Monday, August 16, 2010

Daredevil #509 Review

We’re just about reaching the middle point of all things Shadowland and this week gave us the second issue of Daredevil that is taking a look at the events from the perspective of the supporting DD players. It seems that the timeline on this issue supports the second issue of Shadowland, which shipped last week, and leads us further into the tale as another character is revealed and nothing is really looking better. Hit the jump to see my thoughts on this issue and be warned, there be spoilers involved for the whole event in general.

Daredevil #509

Written by Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston
Art by Roberto De La Torre
Colours by Matt Hollingsworth

The issue opens on the cliffs at the Fortress of the Hand in Japan. Elektra and Master Izo are planning a recon mission into the inner heart of the ninja clan and I am not exactly sure what they hope to find here. Japan is a good deal away from Hell’s Kitchen, so being there seems a strategic error and once Elektra and Izo find out that the Snakeroot are behind this all and they may well have corrupted Matt Murdock’s soul they hightail it out of there and Elektra plans to head back to New York. Now, I don’t know the sort of flight times exactly but this puts her out of the action for a little while, and sitting on a plane must be dead boring when you have a showdown to get to.

I will say, however, that De La Torre draws one of the best looking Elektras to ever grace a four colour page. He makes the costume work, she still looks like she can move, and I am all the more happy for Elektra’s inclusion into this series if she looks this good. Let’s only hope that Diggle and Johnston can use her as effectively as so far they haven’t done much but have her find out what we the reader already knows (which is important because the characters can’t get the latest news from us) but why the dual writers have these two characters there in the first place escapes me, so that’s not great.

I also don’t like that Master Izo seems to have been gazumped. He’s got no idea what’s going on and that doesn’t play true to me; he’s the manipulator, I can’t see him getting duped so easily by the Snakeroot. I’d like to think he’s actually still in on everything but feigning ignorance in front of Elektra, and this could be the case as Izo doesn’t make it out with Elektra, instead doing his best Gandalf impression and going down with his Balrogs. I’m hoping Izo has set up contingencies with Murdock from before this began but what they might be I’d have no idea.

The next big scene builds from last month where we saw ninjas take out the car that Foggy and Dakota were speeding away in. I was interested to see what would happen here but the payoff just wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Now, I love me some Dakota North, don’t get me wrong, but there’s no way in hell an old model with a gun is any match for a single Hand ninja, let alone a bunch of them. We get 7 pages that can easily be summed up in one sentence, Luke Cage and Danny Rand come in to save Dakota and Foggy (he who was sadly unconscious for the fight, I mean, c’mon, he’s Guts Nelson, I know he would have stood in front of Dakota as the shuriken flew and that would have meant so much than just having Dakota plugging away at these masters of the martial arts like they were HYDRA goons). The Hand are really being treated like a bunch of chumps and I just don’t dig it. These aren’t guys from community college working for the great dental plan these are highly trained warriors, experts of their craft, the best of the best, so at least leave it to Cage and Rand to do, and have them come in earlier. Any ninja standing there and waiting to be dispatched is poor writing and not giving much respect at all. Nor is it smart that these guys were sent to kill, so why do they waste time holding the blade to Dakota’s throat? They’d just slice down, off with her head, and disappear. But maybe I’m just being too picky…who knows?

I now have a complaint about De La Torre’s art work. Why the hell does Danny Rand look like some skeezy surfer stoner? He’s the kung fu billionaire, not Jeff Spicoli. The beanie with the blonde tufts poking out to meet the ratty sun bleached beard was an experiment, sure, I can see you’d want to do something different with Rand, but this just doesn’t work. Nor, do I think, is Iron Fist sporting a mangy face growth beneath the mask over in Shadowland, so this doesn’t make sense at all. A small gripe, sure, but matched with the pacing of this scene it made it a really lame duck overall for me.

We also get a look at the Snakeroot and their workings. This clandestine group of ninjas are working for someone, a he, but they don’t name him, natch. They say he is all powerful, and will be easily able to handle the Zugaikotsu warrior, which we saw in Shadowland was Ghost Rider (which is a turn of events I still don’t fully understand as I never knew there were ties between the Hand and Ghost Rider, but…oh well). They also let us know that Murdock is now lost as he has made himself a killer, which makes it seem that Murdock wasn’t under the influence when he took out Bullseye, but now having done so he might be corrupted from outside. This seems like an interesting plot point as why would this Snakeroot group think it would be good to give Murdock the mantle in the hopes that he’ll soon kill someone and thus become their pawn. Was it that obvious that Murdock was on the brink of finally killing someone? If Murdock was ever going to kill Bullseye you would think the best chances and motivations are long past, so why did now seem like the logical moment to capitalize on Murdock’s blood lust? This I don’t understand as Murdock killing Bullseye only seems to work to progress the story, not actually make sense of why the characters were waiting for it to happen nor why Murdock would think now was the time to do it. It’s just something I don’t have my head around.

The final major scene was my favourite, and though many have complained about this event shoehorning in a stack of superfluous characters this new reveal actually worked for me. Typhoid Mary turns up at Shadowland wanting to speak to her old lover. She’s been rehabilitated through the Initiative and she’s ready to work for Murdock; she thought this would be the best time to turn up. This actually all makes sense as she’s always had quite the taste for Matt and if there ever seemed like a time he’d be open to a new love interest this would be it. He’s always been too good for her, the love/hate duel between hero and villainess, but now they might be able to have a real run at things. This is the scene with the most logic and reasoning behind it and I’m intrigued to see if there’s any other reason for Mary to be there. It’s interesting to see Matt take her in and hide her as even he knows she’ll make things look worse.

The issue ends with Foggy and Dakota taking a rest in an N.Y.P.D. safe house and from their vantage point they see a massive explosion rock the Shadowland structure. I’m not sure if this is meant to be Ghost Rider’s introduction, as seen in Shadowland #2, or something else, but we know it’s roughly around the same place in time as the end of that issue as the delegation of superhero that saw Matt have been sent in already. I’m hoping we’re at the end of the set up phase of this tale, all the pieces are in place, and now we can see exactly what’s about to go down. I’m not sure whether this issue would have worked better shipping before the last issue of Shadowland or not but overall the two titles seem to be relatively supporting each other well.

As decent a job as Billy Tan is doing with his art in the Shadowland title I can’t help but like De La Torre’s work here so much more. This work feels like Daredevil should feel, but Tan draws a much more generic superhero page, which I think is exactly why they each got the assignment they got. It might seem weird but I’m actually hoping that overall it’s the Daredevil title I’ll enjoy the most as this title seems to have all of the characters I prefer but Shadowland has all the spectacle. I’m much more of a character man overall, so here my hopes will lie.

This issue does a good job of putting more of the characters into the place they need to be to end the introductory tension of the whole event but this issue certainly spends more time spinning its wheels rather than actually giving us something. Dakota and Foggy are safe and tucked away, Elektra is on her way, the Snakeroot are scheming, and the best thing is that Typhoid Mary is now in the fray. It’s not a lot of action and Diggle and Johnston just aren’t giving me enough awesome to fill in the gaps, I want quality character work (things like Foggy nobly standing up for Dakota in a fight he’d never win would have been perfect but instead he sits it out and Dakota gets gun happy) instead of just more action. I want to see motivation and I don’t feel like I’m getting any of it. I want to really know how this is making Rand and Cage feel, I want to know what Dakota thinks of Matt now, it’s been a while since their sexual dalliance, does it still play on her? Did her part in his cheating on her wife possibly lead him away from his friends and turn him to the dark side? These are questions I want explored and I’m not getting anything. Perhaps because there’s no thought captions I feel I’m missing out, I am a sucker for the inner monologues and no one has any in this issue, it frustrates me.

I’ll also check up John Cassaday’s work on the covers as some of the most pedestrian work I’ve seen in a while. His work on Astonishing X-Men was always eye catching, and his Lone Ranger stuff is usually interesting, but this stuff is just pure and simple dreck. There’s absolutely no pop to the Daredevil or Shadowland covers and I feel like this is missing out on a great opportunity. The general public won’t feel like they’re missing much if the cover isn’t much. Marko Djurdjevic did heaps of great covers for Daredevil but now we’re getting Cassaday in the same sort of stuff he gave S.W.O.R.D. and lord knows the covers on that series got insanely better once someone else took over the duties for him. I will say Cassaday’s cover last month on Daredevil was pretty good but this one is bland.

Verdict – Check It. The Typhoid Mary reveal intrigues and pleases me, but there’s still plenty more to be done with her and I want to know how and why before I’ll say it’s worked. The rest of the issue moves players around but misses out on great opportunities and opts for action over character, which is a real shame. It’s an issue worth checking out, even just for the great work from De La Torre, but this isn’t golden material by any stretch. I long for the days where Daredevil was the last book in my reading list and it delivered. This is good, don’t get me wrong, but on the higher grading curve of Daredevil it still has room to improve.

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twobitspecialist said...

Ryan - Yes, but did you like it?

Ryan K Lindsay said...

You know what, maybe had I not been reviewing it I would have liked it just that touch more, but with an analyticcal eye I just saw too many flaws. Maybe TWC is ruining my comic reading experience...? Nah.

I did enjoy the issue, loved Typhoid Mary, but I'm a sucker for her new look via Maleev, and this comic is good, but I want it to be great. Maybe I'm just a fanlad expecting too much...? Yeah, probably :)

Anonymous said...


Ryan-I don't think your expecting too much.
I've been a fan of Daredevil for along time and something about the whole Shadowland event seems slightly off. I can't put my finger on 1 particular thing because I think it is multiple small things that are bugging me.
It doesn't seem like this event (and it's way too many tie-ins) sprang naturally from the issues of Daredevil leading up to the event. The end of the last issue of DD (prior to Shadowland #1) to him killing Bullseye was a bit of a jump.

Then you have the possession? Now they say he was himself when he killed Bullseye. To me it just isn't adding up and that's why the the main DD book is suffering a little right now. Pacing issues or too much being left off panel?

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