With Hell's Kitchen crushed by H.A.M.M.E.R. operatives and Norman Osborn's Dark Reign, Daredevil has taken a new weight on his shoulders -- leading the murderous ninja clan known as the Hand. Suddenly, cleaning up the streets isn't black and white any longer, and the trash Matt Murdock dedicated himself to wiping out has begun carrying a badge. The blind attorney has finally found himself on the wrong side of the law.
Murdock's solution? Using his newfound resources to create the underground prison known as Shadowland, which will begin with its own miniseries in July that will have the Man Without Fear square off not just against his own inner demons, but even will have him face-to-face against Earth's Mightiest Heroes -- the Avengers. We caught up with series writer Andy Diggle to talk about Daredevil's shifting identity, how this crossover will play off the main Daredevil title, and what's next for the seedy streets of the Marvel Universe.
Newsarama: Andy, since you joined this title, you've been steadily revealing the lengths Matt Murdock has had to go to as the leader of the Hand. So for those who haven't been reading, can you tell us a little bit about what has led Daredevil towards building Shadowland?
Andy Diggle: Matt Murdock's personal life has never exactly been a bed of roses, but recent events have taken their toll. We've seen him beaten down and pick himself back up again in the past, as when Kingpin destroyed his life in "Born Again" -- but this time it's different. This time it isn't just the work of a lone villain. This time, everything Matt believes in has been undermined. The justice system itself, the cornerstone of his chosen profession, has been turned on its head by the appointment of Norman Osborn to run H.A.M.M.E.R. They say all it takes for evil to prevail is that good men stand by and do nothing, and recent events have forced Matt to acknowledge the fact that the world has gone to hell while he's been wrapped up with his own little problems. So now he's going to do something about it. He's forced to become a player in the wider Marvel universe -- at long last. He's always been willing to work outside the system as Daredevil... but now, he's setting up a whole new system. From now on, Daredevil's making his own rules.
Nrama: Something that's been interesting about your run is the fact that it isn't just the moral line in the sand being blurred -- there's also this blurring of the Matt Murdock and Daredevil personae throughout your run. In that regard, who do you think is in control here? For you, how do you feel the character has been impacted by this fusion of his dual lives?
Diggle: We've seen Matt comment on the fact that his enemies always seem to target his loved ones. So now he has cut himself off completely from his old life, as a way of protecting them. In effect there is no Matt Murdock any more; there is only Daredevil. But how healthy can that be? And how long can it last before something has to give...?
Nrama: You seem to be really enthusiastic about Matt Murdock's new status quo as Hand Clan leader -- as a writer, what advantages do you feel this status gives you for storytelling opportunities, like Shadowland? What do you think sets Daredevil apart from any other superhero on the stands?
Diggle: Matt's always been a very driven, self-righteous character -- but of course, every villain believes himself to be the hero of his own story. Matt is walking the road paved with good intentions -- but we all know where that leads. So putting Matt in charge of the Hand is a great way of addressing these fundamentally dramatic questions -- where is the line between good and evil drawn? How far is too far? Will Matt turn the Hand towards the path of good, or will the Hand turn Matt towards the path of evil?
Nrama: In your recent arc, "Left Hand Path," we've been introduced to the international daimyos of the Hand, including the South American gangster Bakuto, as well as Matt's lieutenants Black Tarantula and White Tiger. Will we be seeing more of that Hand hierarchy in Shadowland? Will Daredevil be making some strange bedfellows to maintain law and order in Hell's Kitchen?
Diggle: Yeah, absolutely. As you learn more about the other power-players in the Hand, you'll see how they play a vital role in the events that lie ahead. As Daredevil's behavior becomes more and more extreme and uncompromising, old friendships will be tested to destruction, and strange new alliances formed. And once Shadowland itself kicks off... well, I think you'll be surprised to see some of the characters who stand up to be counted alongside Daredevil.
Nrama: According to the solicits for this book, it looks like DD will be locking horns with Earth's Mightiest Heroes -- the Avengers. Can you give us a little bit of a compare and contrast of where each of these groups are at, in terms of their values and styles? I know especially in the past, Luke Cage and Matt haven't always seen eye-to-eye -- and your colleague Antony Johnston does have them squaring off in "Cage Match"...
Diggle: The Avengers do appear in the story, but the focus is on the "street level" heroes rather than the world-savers. At least, at first. Daredevil has declared martial law in Hell's Kitchen, enforced by his army of Hand ninjas -- and that means the NYPD have been kicked out of the neighborhood. Obviously this raises a few eyebrows, but given the temporary security vacuum that exists after the events of Siege, the powers-that-be are willing to let it slide... for now. But the Avengers are keeping a close eye on the situation, and they ask Danny Rand and Luke Cage, as two of Matt Murdock's oldest and most trusted friends, to have a quiet word with him about the situation in Hell's Kitchen. Matt's reaction to their friendly "intervention" sets the stage for what's to come.
Nrama: While we understand you can't give too much away in terms of story details, is there a particular Avenger who you just find thrilling to write against the Man Without Fear? Can you tell us anything about what you've been digging in terms of character dynamics (or one-on-one fights)?
Diggle: I have to say I get a huge grin on my face whenever I'm writing a scene with Luke Cage and Iron Fist. They're just super cool. And I got to write my first ever Spidey line the other day, which was a huge geek moment for me. He's such a funny, upbeat presence amid all the doom and gloom of Daredevil's world. As for the fights? Man, there's too many to count! But my favorite so far has to be the character who unexpectedly blasts his way into the story at the end of issue #2. You could say he makes a hell of an entrance...
Nrama: Moving back to the character of Matt Murdock -- during your run, we've seen him as a warrior, and a leader... but what about his background as the fast-on-his-feet, business-savvy attorney of the Marvel Universe? Will we be seeing any inklings of that law school intellect to get him not bring him closer to his roots, but to get him out of this tight spot with Shadowland?
Diggle: Matt Murdock's done trying to reason with people, at least for the time being. He's seen that it doesn't work -- not in the world of Dark Reign. But of course nothing lasts forever...
Nrama: How about working with Billy Tan? You worked with him back on your first issue in this run, with Daredevil: The List. What has the collaboration like been between you two? What strengths do you feel he brings to a project like this?
Diggle: Billy's awesome. We had to cram a lot into that one-issue List story, and even though we didn't have a huge amount of space, Billy totally rocked it. Now with Shadowland we really have room to expand the scale of the action and the cast of characters and everything I've seen from Billy so far has just blown me away.
Nrama: Also, in terms of coordinating all the books -- we know that Shadowland has its own five-issue block, in addition to weaving into five issues of the main Daredevil series. Will you be writing all 10 issues? Are there more issues than that, tying into other titles?
Diggle: I'm writing Shadowland myself, and co-writing Daredevil with my old friend Antony Johnston. I tend to be rather slow and disorganized, whereas Antony's fast and disciplined, so we complement each other pretty well. There will also be various spin-off one-shots and minis featuring characters from the series, from some top-secret creative teams Marvel won’t let me reveal quite yet.
Nrama: How have you managed to pace out and balance your story among multiple titles and so many issues?
Diggle: It's funny, I've always prided myself on writing tight, self-contained stories with no loose ends... but of course, in a big crossover event, you want loose ends, so they can be pursued in spin-off titles. So that's been a learning curve for me. But I've had the core story of Daredevil's personal arc plotted out in broad strokes for a long time -- since I first started working on the title, in fact. More recently, Antony and I worked out a chronological outline for both Shadowland and Daredevil. Each title follows a different set of characters, so you don't have to read both titles. Each storyline makes sense on its own, but if you read both, you'll get a better sense of the wider context of the action. Shadowland is the big explosive superhero crossover, whereas the Daredevil title will focus more on the supporting characters like Foggy Nelson and Dakota North -- and Daredevil himself, of course. It's quieter, more personal. Darker.
Nrama: Lastly, for those who haven't been reading this series -- what would you tell them to bring them on board? Are there any moments you can tease that you're excited to see hit stores?
Diggle: The very last page of Shadowland #1 will get people talking. It's something that's been building up for a long time. Years, in fact. It's a character-defining moment, and something that Matt Murdock will have to carry with him forever.