Review: Shadowland #1 (8.0/10)

Jul 9, 2010

Review: Shadowland #1 (8.0/10)

Jul 9, 2010

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.

Cover to Shadowland #1

Cover to Shadowland #1

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.

Panel featuring Daredevil from Shadowland #1, by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan

Panel featuring Daredevil from Shadowland #1, by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan

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.

Panel featuring Bullseye from Shadowland #1, by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan

Panel featuring Bullseye from Shadowland #1, by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan

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.


  1. Jeremy

    “or allowed him to slip through his fingers.”

    Quite literally, one time! That’s why I thought it was kinda odd when Bullseye said “You aint the same guy” or whatever. You talking about the guy who paralyzed you, broke into your hospital room, and held a gun to your head.

    That said, Daredevil killing Bullseye is something I think should have happen YEARS ago, and it’s in character for someone who has basically had the Worst Day Ever every day of his life since Frank Miller came on-board in ’81.

  2. Andrew

    Great review, although I think I like Bully Tan’s art a little more than you do. By the way, I couldn’t help picturing you in real life with “badass fighting skills.” If only, right? :]

    P.S. Love the new Shadowland theme on the site.

  3. Aaron K

    I am incredibly enthusiastic and optimistic about this entire event, but this issue really didn’t impress me. Some things just didn’t quite click.

    First, if this issue IS picking up right after DD #507 (Plus a few days, perhaps? The remainder of the month necessary to complete Shadowland?), Matt’s character is RADICALLY different than when we last saw him, and that has nothing to do with his treatment of Bullseye. Could anyone see Matt asking Danny and Luke to swear allegiance to the Hand unless he’d been brainwashed? Where did this radical devotion to his cult come from after he was just recently doubting it in Japan? When last Matt clashed with his friends as Kingpin, he never demanded slavish devotion, but rather tried to win them to his cause through convincing.

    Second, while Bullseye’s fight with the Hand looked pretty, I thought it was excessive. Of the five comics I bought this week, this one was easily the quickest read since so little actually HAPPENS other than fighting. If I didn’t know better, I would think this is (a) a real event comic and (b) a Bullseye event. For a character that is presumably incapacitated for the rest of Shadowland, we spent almost the entire issue with him, only to see him “die”. (I doubt he’s dead. Bullseye has taken more licks than a Timex in the last year.)

    Third, I agree with Christine that the art is inconsistent. What is going on in the Avengers scenes? Folks look elongated and just plain off. It feels like Tan spent all his time on the fight scenes and had to rush the remainder of the book. Iron Fist and Thor, in particular, look awful to me. (Thor is stretched; Iron Fist is sad and droopy, especially his sash.)

    Fourth, I think it was a mistake to not have Matt Hollingsworth do the coloring for this series. True, it’s not technically a Daredevil book (and I don’t know that Hollingsworth could have made time to do the colors), but I think the ambience would be more effective given how wonderfully evocative Hollingsworth’s colors have been.

    Fifth, I am just sick of these Hand ninjas dying ALL THE TIME. Someone should actually count up the number of Hand ninjas that have been slain. I bet it’s several thousand by now. Instead of making Bullseye (or Daredevil or Elektra or Wolverine or the New Avengers or the postman) look badass, it just looks like the Hand ninjas are pathetically incompetent fighters. Have they killed ANYONE but Stick? How the hell did THAT happen? Frank Miller invented elite assassins; they have become a laughingstock.

    Sixth, the inclusion of the Avengers in this issue reveals an obvious problem for this storyline. Daredevil and his legions of disposable ninja are NO THREAT WHATSOEVER with Thor and Iron Man on the scene. If they get out of line, there is basically NOTHING that could stop Thor from killing them all (except maybe Diggle’s cumbersome Thor-speech – “Yonder fortress stirs in me an ill foreboding”). This is a street-level event: including the big boys just makes it seem silly that this problem doesn’t get solved in a few minutes. Indeed, it seems like Matt has refused Luke and Danny. They should report back to the Avengers and have this settled by supper. The End.

    All said, it’s still a fun concept that promises some good times and included a lot of fun Bullseye moments. I’d say 6.5/10.

  4. Marc

    since the avengers were included, I’m pretty sure the hand is up to something more then just turning Daredevil.

    If the avengers fight anybody, it won’t be the hand and Matt, it will be a giant demon or something…

  5. Christine

    @Aaron: About the timing, I’m pretty sure that quite some time (2-3 months) has passed since Matt was in Japan and that lots of things have happened between now and then, things that we probably will learn about as time goes on. There’s the new costume, the radical change in attitude, Shadowland being finished and so on. The scene with the Snakeroot guys is clearly set in the past, seen from the perspective of this event.

    When I meant that this story picks up where Daredevil #507 left off, I didn’t mean that in the strict literal sense that Matt just stepped off the plane in New York, but that it feels very closely tied to the main Daredevil book.

    It’s funny with how this book has been received, just from talking to people online and reading reviews. People seem to either like it a lot or feel disappointed for one reason or another. I can see the points you and others have made here, but this issue really did work for me. The art brings the experience down bit, but I was positively surprised by the story (even though it’s mostly set-up). It didn’t feel as “eventy” as I had feared.

  6. The Uranian

    I agree that the art, while not bad, doesn’t quite keep up with the writing. But I must confess I expected a bit more from the first issue, although I get the fundamental element that is Daredevil actually killing Bullseye, and didn’t feel much was actually set up for the future.

    Having said that, I feel like I lost something along the way, or rather, missed some issues, but I can’t find which. I mean, I felt lost at how DD suddenly appeared in black and his demeanor was entirely different when dealing with his (former) friends Iron First and Luke Cage. When did this transformation occur? I realize it’s been a process, but the final leap seemed just that… too big a leap.

    I was also thoroughly confused by a minor apparition, The Punisher. I must have missed some issue where Frank gets back from the Frankencastle/dead persona.

    6.5/10 is a perfect score.

    I’m still very excited about Shadowland, though, even if (bif if) it begins with Bullseye getting killed. Yes, he’s an amoral prick who deserves to be put down, but he’s a great character.

  7. AP

    I think we all have to keep in mind that this is an event book geared toward hardcore and casual DD fans alike. I feel like they are starting with DD “embracing the darkside” to cater to the more casual DD readers. Most comic fans know the basics of DD’s character and where he has traditionally stood, so having DD corrupted at the start of the series is an easier point for the casual DD reader to jump in rather than starting with all the carefully played machinations being used to push Matt down the dark path. This makes it a more definitive beginning to the casual DD reader. They know where they stand and will have the blanks filled in later. For us, it’s more set-up and possibly a bit confusing because we know about many of the conspiracies that have lead us to this point but haven’t seen Matt definitively turn dark. Whether the story they weave will please us, the ever-faithful DD enthusiasts, or not is still to be seen. I too doubt that having DD kill a known mass murderer is enough to make the transformation complete so I hope they have something more up their sleeve. But the DD creative team has done an excellent job with the regular DD book, so I have faith that they won’t disappoint.

    Regarding the art and coloring, I am really disappointed. When Tan was announced as the artist for Shadowland, my heart sank. I feel his pencils are very inconsistent and that his style doesn’t gel with DD. DD just doesn’t seem graceful at all and looks more like a bodybuilder than a gymnast in Tan’s hands. It looks like he doesn’t have a firm grasp of what the character is all about. But most of all I dislike the coloring in this issue. I thought the colors were ok when Bullseye was escaping from the plane, but that’s it. It’s just not the type of coloring I would expect for an event that’s supposed to involve mainly street level characters. It feels like they went for something between the subdued, grim and gritty and the typical bright and vibrant coloring we see in other superhero books. I’d say that this is because they’re trying to appeal to casual and hardcore DD readers, but I think they’re playing it a bit too safe with the art. I will say the art and coloring is better in Shadowland than DD: The List. I detested the art and coloring in that story.

  8. Bee Clayton

    I liked this issue. I thought it was a great set-up for what’s to come.

    I really didn’t find Bullseye’s death all that shocking, but not for the obvious reasons. Instead of shocking, I saw it more as a final piece in the Snakeroot’s puzzle of the damnation of Matt Murdock. More like, “Oh, no, Matt, what have you done now?” But yes, that is a scene we’ve been waiting for, what, over twenty years?

    The art was okay, but I liked Tan’s work on the List one-shot better. The fight scenes were good, but the Avengers scene was iffy. Danny Rand sans mask looked more like Bobby Drake.

    Liked the new costume, but what’s up with the knives on his gauntlets?

    Anyway, I think this is off to a good start.


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