Monday, July 19, 2010
Shadowland has kicked off so now it’s time to test out the actual Daredevil title and see how it supports the whole event. This issue has me divided as to my verdict so I’m actually going to have to put a stack of thought into my review (instead of the usual, I guess, ha) and come up with a result at the bottom. There's plenty to discuss, so please join me after the jump to see my thoughts, though I must warn that there will be plenty of spoilers.
Written by Andy Diggle & Antony Johnston
Art by Roberto De La Torre
Colours by Matt Hollingsworth
This all takes place directly after the events of Shadowland #1, so if you don’t want the spoiler look away, and we have Foggy Nelson, Dakota North, and Becky Blake watching some secret CCTV footage of Daredevil stabbing Bullseye through the chest with a sai. I am stoked that this title will focus on the ensemble of Matt Murdock as I’m a big fan of them all. They are all shocked at Daredevil’s actions, as they should be, but it raises one big question for me; if the cops already know this has happened then what has happened to Bullseye’s body? Perhaps they are not mentioning it now because it will become a plot point later (which is what I believe will happen) but I hope this isn’t just being forgotten. I have faith, so I’ll sit down, shut up, and wait. For now.
I am really digging the White Tiger in this whole story as she’s the double agent working with Daredevil but secretly working for the Snakeroot group within the Hand and trying to bring him down. During the discussion between White Tiger and Daredevil there are two great points raised. One is that Shadowland has now been secured from the rest of New York. I don’t know how quickly this could be done, or why, but it strikes me as a little off. Why are they doing this? What is the endgame result that Daredevil, and the Hand, are after by sectioning off the streets with what looks to be a stack of old cars, furniture and just garbage? Is this a real long term plan to just cede from the Union and make it Hand territory? It just doesn’t seem very smart, is all I’m saying.
The other point brought up is that Carlos LaMuerto, the Black Tarantula, has been named as the South American Daimyo (Hand leader) by Murdock and ever since has been off the map even though we know he’s not in South America just yet. I want to know where Black Tarantula is and what he’s doing. This isn’t a storytelling complaint, I have absolutely no doubt he is brought up here as a precursor to some awesome role he’ll play later in the story, but I want him to turn up soon, and I hope he’s used well. I'm expecting late-game appearances from both Black Tarantula and Bullseye. Hey, imagine if they resurrected Bullseye and made him good.; would that be superawesome or superlame?
Detective Kurtz is then used to great effect to show us the feeling on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. He’s got the handwritten captions that make me think of Ben Urich and that then makes me wonder why Ben hasn’t been shown yet. Don’t tell me he’s still in that van listening to Volstagg, is he? I’ll take Kurtz in lieu as he’s a pretty interesting character and he serves the purpose well. Through him, we can see that people aren’t very happy and that’s another reason why I am wondering why Daredevil is allowing this all to happen. It’s bad enough he’s in charge of the ninja assassin group but now he’s completely working against the people in the town he loves the most. I’m hoping there’s an actual reason for this so I won’t scream bad characterisation because I assume Diggle and Johnston are going somewhere with it and though it is definitely out of character for Murdock it seems that is where they’re actually going with it, we just don’t know why. Yet.
A group of street thugs decide to mug what looked like some sort of street magician at first but I soon realised it was just a Hasidic Jewish man. They have some funny lines but it all leads to a very good looking splash page by De La Torre which is unfortunately matched with a very bad line coming out of Daredevil’s mouth. I really didn’t care for this ‘zinger’ and hope no more of it is generated for the rest of this story. Daredevil, and his ninja soldiers, trash these goons and this then leads to one of the two best splash pages in the issue where the muggers are strung up from a light post and it doesn’t exactly look nice or comfortable. This is a great way to show the brutality Daredevil is using to rule now. It inverts that usual Spider-Man style of arresting and then leaving for the authorities, looks more like Daredevil has left them for the coroner.
I make mention of the splash pages because there are four in this issue, 4 splash pages out of 22 pages of content, and I wasn’t exactly enamoured with this. I can understand that the splashes are used to showcase four very different things, Shadowland the fortress, Daredevil in action, thugs in inaction, and a super special issue ender that I’ll mention more below, but I’d rather just have gotten at least 2 more pages of story and progression rather than snapshots of ‘cool’ moments. A splash page needs to get a reaction from the reader, it should have impact, and I don’t think the Daredevil title needs this impact to be a building and a fight. That can happen in the event title and this one should be slightly more erudite in its approach. At least, that’s what I think, your mileage may vary.
There is also one page which is almost a splash as we watch Murdock struggle with the reality that he’s just killed Bullseye (and White Tiger says he killed him, and I doubt Daredevil just stabbed him and then ran away before hearing his heart peter out or not, though White Tiger may have handled the after effects and know that Bullseye is alive but be telling Daredevil that he’s dead, especially as the Shadowland issue opened with Bullseye faking his own death…it’s open, and you can tell I'm thinking about it). As Murdock realises he’s done really wrong, he collapses but then comes up with an evil look coupled with his spooky blind eyes. Whether this means he’s been overcome by the Hand evil finally, or he’s possessed, or whatever, we can’t comment on it as we’ll have to wait and see. I felt like Murdock was finally becoming turned by the Hand in this scene, in some way. His soul is definitely tainted now, or else he's saying 'yes' because he's finally working out his way to get what he wants, again, it's open.
Foggy and Dakota have driven to see Matt and instead been met with the White Tiger. She tells Matt’s old friends to leave which leads to the best moment of the comic. White Tiger says that the people of Hell’s Kitchen are safe, finally, and that this is all good. Dakota then counters by asking where the people are. And she’s right, the streets are empty and the comic has felt like a bit of a ghost town horror flick up to this point. This was a really good point that I was glad a character was willing to address, and you can see it in the page to the right. As Foggy and Dakota drive away, they are attacked by some Hand goons and things don’t look very good, but we’ll have to come back next month to find out.
The final scene is of Master Izo sitting at the Wall of the Chaste. He’s a spunky little character but he’s lost some of the levity with which he began, but I guess that comes from being involved in a much more dire situation. Now, from memory, Izo had always planned to get Murdock into the top dog position within the Hand, so I can only assume that his next action is also pre-thought out. In the final splash we see he has been talking to Elektra and it sounds like he wants to pit her against him. Perhaps the love between Elektra and Matt will be the one thing that can save Matt from the darkness of the Hand. I think Izo knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s sending Elektra in to save the day. I also wonder whether this will spark a return for Elektra to the Daredevil ensemble, and Murdock's bed, and what Dakota will make of that. It would make great tension to have these two ladies fighting over Murdock post-Shadowland.
Diggle and Johnston write this issue well but I came away from it wishing it had just a little bit more to it. It felt a bit thin, and while plenty happens, it didn’t always feel like a lot happened within each scene. The splash pages were an issue and I would have liked to see the state of Daredevil explored a little deeper. One thing I have noticed is that thought captions aren’t used for Daredevil so we are still not inside his head. I want to know what he’s thinking. I also wouldn’t mind getting into the thoughts and motivations of Foggy or Dakota but we’re not getting that and I’m not getting it completely through their dialogue. I’m hoping we’ll have some more great character moments on top of just getting the scenes flowing from one set piece to another.
Finally, I’ll say that De La Torre’s art looks great, in places. He’s drawing the empty night of Hell’s Kitchen really well. It just all seems empty and cold and his Hand ninjas fit in perfectly with this scene. His Daredevil looks good, but I’m just not digging the new suit. It makes sense that he would take a new look with this new job but I would have preferred just a deep blood red suit instead of the black with red letters and bracelet bling blades that just don’t seem to fit for me. Elektra looks amazing in her splash, De La Torre nails her look and her costume, but his Dakota North looks like an angry aged cougar which is not what I want to see.
Verdict – Buy It. I have some gripes, sure, but in the end this issue makes me really want to buy the next one, and I guess that's the job for the first issue of this arc. I felt like the story got pushed ahead but the delivery just left me a little flat in far too many places. For every great moment I can point to another that fell pretty flat with a muffled thud. I like the ensemble direction this title seems to be taking, and am definitely willing to follow it, but I want to get deeper into the characters. I am hoping the next issue will really explore these avenues as the story will be completely kicking along by then and not needing such set up. This issue has some great elements, it’s just a shame that I felt they could have been created in just a bit more of an awesome way. But maybe I'm just a longtime DD fan who's putting a little too much thought into it? I'd still say go buy the issue and enjoy it.