by Andy Diggle & Antony Johnston (writers), Roberto De La Torre (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Foggy and Dakota try to get to Shadowland to talk some sense into Matt while Hell’s Kitchen finds itself in a state of martial law.

What’s Good: This issue of Daredevil does an absolutely fantastic job of establishing the mood and atmosphere of Shadowland, immersing us in the grim NYC of Matt Murdock’s construction.  If Shadowland #1 set the narrative groundwork for this event, this book sets the tonal groundwork.

In this sense, Daredevil #508 feels like it puts meat on Shadowland’s bones.  Hell’s Kitchen feels nightmarishly sinister and Diggle and Johnston do solid work in putting forth a really oppressed environment.  Daredevil’s Hand ninjas create a sense of foreboding, particularly given how they seem to be everywhere.  It’s a paranoid atmosphere where Daredevil and his ninja are constantly watching.  More than anything, we really get the sense that Matt has reshaped and isolated Hell’s Kitchen; the roadblocks are ugly and cops are not welcome.  I loved how in this new Hell’s Kitchen, wearing a badge is dangerous to oneself, not protective.

Things only get darker when we see Matt’s new brand of justice in action.  His dealing with a group of thieves is unsettling and darkly iconic.  It puts an evil, nasty twist on a traditional, superhero action and it’s sure to give chills, especially thanks to De La Torre’s efforts.

Speaking of De La Torre, it’s great to have him back on Daredevil and he’s really well suited to this arc.  Everything is bleak, pitch dark, grimy, and generally unpleasant in the best way possible.  It’s the very darkest sort of noir artwork you can ask for, really, and that suits Shadowland perfectly.  De La Torre’s gritty style only makes Hell’s Kitchen all the more sinister.

What’s Not So Good: Unfortunately, in being so firmly focused on working on Shadowland’s atmosphere and the landscape of Hell’s Kitchen itself, this issue’s actual story finds itself a bit on the thin side.  Aside from the book’s last few pages, very little happens and what does happen feels disposable.  Even Foggy and Dakota’s dialogue feels like it could have written itself.

Really, we just see Matt’s new form of justice in action, we see what Hell’s Kitchen is like, and that’s about it, up until the sudden massive rush of events near the issue’s end.  Dakota and Foggy’s attempt to talk to Matt is ultimately a completely wasted opportunity and their consequent conversation with White Tiger feels insubstantial.

Then there’s Diggle and Johnston’s explanation for Matt’s sudden descent.  As I stated in my review for Shadowland #1, Matt’s transformation between Daredevil #507 and Shadowland #1 has been bit too sharp, as though we’d missed an issue.  On the bright side, I’m glad that Diggle and Johnston actually begin to provide an explanation for this.  On the other hand, the fact that they seem to be suggesting that Matt may not be fully in control of his own faculties, it feels like a cop out and it’s hard not to find it a massive disappointment.  The fact that we may be dealing with some form of mind control is a step backwards and it’s a get-out-of-jail-free card for Matt that effectively gives him a neat excuse with which to wrap up Shadowland and have everything return to normal.  It’s a shame, because Matt’s going down this path naturally was compelling, and hey, that’s what we were promised, wasn’t it?

Conclusion: Great atmosphere, not-so-great storytelling.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans

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