicide” represents a sort of psychic death, but to his friends it is clear that he’s still alive, just barely.
While Elektra attends to Matt somewhere off-panel, the Kingpin and Lady Bullseye step back into the wreckage to take over the still standing fortress. This gives Diggle the chance to revisit the old connection between the fat guy and Typhoid Mary who turns out to be as unstable and easy to manipulate as ever. These scenes don’t really do it for me, as the Kingpin’s involvement in this event has felt ever so slightly tacked on to the main plot. I also wonder how the Kingpin’s future together with what appears to be the more legitimate main branch of the Hand will be handled, but I suppose that’s something that could be dealt with in other books.
So, what happens to Matt? As far as anyone (except maybe Elektra) knows, he’s dropped completely off-radar. We, on the other hand, see him seek comfort in the only place that makes sense as he quietly slips into a church to confess his sins. It’s a good ending to what can only be seen as a very rocky journey and takes us right into the events of Daredevil #512.
In Daredevil’s own title, we don’t get to meet Matt again until the very end. Instead, we see Diggle – now joined by Antony Johnston – connect loose ends and spend some much needed time with Matt’s friends and co-workers. We see Foggy be as loyal as ever to a guy who just almost killed him, and Becky is clearly fed up with both the drama and Foggy’s obsessive loyalty to his friend. She suggests that Foggy go into practice on his own as soon as he gets his disbarment lifted.
We then check in with the Kingpin strengthening his power over the Hand before cutting to Matt’s old friends Luke Cage and Iron Fist who are out on the town after nightfall, reminiscing about the now absent Daredevil, when they catch sight of a figure they believe to be him. This figure turns out to be the Black Panther and I have to give some credit to the writers for managing to make the segue into T’Challa’s reign over Hell’s Kitchen seems as natural as could possibly be expected by using the two heroes’ relative similarity in appearance.
Fans of the Black Tarantula will be happy to see Dakota chase him down in the Night Nurse’s clinic (and hey, good to see Night Nurse again!), very much alive. We’re also reacquainted with Detective Kurtz who is given the task of hunting down Daredevil and bringing him to justice, something he appears surprisingly ambivalent about. True, he and Daredevil had some kind of relationship, but the guy did almost succeed in making the great city of New York a whole lot less inhabitable.
Finally, we catch up with Matt again, stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere, beginning a journey that will continue in Daredevil: Reborn come this January, and I’m feeling a great deal of relief seeing my favorite guy back to being himself. True, he’s a mess and he’s broken and hurting, but he’s not longer possessed and that’s good reason to cheer.
It’s pretty clear that the events of these to issues have gone a long way to wiping the slate relatively clean for Daredevil and Joe Quesada even tells us as much in a special Shadowland Cup O’ Joe, printed in Shadowland #5:
“[…] so, with SHADOWLAND, we wanted to wipe the slate clean – or in this case, burn it to a cinder. But fear not fellow fans of ol’ hornhead – the saga of the Man Without Fear and his home of Hell’s Kitchen is far, far from over, which should come as no surprise given the level of talent that went into orchestrating Matt Murdock’s downfall in the pages of SHADOWLAND.”
So, Shadowland is over and I think I’m not the only Daredevil fan to draw as big sigh of relief that Matt is still in one piece. And, judging by the kind of journey he necessarily must make in the coming months, odds are very high that the roller coaster ride of the last few months will turn into something a lot less jarring and with much better scenery. About a year ago, Andy Diggle promised he wouldn’t break my favorite toy, a promise he did actually deliver on (with very little margin to spare). But man, does our favorite red-headed blind guy need a good wind-up. 😉 Let’s hope he finally gets it.
Note that CBR has an exclusive preview for Shadowland: After the Fall up. I will also add some panels from Daredevil #512 tomorrow after a good night’s sleep.