How Andy Diggle Turned Matt Murdock Into A Real Devil
They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, which is exactly why the Shadowland event from Marvel Comics is so impactful. Initially released in 2010, Shadowland is the culmination of a story that began with Andy Diggle’s run on Daredevil. We see how Matt Murdock has handled being the leader of the ninja assassin cult, The Hand. While DD tries to end the cycle of violence by ordering the cult not to kill, larger forces at play work against the man without fear. A corruption that culminates into one final moment.
During a Spotlight interview with writer Andy Diggle, he was asked a myriad of questions about what made the character the perfect choice to take a turn for villainy. One of the points that really struck me was how in-the-know all of the writers are with one another and how as the torch is passed, they continue to add to the character’s overall narrative. In Matt’s particular case, this means adding more dilemmas to his already heavy workload. To quote Diggle, “He takes the whole world on his shoulders…But you can’t keep doing that forever. Eventually, something’s gotta give.” What makes each writer of Daredevil so special is they leave a mark on the character, and before Diggle left the book, he made sure to bring hell itself into the man without fear.
Matt is ruling over the hand, with new duds and a temple in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen; his influence has reached out to the citizens of New York and the Marvel heroes who know that this is a powder keg waiting to erupt. Sadly, this moment comes in the final pages of the first issue as we see Daredevil drive a sai straight into Bullseye, an homage to the iconic death of Elektra. With blood on his hands and the cold-blooded murder of a psychopathic assassin, the final step into villainy has been made by Matt Murdock, and a line in the sand is drawn between him and the heroes trying to save the soul of New York.
Shadowland’s most interesting strategy is how well it shows the various cogs at work between multiple factions within New York. On the one hand, we have Daredevil and The Hand, taking control and spreading chaos through the streets; on the other end, we have the Kingpin who appears to be working to save the city but only to further his own gains (and also by calling forth the Ghost Rider). Finally, there are the street-level heroes who take it upon themselves to sort out this mess and do whatever must be done to stop Daredevil’s rise in power.
Each hero that joins the fight has a part to play. With Luke Cage and Iron Fist, they do their best to appeal to Matt’s better values. Spider-Man serves as a lesson in the dangers of corruption (thanks to a cheeky line about black suits), while Shang-Chi and Master Izo know that there is something even more nefarious afoot, and the latter does his best to prepare the heroes for what is next. Finally, Frank Castle sits on the sidelines, waiting to do what needs to be done. A standout of the series has been Moon Knight, who doesn’t spend a lot of time in the suit but does spend a lot of time in the shoes of one of his alternate personalities, Jake Lockley. Through the course of the five-issue run, he shows us just how crazy you have to be to sneak your way into Daredevil’s temple and join the fight with the other heroes.
We learn that the reason for Matt’s sudden turn to the dastardly is due to his body being possessed by The Beast, a malicious creature that is worshipped by The Hand and brought into Murdock due to even higher powers in the organization than himself. Since The Hand has touched so many people in the world, the final battle sees Elektra and Wolverine joining the fight, with the former looking to save Matt from a fate, not unlike her own. What comes next is a brawl of epic proportions between the heroes of New York and The Beast and the cult of Ninja.
As The Beast takes full control, he is able to overtake martial arts experts like Iron Fist and Shag-Chi. The series has action to spare and gives us some of the coolest scenes between Marvel’s darkest characters, such as a battle between Ghost Rider and Daredevil that ends with a show of power no one would have expected from him. Ultimately what ends the hold of The Beast on Murdock is a will placed punch from Iron Fist that is charged with healing chi, a powerful call to action from Elektra, and his best friend, Foggy Nelson. With that three-way strike attacking mind, body, and soul, Matt escapes from his endless nightmare and returns renewed and appalled at what he has done.
Shadowland brings to light a lot about Daredevil that so many are afraid to discuss. Diggle describes the character as a “petulant whiner” who never wants help and thinks he can handle everything on his own but gets made when these things don’t go his way. Diggle hoped that this experience would help teach him a hard lesson about that school of thought, and ten years later, it’s safe to say in some ways he has learned that lesson and in many others he hasn’t. With Billy Tan’s unique mix of 50s pulp linework and the grit found in most Marvel Knights titles, we see how Matt is in conflict with the darkness of his present and the light of his past. If it is one thing Shadowland shows us, it’s that love truly can conquer all; New York loves Daredevil, and his friends love Matt Murdock, none more so than Elektra and Foggy. As things got dark and shadowy for him, his friends were there to save him and the city he loves so much, and I think that says a lot about the fragility of Daredevil, a man who thinks he can take it all on his own. Matt has always been one to lose his faith after a crushing blow and return humbled. Still, it stands to reason that the same friends who saved him are the ones who continue to remind him that faith and love are the most important things he can hold within himself, and as long as those are there, he will continue to outrun the devil.
Thank you so much for reading and feel free to spread the word and follow me on my social media! Also if you’re interested in more Daredevil content, check out my post about Charles Soule’s run on the series; and to read Andy Diggle’s full interview, make sure to pick up the trade paperback of the Shadowland comic!