A good twist to a story needs to be unexpected, but not so unexpected that the surprise development seems to be coming completely out of left field or seems awkward and contrived. Antony Johnston manages to avoid this pitfall with his big reveal in the final issue of Shadowland: Blood on the Streets. I found the solution to the mystery to be a nice surprise; unexpected, but still highly logical given both the events explicitly detailed within the story and the unusual backdrop set by Daredevil’s Shadowland.
A good test of how well a story is put together is to go go back and read the entire series with the knowledge of the final reveal and see how the pieces fit together. The clues, it turns out, are all over the place, but they are subtle enough to fly under the reader’s radar (or at least mine) until you know where to look.
The characters themselves are not as clueless as the readers however, and Misty Knight and Silver Sable both managed to crack the case independently within the last few pages of issue #3. This issue sees them, and their two “team mates” Paladin and Shroud, act on this information and set a trap in order to catch the people behind what has been suspected to be obvious killings carried out by The Hand, on Daredevil’s order. It’s refreshing to see the characters be this proactive and make sure that they not only solve the case, but make sure that the true culprits won’t be able to go free.
Throughout the entire series, I’ve really appreciated that Blood on the Streets is not primarily a superhero story, but a crime story that happens to have characters with unusual powers or skills in it. I’d like to see more “superhero” comics written like this, and while this final issue delivers in abundance on the action front, the mystery and the detective work invested in solving it provide the backbone for the story.
To me, superhero comics at their worst are like bad porn movies where the plot is just a thinly veiled (and often awkward) excuse for all involved to get straight to the action. I’m sure that, as with porn, many readers really are more interested in the action than how all the players ended up in the metaphorical bed together, but I personally prefer a story that assumes the reader’s interests lie deeper than that.
Johnston instead gives us a very intricate plot – in fact, my main criticism is that it might be a little too busy in some places – with a good use of the different characters and dialogues that feel natural and appropriate to the situation. Blood on the Streets also successfully addresses the underlying question of who might be able and willing to take advantage of an extreme scenario like Shadowland and for which reasons.
As far as the art goes, I’ve come to be something of a fan of Wellinton Alves’ work over the course of this mini-series. I like its simple elegance, that the characters’ faces are consistently drawn with good facial expressions and that the actions scenes are both explosive and easy to follow. I particularly like his Misty Knight who looks suitable soft and kick-ass at the same time time.
In conclusion, Shadowland: Blood on the Streets is a very engaging read with excellent pacing, interesting characters and a twist ending that manages to be at once surprising and satisfyingly logical. Please Marvel, can we have more of this kind of storytelling?