The week is coming to a close and the time has finally come to review Shadowland #2. If you’re trying to avoid heavy spoilers, I recommend that you read the review I wrote for The Weekly Crisis instead. Here, I’ll be getting into the details a little more. All good? Then let’s get rolling.
In many ways, Shadowland #2 is much more enjoyable than the first issue of the event. The pacing is better, there are more things going on, we see Moon Knight being introduced in very entertaining Prison Break fashion, and the art is much better. Last issue, I felt that Billy Tan was doing this event a disservice, but in this issue I not only don’t mind the art, I actually enjoy it.
So, why would I rate this issue lower than I did Shadowland #2? Well, it’s not so much what happens in this issue as what doesn’t happen in this issue. There’s still that pesky gap between the events of Daredevil #507 (the final issue of the Left Hand Path arc) and the events of Shadowland #1 that makes it difficult to really get as invested in the story as I would have liked. This was easier to overlook in the first issue, but as time goes on, you’re beginning to wonder if this will ever be addressed. We will surely learn what has lead Murdock to this point, but I would have liked to see more of the how. I’ll return to this topic or, more specifically, the general state of Matt Murdock further down. For now, let’s get back to the issue and all the things I really did enjoy about it.
The first thing that happens this issue is Moon Knight cleverly injecting himself into the story, and his scenes are excellent. I’ve never really read Moon Knight outside his Civil War tie-in (and his Secret Avengers appearances), but what we see in this issue is enough to make me really excited for his three issue Shadowland mini-series. Here, we see Marc Spector score himself an invitation to the Shadowland dungeon by smashing his cab and wait for the ninjas to show up and drag him off to jail. At the end of the issue, we reconnect with the character and see that he’s got both a clear agenda and a few tricks up his sleeve. Very cool.
Next the issue cuts to a slightly less compelling scene featuring a conversation between Danny Rand and Luke Cage in Rand’s soup kitchen. I can see what Diggle is trying to do here, but it feels a tad uninspired and I’m thinking the scene could have possibly been cut for length. In any case, this sets the scene for the Kingpin to make an appearance with Lady Bullseye at his side. It’s been hinted at before that Fisk is up to something, but here his request is very direct: that Danny and Luke need to dethrone their megalomaniac friend.
Daredevil gets more quality screen time this issue than he did in Shadowland #1 (it at least feels that way), and his first appearance here features a character we haven’t seen in a while in Black Tarantula. The reader knows that he is likely the only character inside Shadowland who still has all his cups in the cupboard (as the Germans put it) and here we witness his shock at learning that Daredevil has plans to expand his operation. It’s clear that Matt has adopted a very divisive view of the world and the people in it, though his exclamation that “if they’re not with us, they’re against us” feels just a little over the top.
Next up we have the Kingpin and Lady Bullseye using an ancient Japanese scroll to summon the “zugaikotsu warrior.” The identity of this warrior is only hinted at here, but is revealed at the end of the issue to be none other than the Ghost Rider as he literally crashes into Shadowland, sending the whole place into a frenzy and setting up the issue’s cliffhanger ending.
I wasn’t thrilled to learn that Ghost Rider would be involved in Shadowland. Mostly because I think the premise of the character is utterly ridiculous. However, if he had to be included (and the event concept seems to require that as many characters as possible be involved), this is a pretty cool way of introducing him. There’s been quite a bit of discussion regarding how an old Japanese scroll is able to summon the Ghost Rider, but after spending some time on Ghost Rider’s Wikipedia page, the concept may not be completely far-fetched, particularly not with the obvious hints to concept of vengeance. A quick Google search also revealed that zugaikotsu is the Japanese word for skull or cranium. Well played, Mr. Diggle.
Gathering fellow heroes Misty Knight, Colleen Wing and Shang-Chi, Luke and Danny manage to persuade White Tiger to let them in to see Matt, under the pretext of wanting to join the Hand.
This “intervention” scene is one I mostly approve of, but it does highlight the biggest problem with Shadowland so far which is that Matt’s behavior is not only hard to make sense of, but that he comes off as the least interesting character of the bunch.
Much has been made of the idea that Matt is possessed by something, and that this is to be considered as some kind of cop-out. I don’t agree with this. The fact of the matter is that having Matt Murdock go into full villain mode without being nudged in that direction by something would be wildly out of character, which is something people tend to overlook. On the other hand, Diggle has been pretty clear about Matt’s own part in his downfall.
Whatever mystical darkness that has entered his mind had to have been invited in, and it is clear that no entity has kicked Matt out of his own body. He’s in there, perhaps not totally in control, but very much aware of his own actions, and as this issue shows, is still desperately trying to mount a psychological defense against all the destruction he’s causing.
Considering the basic premise of the event, I’m not sure sure that the slight frustration I’m feeling regarding the handling of the Daredevil character is a consequence of poor writing – on the contrary, I can’t think of how else to approach it – so much as the fact that this kind of story must be incredibly difficult for a writer to pull off. While I’m still very much enjoying this event (and last month’s Daredevil was an absolute treat), I can’t help feeling that there’s a design flaw at work here that gives this event a slightly awkward feel.
Shadowland has yet to pass the halfway mark, and my hopes for an engaging story remain high. But there is a gnawing concern on my part that there may not be a right way of delivering a perfectly credible story portraying Daredevil’s descent into villainy without either short-changing the story or stretching Matt Murdock’s character to new extremes. I have no doubt that Shadowland will end up being a great read, particularly when compared to most of the events we’ve seen over the last few years. I’m just not convinced that it will end up being a great Daredevil story. I can live with that, but let’s hope that Diggle will pull this off and give us both.