With Marvel’s newest mini-series Shadowland underway, writer Andy Diggle has taken New York’s resident extrasensory superhero, Daredevil, and given him leadership of The Hand clan of ninja. Formerly bitter enemies, The Hand approach Matt Murdock’s red-clad alter-ego to take control of an organization that seems to be the very antithesis of heroic.
Daredevil has a tough task ahead of him as he tries to change the clan into something a little more upstanding: with Matt’s moral choices shifting between good and evil, Shadowland has been referred to as a fight for Daredevil’s soul.
But what of Hell’s Kitchen, the hero’s stomping grounds? While Murdock is being morally ambiguous, who would take care of it in his stead? Who could replace the Man Without Fear? Marvel Comics posed this question through a series of teaser images, each featuring a hero that would presumably take Daredevil’s place as a hero based in one of New York’s roughest areas.
At the time of this post’s publishing, the four heroes who have been revealed in teaser images are Captain America’s former partner, The Falcon, mutant and X-Man Gambit, Wakandan royalty Black Panther and Nova, the hero of the Annihilation storyline and former New Warrior. Each teaser image begs the question: “Will (hero) be the new Man Without Fear?”
My bet is on none of them. They don’t have the guts.
The character of Daredevil is placed in Hell’s Kitchen for reasons besides the matching names: his childhood was spent there, the accident that gave him his powers occurred there, and Murdock has witnessed corruption by mobsters and other hoodlums all his life. It is also close to Midtown Manhattan, where most of his villains set up shop. While the Marvel superhero population of New York must be brimming to the top by now, everyone seems to leave Hell’s Kitchen alone; there’s a reason for that.
Daredevil is extremely good at what he does, and any hero looking to replace him must be the same. They must be prepared to face the challenges of Matt Murdock’s life; the risks he takes and the baggage he carries will all become theirs.
If you don’t follow Daredevil history, here’s a hint: in some storylines, he makes Spider-Man’s life look peachy by comparison.
That hero will have to be able to counter one of Daredevil’s deadliest foes in the assassin Bullseye. A ruthless killer with an Adamantium-enhanced spine, Bullseye is a psychopath with ungodly aim and a habit for insanity. He is unrelenting, merciless and extremely violent; recent activities include killing the Sentry’s wife, Lindy, then dumping her body in the ocean. Later, he killed 100 innocents with explosives rigged to a building Daredevil and himself were fighting in.
When Matt realized what had happened, Bullseye taunted him with the possibility that those people would have lived had Daredevil killed him.
On top of Bullseye, the new Man Without Feat must deal with attacks on all aspects of his life from Wilson Fisk, alias The Kingpin. A man of unfathomable financial power, Fisk has systematically dismantled Matthew Murdock’s life on multiple occasions. In recent issues of Daredevil, the Kingpin’s new love, Marta, was killed in the name of the Hand. Though the possibility exists that the killing was a framing, it would be safe to say that Fisk wants revenge.
Both Fisk and Bullseye are not afraid of chasing after the people Murdock cares about; two of Daredevil’s love interests have been murdered, with the third merely ending up in a mental institution.
The replacement Man Without Fear must be capable enough to put the loved ones he has in the line of fire from multiple overwhelming forces. Few can face the possibility that their wife or daughter could be assassinated at any moment, or face potential financial ruin at the hands of a power-hungry businessman. Most heroes have an area in which they are comfortable operating in: for many of the suggested replacements, they do not have the fortitude to survive in such circumstances.
Even powerful heroes like Nova or Black Panther seem preoccupied by their responsibilities; expecting the King of an African nation to watch a neighborhood in New York is like asking Barack Obama to run your church’s bake sale. He simply has more important things to do. Nova has responsibilities as well, acting as Nova Prime of the Nova Corps and as a member of the Secret Avengers. Maybe he just needed an apartment close to Midtown and heard there were good rates in The Kitchen.
With lingering hostility to mutants, even the streetwise Gambit would find difficulty winning the trust of the people in order to operate freely. The Falcon, who considered retirement following Avengers: Disassembled, seems to lack the power set to get the job done. Flying can only do so much against a man with perfect aim.
Until we see more possible candidates for Murdock’s replacement, I’m going to stay skeptical. While not necessarily a hero at the forefront of the Marvel Universe, Daredevil’s role is no less difficult or dangerous.
It’s a difficult job, and who better to take the burden of the job than someone who’s known nothing else?