Written by Andy Diggle & Antony Johnston
Art by Marco Checchetto
Colours by Matt Hollingsworth
We pick up the tale where Matt Murdock has been having some trouble getting all the Daimyo (leaders) of the Hand to unite and trust each other, and in him. He is especially having difficulties with the South American Daimyo, Bakuto, who does not trust this new Lord Daredevil. Murdock and Bakuto were attacked by Hand assassins previously and Bakuto incorrectly took this as an attack from Murdock. They survived but now we see Bakuto launching his reply offensive at Murdock.
The issue opens with basically two splash pages facing each other, which is a formatting gaff that I didn’t really appreciate, especially as they are both pretty static moments of Daredevil waiting as the attack closes in. The battle rages while we cross-cut to see the other Daimyo discussing what is happening (or possibly just over-expositorily handing us the information) with their mole within the entire operation, the White Tiger. I don’t know if I appreciate there being another undercover agent in this tale, as Master Izo already had Lady Bullseye and Black Tarantula as his moles. I can only hope that Murdock has his own mole in somewhere as well.
The battle with Murdock and the Hand assassins takes up around half of the issue as the snow is filled with blood and Checchetto does an amazing job of making it all look very beautiful, though annoyingly enough I never felt any real danger in those pages. It never felt like anything but a time waster and inevitability to me. As pretty as a fight can be I don’t want to tread pages there when other things could be happening.
At the same time, the White Tiger pays Bakuto a visit and dispatches his lieutenants quickly while then setting him up as an apparent committer of seppuku, the traditional and honourable way for Japanese suicide to be delivered. It takes Bakuto off the table, one would assume permanently, which is a shame because he was the Daimyo given the most fleshing out. I had come to know him as a character and had hoped for him to get some more screen time in the future.
The whole thing is a set up and Murdock is then meant to make a choice; take it all on face value and hope that with this death the other Daimyo of the Hand will be united, or dig into the wound of this set up and possibly upset the apple cart. It’s a strange situation for Murdock to find himself in and even stranger he decides to just accept what has happened. It's like he just gives up and decides to walk away, to take the easy path. He leaves Japan with the surviving Daimyo happy and subservient to him, or so it would appear to him as we, the ever-seeing viewer, know differently, and returns to finalise the Shadowland fortress he left to be set up in Hell’s Kitchen.
The final splash gives us the other Daimyo raising an 80’s villain fist to the sky and proclaiming to the void of whatever around them that they shall reign supreme. They are part of the old segment of the Hand the Snakeroot, and I'm not certain that raising their ugly head again will necessarily be the best idea, though I'll happily be proved wrong. It’s a direct lead in to Shadowland and we can see that nothing is what it seems with the Hand, and that Murdock is going to have his work cut out for him greatly.
This issue suffers from the fact that there are really only three scenes. Murdock fighting in the snow, White Tiger being sent to kill Bakuto, and everyone converging on that scene to decide if the Hand really is one happy family or not. The entire 22 pages play out as a coda to the 4 issue arc and I felt like the only beat we get is that the Hand are setting Murdock up and he’s seemingly playing into their hands like a dumb furry kitty. Sure, I know much more will be given to us throughout the coming months with Shadowland but I want to see Murdock making the right choices, which I’m sure he will.
If Diggle and Johnston are going to play the Hand like some Sopranos-style back dealing Mafioso family then they’ll need to add a little extra zing to make sure they don’t fall into too familiar tropes. I’m hoping for the best, I truly am, but this issue didn’t give me too much that blew my hair back. It seemed like too much coda/set up and didn’t have enough meat on its own.
Checchetto makes it all look incredibly well-pencilled as he draws one of my favourite Daredevils of all time. He gives the suit depth and line to make it actually look like a costume not just some red skin on a buff dude. The seam lines are an addition and one I completely agree with. I am sad that he won’t be returning next month as Roberto De La Torre returns instead.
The one light from this issue for me was that with the death of the South American Daimyo Daredevil has to appoint someone to take control of that sector. He decides to put Carlos La Muerto, the Black Tarantula, into the role and hopefully that will mean he gets some more screen time because I absolutely love his character.
Verdict – Check It. You can pick up this issue to keep abreast of where Daredevil is right now, or you can read this article. Whichever tickles your fancy really, but in the end Shadowland starts next month and it seems like this event should be pretty interesting and relatively reader friendly for just about anyone to come and all they need to know is that Daredevil now leads the Hand. Other than that, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the show.