By Kevin Mahadeo
Come one, come all, to an all-star throw down event this May when writer Antony Johnston and artist Sean Chen enter the ring with Daredevil and Luke Cage for DAREDEVIL: CAGE MATCH, a one-shot issue leading into the events of this summer's SHADOWLAND limited series.
For the past year, Matt Murdock has found himself in a precarious position as leader of ninja assassin clan the Hand. However, never one to shy away from using questionable means to achieve a greater good, Daredevil chose to use the morally dubious group to attempt and make Hell's Kitchen a little more heavenly. Unfortunately, things took a dangerous turn when the hero decided to institute a state of martial law as a response to Norman Osborn's Dark Reign. The idea seemed well-intended, but now with Reign-y skies clearing and the Heroic Age dawning, Daredevil's fellow heroes have begun to worry about their old friend losing sight of his path.
CAGE MATCH sees Luke Cage, one of DD's oldest allies and closest friends, confronting the Man Without Fear on his decision-making process. Johnston has already begun as co-writer on the DAREDEVIL ongoing series alongside Andy Diggle with issue #505. Their next arc ties directly into SHADOWLAND, which Diggle will be writing.
The CAGE MATCH goes down on May 12, but before placing his bets, Johnston spoke with Marvel.com about the one-shot and his upcoming DAREDEVIL arc that takes readers into the Shadowland.
Marvel.com: We know Shadowland is basically Matt Murdock going against some of his fellow heroes, who don't condone his current actions. How'd you get involved in this project and what were your thoughts upon first hearing about the idea behind it?
DAREDEVIL: CAGE MATCH cover by Marko Djurdjevic
Antony Johnston: I think it's a great idea. The first I heard about it was when I started working with Andy Diggle on DAREDEVIL, and he outlined the basic idea for me. I'm not officially involved in the main event, but because Andy and I are collaborating on DAREDEVIL throughout Shadowland, we've inevitably thrown ideas back and forth, and worked together to make sure everything fits-and come up with some cool stuff, natch.
Marvel.com: What are your thoughts on Daredevil as a character? Could you ever see yourself hanging out with someone like him?
Antony Johnston: I doubt it. He's way too po-faced. It may surprise people who know my work, but I'm actually a pretty upbeat guy. Something tells me a night out with Matt Murdock wouldn't exactly be a laugh riot.
Marvel.com: You're going to be writing CAGE MATCH, which explores the past and present friendship of DD and Luke Cage. Before we get into the specifics of the title itself, what are your thoughts on Luke? How is he similar and different from Daredevil?
Antony Johnston: I love writing Cage, and so does every other writer I know. There's something about his attitude, that combination of street-savvy cool and a determination not to lose touch with ordinary people that makes him very attractive. He's also often the voice of reason in heated situations, so he reflects the readers' thoughts a lot of the time. His similarities to DD stem from their backgrounds, and values. They both grew up on the streets, they both fight for the common man and they both have a strong determination to do what's right. Where they're different is in how they do what's right, and that's what makes for a good dynamic between them.
Marvel.com: As we said, CAGE MATCH explores the relationship between these two characters. Obviously you can't give away too much, but what can you say about that relationship? What makes these two friends?
Antony Johnston: I think they just feel a kinship because of their relative low-power styles, their affinity for the streets, all the stuff I mentioned above. But at the same time they have very different views on authority, the law, how to maintain social justice, that sort of thing. That's where the conflict comes from, and you know it's just bubbling under the surface of every interaction they have.
Marvel.com: What else can you say about what we'll be seeing in the one-shot? I'm assuming lots of ninjas as well as silk shirts and gold tiaras.
DAREDEVIL #508 cover by John Cassaday
Antony Johnston: Actually, no ninjas. Sorry. I don't want to give anything away, but the title says it all, really. Matt and Luke face off in a match that tests both their skills and their friendship.
Marvel.com: Before we shift gears a bit, what's it like working with artist Sean Chen? What about his style lends itself to these street-level heroes?
Antony Johnston: Well, he's a damn good artist, for a start, and that's as much as you can really ask for. With Sean, he definitely has the street-level thing down, his grubby environments and dirty streets are great, but with this story, it's more that he suits these two flamboyant, almost swashbuckling characters. He draws a hell of a fight scene.
Marvel.com: Along with the one-shot, you're going to be co-writing the DAREDEVIL title during Shadowland. What can you say about the story we'll be seeing in the title at that point and how it ties into the events in the SHADOWLAND book?
Antony Johnston: Shadowland is a big, epic event-lots of action, a good look at the story from the perspectives of all the characters involved, real high-stakes stuff. The main DAREDEVIL title is going to focus more on the streets of Hell's Kitchen, how the supporting characters cope with the events, people like Foggy [Nelson], Dakota [North], Black Tarantula, and Detective Kurtz. But we also have a few twists and turns in there, too, directly related to the events in SHADOWLAND. We'll also see Daredevil himself, of course, but from a different perspective to that of SHADOWLAND. The DAREDEVIL title will be more about the psychology of the situation than the epic battles.
Marvel.com: What's interesting about DD is that he's never been a purely "good guy" character. He walks a fine on a regular basis. Do you think this is what makes a story like Shadowland plausible for his character? Because it's so easy to see him go a little over the edge like this?
Antony Johnston: Absolutely, yeah. With his history, Matt could so easily have grown up to be a villain instead of a hero and he still has that dark aspect inside him. This is a man who knows, from his own experience, that the legal process sometimes fails. That sometimes it simply can't deliver the justice people want. So he goes out in costume, breaks the very law he swears to uphold in the courtroom, and delivers that justice himself. That takes someone whose moral center is right on the edge,
|SHADOWLAND #1 cover by John Cassaday|
Marvel.com: As a final question: you, Luke Cage, Daredevil. In a Cage Match. What goes down? I'm assuming you walk out the winner.
Antony Johnston: More like I walk out and leave them to it!
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