In some, albeit subtle ways Shadowland has been marketed as the event to end event fatigue. Or at least as a “different kind of event,” set in its own grounded corner of the Marvel Universe. It wasn't even going to be that big of a deal until we started seeing one tie-in after another popping up in the solicits to the point where the check-list grew to, well, event proportions.
But after having followed the news surrounding this story and reading the first of five issues of the main Shadowland book, I must give Andy Diggle credit for creating something that does have a different tone to it than the large-scale events we've seen in recent years. There's also a more acute sense that what happens in this book will matter more to the characters involved after the story has played its course.
If Secret Invasion was the Marvel Universe meets Battlestar Galactica, Shadowland feels more like the Marvel Universe meets Intervention. Well, with ninjas. Does it work? It absolutely does. Hit the jump for a full review.
Written by Andy Diggle
Pencils by Billy Tan
Inks by Batt
Colors by Christina Strain
I was a little surprised to see the first two pages of this issue, which focus on the Hand leaders Matt Murdock came into contact with during the most recent Daredevil arc. As a Daredevil fan, I felt right at home in the same setting we were left with in last month's issue of Daredevil, but considering new readers are expected to jump on with little prior knowledge of the Daredevil title, it seemed like an odd choice.
On the other hand (no pun intended), it also seemed like a natural step, and signals just how organically this event has grown out of what has been happening in Daredevil. And, there's no need for new readers to worry. The third page is a recap page which provides us with everything we need to know.
However, before we get to meet up with the new, darker Daredevil, we check in with his longtime enemy Bullseye who is being transported Hannibal Lecter-style to his new home on the Raft. With some scheming and clever acting, Bullseye manages to break free of his restraints and take over the aircraft. It's clear from Diggle's past work, including Dark Reign: Hawkeye, that the writer enjoys these kinds of scenes and he seems to get a real kick out of writing Bullseye. While his captors may come off as buffoons, Bullseye does not and both the action and dialogue are quite entertaining.
Elsewhere, Thor, Danny Rand, Luke Cage, Tony Stark and Bucky Barnes are discussing the new building that shot up in the middle of Hell's Kitchen, and the man who controls it. There are many things I like about this scene. First of all, it sets the tone for the rest of the event. These heroes aren't discussing shape-shifting aliens, Galactus throwing a temper tantrum or even Norman Osborn blowing up a stadium. They are having a concerned conversation about a friend and fellow hero. Already from the get go, this event feels personal.
Having said that, I'm surprised to see certain members of the group taking the building of Shadowland so lightly. I'm sure the Hand probably does have a valid building permit, but taking over all law enforcement duties and declaring Hell's Kitchen their own little police state breaks more laws than I can count. Either way, at the end of their meeting, Luke and Danny are sent off to have a word with their friend.
As has been teased for months, Bullseye's escape sends him on a collision course with Daredevil, and more than half-way into the comic, we finally come face to face with Daredevil himself, sporting his new black costume for the first time. While the beginning of the issue felt like a smooth transition from the events of Daredevil #507, the introduction of the new costume feels a bit more jarring. We knew this change was coming, but I miss not knowing exactly what happened between his return from Japan and his decision to put on a new set of tights. This is more of a complaint as a mildly confused Daredevil fan however, than any criticism of this particular story and this development might be addressed in more depth in the main Daredevil title.
What follows is a well-choreographed and rather entertaining fight where Daredevil is joined on the scene by Luke and Danny. Diggle has a knack for combining the dark and menacing with elements that are downright humorous and one of the more memorable exchanges of this issue is the one pictured below. One can only imagine what Luke and Danny must be thinking...
I'm not going to reveal the end of this issue except to say that I wasn't surprised. It marks a move on Diggle's part that is both gutsy and very much the next natural step for the character as well as the storyline. Part of me is actually relieved to see a development that suddenly seems long overdue. I'll leave it at that.
Billy Tan puts in a much better effort here than he did with his work on the Dark Reign – The List: Daredevil one-shot last fall. His art is better served by the subdued colors here and it looks okay throughout despite being somewhat uneven. Certain scenes are breath-taking whereas others look a little odd, and this is particularly true of the characters' faces and postures.
As a whole, Shadowland #1 is a strong first issue of an event that feels even more in line with the kind of stories Daredevil fans tend to like than I had hoped. It doesn't start with a bang, but with a menacing whisper. Even with all the action, it feels like a character-driven story, not about invading aliens, but about good people making really horrendous choices.
Verdict: Buy It. This issue is not a slam dunk or hole in one, but it does a good job of setting up what looks to be a very interesting event. The fact that it features my favorite character certainly helps, but that could just as easily have been a liability as most comic book fans tend to be quite protective of their four-colored friends. However, this event promises to make for one heck of a character study while still having plenty to offer the more casual fan.
For those who might be interested, I'm posting a separate review on my own site The Other Murdock Papers later today.