Friday, July 9, 2010

Shadowland #1 Review

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.

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Philipe said...

I'm with IGN on this one. I thought the Avengers discussion regarding Shadowland was forced and the fight between Daredevil and Bullseye was anything but epic...which should have been, considering how it ends. And we all know that this is not going to be permanent in any way...I don't want to give spoilers but I'm sick and tired of writers doing this to shock people. Maybe it's for the 12 year olds who read, I don't know. I just roll my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Same here, Philipe. IGN's review definitely doesn't hold back in addressing Shadowlands many, many shortcomings for what they and I agree with evert single word of their review and your post, for that matter, Philipe. This debut could have been far better in every concievable way a comic could. It was, to put it kindly, a very big disappointment considering the potential of it's premise and the inflated cover price.

Kirk Warren said...

@Philipe - I liked the Avengers part. I thought it, and showing others reacting to DD's Shadowland complex, added to the story. It gave it a bigger scope adn made it feel like it was part of a bigger whole. DD's been sort of off on his own for most of the title's run (well, I mean the second volume, though it's not back to original numbering) and with how big a deal somethign like this should be, it's nice to see people reacting to it. It reminds me of how Bendis brought in the street level friends (Spidey, Cage, etc) to help when things go rough. Now, if it ends with Thor coming in and just picking up DD by the back of his costume like a babyand put him in jail to end the event, I might have some issues with the use of the Avengers,b ut I thought it was a good scene. Bucky has no real connection to DD, so his line was fine in the tough guy cop type of way. I thought it worked, personally.

Now, regarding Bullseye, I thought it just set the tone for the series. I don't think it was supposed to be a shock. It was pretty heavily hinted at and teased beforehand. I actually didn't believe they'd go with that ending. I dont think the story waas about Bullseye, though. We are seeing what's happening to Daredevil and now the impetus is on where he and everyone goes from here.

The fight wasnt the point and it shouldnt be the focus - what it implies is what makes it compelling to me. I want to know what happens next. I want to know how others react. I want to see what they do from here on out. They could fumble it and "ruin" DD or it could be a new journey of self discovery type of deal or something completely different, but I think they hit all the right notes for this first issue.

Another key piotn is it's an event issue. This is actually hyped quite a bit by Marvel and looks to be getting a decent push. It won't do Siege numbers (well, who knows, it sold out and got second printings before it even released Wednesday), but a lot of new readers will be picking this up. It reads well for new readers, focusing on action and the standard characters (DD and Bullseye) and gives a good fight between the two. That's what non-DD readers will be expecting and should hook them. It also gives enough story for the DD faithful to sink their teeth into. Combined with the DD monthly, it's likely going to work really well in this format, but it remains to be seen. I t hink they did what they set out to accomplish in this first issue.

Kirk Warren said...

*though it's now (mistake with not in above comment) back to it's original numbering

Brian Dickey said...

I definitely agree for the most part with the review. On the "shock" at the end of the issue, I feel this is one of the few instances where it's appropriate, both for the story and the character. We've had years upon years of Murdock being put through the ringer, it's high time that the character reacted in an appropriate way to those stresses. He's never been a character that's been portrayed as having the unrealistic moral fortitude of someone like Batman. So eventually a snap should occur.

The art, however, was an issue with me. While improved from the previous The List issue Tan drew, the overall handle on the characters was just ugly. Take Iron Fist for example. Maybe it's just that I prefer the past noirish styles with a Daredevil story, and that's just a more niche taste that a company wouldn't band a mainstream appeal event book on.

Overall, the story was pretty excellent though. It's pretty telling that, after I let a buddy read the issue last night, he stated that "Daredevil is finally as scary to me as you talk him up to be". Hopefully the event will hook some additional readers into the DD fan club.

loran16 said...

The art in the page with Luke+Danny saying "No" to DD's question is terrible. Luke looks like he's an old man...what the hell is with the lines on his face?

twobitspecialist said...

I'm going to give this a shot. I'm usually not one to take IGN seriously about anything anyway. Besides, if Luke and Danny are in it, I'm sold.

Ray Allen said...

One of my main issue with this was the fact that Daredevil took out Bullseye in like three moves. Considering that the Hand ninjas made no difference in deciding this fight, why has Matt never been able to do this before?

Kirk Warren said...

@Ray Allen - He's taken down Bullseye in similar manners before. He carved a bullseye in his forehead in one fight that practically made Lester piss himself in fear. A lot of times, its more situational and Bullseye has pyschological or physical advantages (injuries, terrain, etc) that help him compete.

natureboy_HH said...

I didn't get a copy because my LCS ran out and told me a 2nd printing is already in the works, and he had the idea that Marvel deliberately cut back the supply to give it a boost by making it seem like a hot item and get people to buy it. I haven't thought about it before, but the Avengers books all have 2nd printing. Anyway, had a copy been at my LCS i would have just Byrned It. Bendis and Brubaker may have told some fascinating stories, but Matt Murdock's life has been devastated over and over again. Its just too much baggage.

Christine Hanefalk said...

@Ray Allen
I think DD has "won" virtually every fight they've ever had, he's just never had the desire to take it that far before. In this sense, Daredevil has always held back in the past.

Generally, I'm with Kirk when it comes to seeing past the fight scene itself. I'm also not sure this is the instance at which Matt "damns himself." I see this whole issue as much more of statement that let's us know just how far Matt is willing to go.

On the other hand, this is Bullseye. If he were real, I would kill him if I had the chance. I'd kill Hitler too if I could travel back in time. I suspect many Daredevil fans will see Matt as irreparably tarnished now, for having killed, but I don't really see that here.

The Dangster said...

I gotta say, Shadowland is VERY, new reader friendly. I enjoyed it immensely.

Philipe said...

I think I usually put my expectations way up high when it comes to this sort of book. Maybe I'm being harsh, but it just seems oversimplistic from Giggle's side. "Let's put the Avengers there to show how big and important this is". "Let's show Daredevil being a bad-ass by doing this." But I do think the dialogues were poorly written.

Maybe, just like Dangster stated, it's supposed to be like this so it can be reader friendly. I will give #2 a shot, hopefully there's some improvement.

Steven said...

I am hoping at some point they start writing Murdock with something slightly resembling the personality he had for years prior to this.

Also, the Avengers scene is only lame if the team members involved in this don't call in the big guns when things get ugly. This would end perfectly with Thor and Iron Man bringing the whole giant pagoda in NYC down around DD's knees.

Kirk Warren said...

@philipe - Id check out the preview for Daredevil next week. I think it covers more of what you're looking for just from the short preview available.

twobitspecialist said...

Got Shadowland #1 today from my LCS--it was half price as a special introductory price! I certainly enjoyed it, although that ending had been spoiled way before the thing came out. Can't wait for next month.

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