We’re going to take a little departure from the usual format here. I’ve kept mum on the most part about Shadowland mostly due to the sheer volume of titles published since the story began in July. That’s especially the case with legitimate stinkers like the Bullseye one-shot. Instead of the normal breakdown I’ll be looking at both Shadowland #5 and Daredevil #512, and then look at the overall story as a whole, where it’s gone, and whether the Daredevil universe is better or worse after this event. Let’s have at it, shall we?
In opening the final issue of Daredevil, you’re instructed to read this issue first. Issue five is the end of the road for Matt Murdock as the Hand’s leader. As the cover indicates, Ghost Rider makes an appearance here and fights Murdock; Ghost Rider hopes to take vengeance on Murdock for his part in Hell’s Kitchen break down into anarchy. He’s largely ineffective, and Daredevil quickly makes work of him. White Tiger arrives with Foggy in tow, and just when it looks like Matt’s oldest friend is about to bite the big one, Foggy finally breaks through to Matt and momentarily causes a lapse in the Beast’s control over him. Izo arrives and puts White Tiger on the sidelines, while Iron Fist comes to his senses. Summoning his chi, he hurls himself into Daredevil. Momentarily mocking Iron Fist’s attempts to hurt him, Iron Fist quickly tells him about the properties of chi; it can destroy and create. It can heal as well as hurt. The Beast loses control over Matt as his body violently convulses. He begs Elektra to kill him before the Beast regains control. With tears welling up in his eyes, Elektra tells him to “shhh”, and that she’s here to end his suffering.
Deep within the darkness of his mind, a young Matt Murdock confronts his greatest fears; his mother tells him he has the devil in him and that leaving him with his abusive alcoholic of a father was penance. He’s then confronted by his father, who tells him he’s been useless since losing his sight, and that because Fixer will kill him if he doesn’t throw his next fight, he may as well take Matt down with him. On his knees and alone, salvation arrives in his one true love. Elektra confronts him, telling Matt how the Beast is controlling him through his rage, his guilt, his blindness to any point of view but his own. Matt asks what he can do. Handing him a katana, she says:
“Be a man. Without fear.”
Matt changes to his adult self and accepts the blade, ending his life honourably as any disgraced samurai would. The chaos on the streets end with Matt’s final breaths while his friends try to resuscitate him. Elektra stops them, and begs them to simply let him go. The rest of his friends prepare to leave, but not before Foggy notices Matt’s missing. All we see is Elektra inside a secret tunnel smiling to herself while holding Matt’s mask in her hand. The issue ends with the power vacuum filled by a new leader of the Hand, while we see Matt seeking solace inside a church.
The issue functions very much like an epilogue to Shadowland and chronicles the aftermath of the series. It’s also used to bridge guardianship of Hell’s Kitchen between Matt Murdock’s Daredevil and T’Challa’s Black Panther. Throughout the issue Black Panther prowls the rooftops, breaking up crimes as they occur. He’s eventually noticed by Luke Cage and Iron Fist, who track him down believing him to be Matt. They quickly realize it’s not Matt, and Black Panther has laid claim to the neighbourhood as his own. Amidst this, two other stories are interwoven; we see Foggy attempt to pick up the pieces of his law practice, while Dakota and Becky both leave him alone inside the office after refusing to forgive Matt for his actions. Many of his friends wonder about how everything’s changed, and what’s going on with Daredevil. It comes down, as always, to one question: Where are you Matt Murdock?
This final issue of Daredevil ends quietly. Matt doesn’t know where he is, much less where he’s going. The man is left alone with his pain, his guilt; the looming certainty of his damnation. He admits his responsibility for his actions, adding we all are. Just as certainly, we’ll have to answer for them.
“…Because that first step over the line, that decision to take the life of a murderer and become one myself, that was all me. And everything that followed on from it–the insanity, the darkness and death–that’s the burden I have to carry down a long and lonely road paved with good intentions.”
For a story that I had reservations about after it was revealed Matt was possessed, this actually turned out to be a pretty decent story. Shadowland as an entire event though was very much loaded with unnecessary filler that I feel we could have gone without. Daughters of the Shadow and Blood on the Streets weren’t particularly compelling despite being fairly well written, while the aforementioned Bullseye one-shot was one of the worst, most useless tie-ins I have ever read. And I own the Blackest Night tie-ins. It was horribly conceived, horribly executed, and simply served no purpose. Just as useless was the Spider-Man tie-in, which was intentionally mislabeled as I recall the issue being almost entirely about Shang-Chi. The only other tie-ins of note were the Ghost Rider issue and the Moon-Knight mini series, both of which were no more important than Daughters or Blood.
Despite these sub-par series, there were some bright spots. The Power Man mini-series was actually decent, made better by the inclusion Iron Fist as a regular fixture. I thought it served well to set-up the already announced Power Man and Iron Fist series that debuts early next year. In the series it seems like Iron Fist will serve as the young Power Man’s sensei, so there’s that to look forward if you’re an Iron Fist fan. The brightest point of the tie-ins was easily the Elektra one-shot from September. Zeb Wells has done a commendable job of commanding the best from this character, knocking two stories out of the park with Frank Miller’s creation. He’s managed to capture the inherent heart and unbound violence of the character on two occasions and I hope to see more from him on this character. This brings us to the meat and potatoes of the series: Daredevil and the Shadowland titles itself.
Shadowland primarily centred on the main plotline, while Daredevil stripped the larger story away and focused on the actual people on the streets affected by Daredevil’s actions. The plot device did a good job communicating the story while allowing newer readers to jump into the main plot in reading Shadowland. What was good about this entire event was that I don’t feel like you needed to read the entire series to understand it. Some of it was mandatory obviously, while none of the tie-ins were really touched on beyond the centrally important one’s like the Elektra one-shot. That one-shot highlighted the very apparent love that burns between Murdock and Elektra; with her working to save the man she still loves and succeeding in doing that. Alternately, in her own twisted way, she showed that love again by giving the man she loves a second chance believing he deserves better. It’s perverse, but as characters it works because of their now mutual understanding.
Daredevil largely acted as a supplementary piece of the puzzle, but was not necessary to readers interested only in the main story. That was a success of the series in my view. Each story offered a different perspective of the total events of Shadowland. None of them were necessary, but if you were so inclined to read Daughters of the Shadow, you could. The same could be said for any of the one-shots or series. What I liked about the event and was maintained through to the end was how organized the entire it was. Usually continuity will suffer, but many of the books’ events take place during specific times of Shadowland, and there would be an event that occurs that acts as a place-marker for the issue. An example being an early explosion during Shadowland that tells you, “okay, while that went on there, this is what those characters were doing.” It’s really very minor, but it’s these subtle additions that are worth noting, and one’s I scarcely see (note: see Blackest Night or Final Crisis).
Was it worth it overall? I would say yes. In the midst of the Geoff-Con (note: a retcon performed by Geoff Johns) over on Green Lantern, it appeared that a similar story was brewing here, but that isn’t the case. In fact, I would call this a better story than Emerald Twilight and Rebirth as a combo story entirely because it’s admitted that despite the influence of the Beast, it was Matt Murdock’s own self-pity, violence, arrogance, pain, rage and guilt that led him to this point. The Beast simply manipulated it. Shadowland and Daredevil flatly state Matt is not exonerated, that he will have to answer for his crimes when/if he returns to New York. That’s the worth in the story, and maintains the heart of what a Daredevil comic should be. It’s tragic, it’s human, and at its heart it knows as well as we do that like us, Matt is flawed. It doesn’t hide it or make excuses for it. Diggle succeeded here, and I hope he gets his due for this work. With its ending, it places the final stamp on this chapter, proving once and for all why we call Matt Murdock the man without fear.
With Daredevil Reborn on the way, we can only wonder what’s next.
Stay tuned to CBD, because later in the week in the Comfy Couch I’ll have some choice words for Marvel spiraling out of this series…