Believe it or not, but this is my second Shadowland review of the day. I wrote one for The Weekly Crisis a few hours ago and while that one also delves into the plot quite a bit, it doesn’t outright give away the end of the issue. If you want to remain relatively spoiler free, I recommend that you read my first review. Here, I won’t be holding back any information.
The day finally came when we got the chance to see Daredevil at the center of his own event-style storyline. I know many fans, like me, have been looking forward to this day with a great deal of excitement, as well as with just a hint of trepidation. We cherish the opportunity for Daredevil to get some well-deserved attention. At the same time, Daredevil fans tend to appreciate the fact that the character has been spared the inevitable drama that large-scale events entail and been free to roam his own corner of the Marvel Universe.
Shadowland is a different from many other recent company-wide events, however. Here we see a bigger story which has developed organically from what’s happening in the Daredevil book. Matt Murdock isn’t being shoe-horned into a story where he doesn’t belong, he – in a sense – is the story, or at least a big part of it. This is clearly felt from the very beginning of Shadowland #1 that picks up right at the end of Daredevil #507.
After a brief visit with the Snakeroot daimyo, and a recap page to provide the necessary background for new readers, Diggle takes us inside a prison transport headed for the Raft where we meet up with Daredevil’s most famous costumed adversary: Bullseye. This should come as a surprise to no one; a violent encounter between Daredevil and Bullseye has been hinted at for weeks.
I quite enjoy Diggle’s take on Bullseye. He’s both quite funny, and a complete psychopath. After using his skills and cunning to break free, he quickly goes out in search of Daredevil, but the man he finds is not quite the man he expects, and the change goes beyond the costume.
Time and time again, Daredevil has fought Bullseye, successfully for the most part, only to hand him over to the authorities or allowed him to slip through his fingers. Every time, we have seen him go on to commit increasingly heinous crimes, most recently against one hundred protesters under Daredevil’s protection. When we see Daredevil this time, it’s easy to make sense of his frustration, and relate to his resolve to end their battle once and for all. On the final page, after a long and beautifully choreographed fight high above the streets, Matt finally crosses the edge he’s been flirting with for years and kills his greatest enemy. Will it stick? Is Bullseye really dead? We can’t know for sure, but a line has been crossed regardless.
This development has been greeted by most fans with a “good riddance” kind of attitude, and I couldn’t agree more. I know many will regret the fact that Daredevil has now crossed the line into murder, but let’s face it: I would happily kill Bullseye if he were real (and I had badass fighting skills). There are many reasons why we can’t legally condone these kind of acts, but morally, it’s not quite that simple.
In the beginning of the issue, the daimyo restate what was already impressed upon us in the last issue of Daredevil: Matt must “damn himself,” his journey from light to darkness must happen by his own free will. This makes the entire premise of Shadowland much more interesting than having Daredevil simply become a possessed drone. However, in the context of this issue, it also begs the question of whether simply killing a known mass murderer is enough for Matt to make this transformation. I suspect not, and I think the fight with Bullseye simply sets the stage for what’s to come and gives us a glimpse into Matt’s emotional state.
Shadowland #1 also features a guest appearance by the Avengers, most notably Luke Cage and Danny Rand. This part of the story sets up another conflict, that between Daredevil and his friends and former allies who are growing increasingly concerned about his activities and the decisions he’s making. Danny and Luke even become witnesses to Daredevil finishing off Bullseye, and this part of the story will be interesting to see unfold in coming issues.
In closing, Shadowland #1 provides us with a solid set-up for what promises to be both an action-packed story and a closer investigation of Daredevil as a character. One of the things that brought the score down for me was the art. I wasn’t a big fan of Billy Tan’s art in the Dark Reign – The List: Daredevil one-shot, and while it’s much better here, it still feels like it doesn’t quite keep up with the level of the writing. It’s uneven, looking pitch-perfect in some scenes and oddly proportioned in others.