The upshot of it all is, the Ghost Rider’s loose. An insanely powerful occultic, blunt-force instrument is for the first time in the character’s history removed from fealty to an abstract Divine Order. Instead, after Shadowland Johnny Blaze’s Ghost Rider is free to discriminate for himself how his Spirit of Vengeance will enter the world.
And Moon Knight. Moon Knight’s relationship with his avatar, Khonshu the Egyptian God of Vengeance has shifted into a new phase. And the Punisher too hasn’t escaped unscathed. It’s hard not to recall Garth Ennis scripting words for Micro Chip earlier this decade in the Punisher: In the Beginning…. “I worked with Frank Castle for ten years, helped him kill over eight hundred people… I hacked computers to find him targets. I customized guns and ammunition. I put him at the right place in the right time to kill the maximum number of people; without me, his body count would be a third of what it is. I turned a lone gunman into a machine that runs at optimum efficiency. Because of me, what he does can truly be defined as war”. So for the Punisher, the change means an upgrade in operating software. It seems there will be a new breed of criminal to kill.
So the focus of Marvel’s Shadowland event, the reality-on-the-ground altering shakeup that was promised seems to fall short of the mark. Shadowland, and its attending crossover into Daredevil issues 508 thru 512, reads like it doesn’t really have the depth or the breadth of DC’s post-summer event, “Brightest Day”, where character and story elements are evolved more slowly. The ‘getting-back-to-usual’ of things seems to have come a little too easily.
And then there’s Daredevil himself. Matt Murdock who sat patiently at the root of everything, waiting for the world to all burn down. Rather than core to the problem, it feels like Matt was marginalized from the very beginning. For the definitive story of the ultimate corruption of Matt Murdock, and how NYC around him is thrown into chaos, “Shadowland” reads too much like the rise of the bit players. “Shadowland” is Foggy’s story, Dakota’s, Danny Rand’s, Peter Parker’s. Reader’s will find themselves subject to an interesting gambit, the presupposition of Matt Murdock’s corruption. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want more storytelling. If you’re anything like me, you’ll recall Bendis and Maleev’s magnificent King of Hell’s Kitchen or their visionary Decalogue where a similar gambit was played out—where Daredevil again found himself marginalized in the first instance, only to take center stage later on. If you’re anything like me, you’ll recall those books, and the Shadowland saga might begin to feel more like a debacle.
Finding the heart of Shadowland, finding what Francis Ford Coppola regularly refers to as the Core of the tale, especially amidst off-kilter character development seems like too much to ask. It’s easy for a reader’s mind to stretch out into recent events and current affairs. Easy to begin to view the building of the Shadowland ninja castle on the streets of NYC and the ensuing chaos as a credible dealing with the Park 51 issue of recent days. But even this is misdirection. Even creative rereading by fans and non-fans alike, misses the point. And perhaps, with a stronger focus on the central character itself, there would be no need for this kind of creative rereading.
But at the root of it all, laying in wait. There’s something that cannot be shaken free. We catch a glimpse of it when it we read EIC Joe Quesada’s editorial that appears in the closing pages of Shadowland’s final issue. We catch another glimpse a few pages before, during Daredevil’s seppuku scene.
“When we relaunched the book back in 1998, re-establishing Matt Murdock as a top tier hero in the Marvel Universe in the process”, Quesada writes, “I had no idea that it would lead me to the Editor-in-Chief’s chair here at the House of Ideas. Now, a decade after taking on that honor, it’s almost ironic that catastrophic fallout from Shadowland is bringing that era of Daredevil to a close”.
It feels heartrending to read. It feels like a personal story, like growth at an extreme cost. For what ever growth Marvel has seen over the past decade. For “Civil War” and “Dark Reign” and the Death of Captain America. It feels like Quesada has publicly tied off the last loose end of his career as a creator.
So with the ending of Daredevil #512 it doesn’t feel like Matt Murdock disembarking a Greyhound and cast a long shadow forward, it feels like Quesada doing that. It feels like responsibility and growing up all at the same time.
As it happened 17 years ago, Batman and Daredevil shared a year of being pulled through the crucible. In 1993 Batman’s KnightFall would only be corrected with the following year’s KnightQuest and KnightsEnd. Daredevil’s ‘Fall From Grace’ would see Matt Murdock jettison his attorney-at-law identity only to become a newer, more technologically astute Daredevil.
This year, with the incorporation of Batman, the idea of Batman seems to have succeeded. Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne is a celebration of both the idea of Batman, and of Bruce Wayne. Shadowland and Daredevil itself seems to end on a more desolate note. Unlike last year’s Daredevil #500 where Matt Murdock is put thru hell by creative team Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, and where the idea of Daredevil is seen to succeed, 12 issues later feels like the first days of a long and ugly torpor for the character.
Even with the upcoming aftermath book Shadowland: After The Fall, the handing over of the mantle of protector of Hell’s Kitchen to Black Panther, and the future of Matt Murdock in the upcoming Daredevil: Reborn, it feels like there’s no reason to stay. At the heart of it, Daredevil is the story of fearlessness. That surviving incredible trauma is more than simply living out every day after an horrific event—it is about daring to continue being that risktaker. It feels like Shadowland is not so much less than what it could be, but less than what it should be.