Shadowland: Blood on the Streets #4 (8.0/10)

by | Nov 27, 2010 | Ongoing Reviews | 8 comments

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.

Panels from Shadowland: Blood on the Streets #4

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?


  1. Aaron K

    Christine, I think you nailed it: “[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. . . .” Unfortunately, I saw this one coming as of halfway through issue #3, and have spent the last month nit-picking it to death. (They’re middle-aged cops. How the hell were they jumping around rooftops and swinging in through closed windows wielding swords? Where are the scenes of the half dozen cops falling to their deaths tragically? Or the cop who cut off his own arm with a huge katana? Or the guy whose carotid is slashed by a broken window pane? Who knows how to wield swords *but* ninja and Asgardians?) My enjoyment was thus soured a bit — as it would be of any mystery in which one figures out the ending. I second Christine’s vote for more superhero mysteries though. It seems these sorts of tales are only told for Daredevil or Black Widow. I think they would work for lots of other characters though, as Mr. Johnston has ably demonstrated — even if Shadowland is a “Daredevil event”.

    And how did Shroud not know what was going on at the final confrontation? How — and why — did they keep it a secret from him when there were like 238 cop cars right outside? His super senses SUCK.

  2. Antony Johnston

    Aaron: in fact, none of the cops are “middle-aged” — Scarfe is the eldest, and even he’s only supposed to be in his mid-to-late- 30s. Nevertheless, I claim artistic licence, and especially Marvel licence — almost *no-one* in the Marvel U should be able to perform the kind of acrobatics they do, even the super-powered guys, but it’s an established trope of the U.

    They only kept their suspicions of the culprits’ identities from Shroud and Paladin. He knew the cops were waiting outside, just not who they were there to arrest.

  3. Christine

    @Aaron: Isn’t it great when the writer shows up to answer all your questions? 😉

    As for what cops are capable of, I wasn’t bothered at all by their athletic prowess precisely because it’s so common in the genre for even regular people to display abilities that aren’t exactly realistic (if anything I was more bothered by our heroes jumping out of a window three stories off the ground in an earlier issue). I mean, even Matt, Natasha, Elektra and many others are physically normal. When you think about it, one of the most extraordinary things about Matt’s physique is his insanely developed cardiocascular fitness. Running across town (we should be grateful he isn’t driving…) and doling out justice must easily burn the same number of calories as running a marathon, and this is something he presumably does most nights every week. As anyone who’s a regular reader knows, I’m generally super picky about “realism” (however the label applies to superhero comics), but this type of heightened physical ability is so much a part of the genre that you just sort of have to along with it.

    @Antony: I must say that I was quite amused by Misty contemplating her pregnancy at the beginning of the issue. Who knew something like that would be so controversial. 😉

  4. Antony Johnston

    Christine: That’s exactly it, yeah. I mentioned this before, when we were discussing the “Cage Match” one-shot. The athleticism of even normal people in the Marvel U is perpetually heightened for dramatic/heroic effect. Like costumes, it’s just something you have to accept going in.

    As for Misty’s pregnant musings, I should probably reiterate that I’d finished writing this series before the story in I AM AN AVENGER was done, and the first I knew of that story was when I saw a pencilled copy of it. By then it was much too late to change the earlier issues, so I just had to deal with it as best I could.

    Anyway, I’m glad you liked this series 🙂 I’d love to write more in this vein, so keep you ear to the ground…

  5. Aaron K

    Just because Daredevil, Black Widow, and Elektra can physically do something does not imply that Joe Average can do something. The unpowered superheroes/supervillains of the Marvel U are routinely described (in the Handbooks, for example) as Olympic-level athletes. That is not a description that applies to very many people at all. I accept that “normal” superheroes like Matt can do things that no real life person could do; I don’t accept that every other “normal” person in the Marvel U can do those same things. (And those cops still look to be in at least their 40s to me, except that blone one. Maybe cop moustaches prematurely age a man.)

    I still don’t understand *why* Shroud and Paladin were kept in the dark. If I had been either of them, I would’ve broken Misty’s neck if she simply refused to tell me what was going on.

    “We figured out who’s trying to frame Daredevil and we’re going to go get them now.”
    “Great! Who is it?”
    “I’m not telling.”
    “What? Why not?”
    “I don’t want to say until we’re sure.”
    “Why? We’ve been sharing our theories and working as an unlikely team through three and a half issues.”
    “I like dramatic reveals. I was raised on ‘Scooby Doo’.”

  6. Christine

    Okay, I see what you’re saying (and I agree that the cops look older than mid-30s) and I’m not implying that these cops have the same skill level as Matt or Natasha, I just don’t really see what feat they accomplished that was that over the top considering the genre and considering that they are not in fact Average Joes. I’m sure there really are cops out there who do little but eat donuts at stake-outs, but there are also cops who work in capacities that actually do require that they keep in very good shape. Heck, one or two of them may even be ex-Navy Seals or something along those lines. As far as the sword wielding goes, we know that their work is amateurish as that’s one of the clues in the case, so they are obviously not as skilled as ninjas are when it comes to chopping people’s heads off.

    This brings me to another thing which is really a much bigger problem for me, and this applies to Shadowland overall: All the real ninjas seem to be completely useless, basically dropping dead left and right and reminding me of those skinny-looking robots from the most recent Star Wars trilogy. Considering how easy it seems to be to hack one’s way through a horde of ninjas, maybe impersonating one shouldn’t be that hard. 😉

  7. Antony Johnston

    Aaron: I don’t really know what kind of response you expect to that, so I’ll just say we clearly disagree, and I’m sorry it didn’t work for you.

  8. Aaron K

    Antony: I don’t know that I ever have an expected response in mind. Unfortunately, arguing for the sake of argument is one of my pasttimes. Sorry to have dragged you and your fine work into my ugly world of rhetoric. 🙂


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