This review contains spoilers and my going off on a little rant. Consider yourselves warned.

Cover to Shadowland #3

Here’s the thing; Andy Diggle is a really good writer. He’s done a good job with the Daredevil book, especially given the unusual predicament that Ed Brubaker left the main character in. Daredevil #508 was a masterpiece, one of the best issues I’ve read in years. Diggle also wrote the sensationally well-plotted The Losers, which was ripe with witty dialogue, intelligent plot twists, and great characterizations. Why am I telling you this? Well, what I guess I’m trying to say is that Diggle is a much better writer than this. With this issue, Shadowland took a complete nose dive.

There are no ifs and buts about it. To me, Shadowland #3 was a massive disappointment. But, to be clear, I’m getting a growing sense that I’m not the target audience for this kind of story. I love that the Daredevil book and Matt Murdock as a character speak to me as a mature reader who gets a kick out of character-heavy, grounded stories where the supernatural is kept to a minimum. I’ve always liked that Daredevil is not your typical superhero. He’s a modern take on a classic, a character that has changed with the times, and managed to shed many of the cliches which have prevented at least my enjoyment of certain other books in the genre.

While I felt that Shadowland #1 and #2 left much to be desired, I was still hopeful that Shadowland would develop in a direction that I’d be able to enjoy, especially considering the kind of work Diggle and Johnston had been doing on the Daredevil title. Very little of that hope remains, and I’m looking to Daredevil #510 to save what’s left of my interest in this event.

Shadowland #3 lacks everything that has made Daredevil such a great read for so many years, including the main character. This version of Daredevil has turned into a caricature of his evil self, and nothing remains of Matt Murdock. I realize this is part of the point (and I take no issue with the possession aspects per se, aside from the fact that I generally like less mysticism in my Daredevil comic), but it does kind of kill my interest.

Ghost Rider, panel from Shadowland #3, by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan

To add insult to injury, the dialogue – an area in which Diggle has usually performed admirably – is cringeworthy in places. Why does Moon Knight copy Daredevil’s “Damn it all to hell” expression when it’s really not the kind of thing people say a lot (which makes it stand out)? Why does Daredevil – now possessed and in a rage – say “Consider my ban on killing hereby lifted!” before he orders his ninjas to “Slay them all!”? It just sounds awkward and out of place, not to mention completely redundant. And I know Spidey is supposed to be witty, but “Maybe one of your ninja baristas could whip us up a frappucino and biscotti!” is not that funny. At all. And why is the first thing ouf of Shang-Chi’s mouth after their escape “I am no longer the master of kung-fu… that title must now pass to Matt Murdock.”? Really, Shang-Chi? You’ve just fought a clearly possessed man who is supposedly a friend of yours and your biggest concern is that he now beats you at kung-fu? I just don’t buy it.

There are parts of the plot that I’m not really getting either. Are the first two pages of Moon Knight fighting just showing how he imagined it happening in his head? If not, it contradicts what happened last issue since he wasn’t fighting any ninjas when Ghost Rider burst on the scene. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what’s happening here, but it’s confusing. Then there’s the always silly element of the huge fight and the conversation meant to reason with the bad guy happening at the same time, yet the fight appears to pause for this conversation to take place.

Panel from Shadowland #3, by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan

Also, some of the characters seem to know more than they should. In the beginning, when Ghost Rider shows up, he tells Moon Knight: “This ain’t a game, an’ I ain’t playin’, moon man. More like I’m the one being played.” To this, Moon Knight says: “How’d you figure that? How the hell could someone else make the Spirit of Vengeance dance to his tune…?” Well, the thing is, Ghost Rider isn’t exactly saying that, is he? In fact, he’s being really vague and mysterious about the whole thing. I’m sure Moon Knight could make the kind of inference that he makes from what Ghost Rider is saying, but it sounds like a stretch to me, as if he knows what the reader knows when he really can’t. A similar situation happens after the fight when the heroes find people looting in the streets. Danny reacts to this with “Isn’t it obvious? Whatever dark power Matt’s tapped into up there — it’s spreading!” In this case, I as a reader have to wonder, how is this obvious? How does Danny know that this is in any way related to what happened to Matt? There was an obvious assault on Daredevil’s strong hold, maybe the same people who would resort to looting during a riot decided to do the same thing here. It’s nice that the characters help tell the story, but they shouldn’t be telling it as if they’re the ones writing it.

Speaking of things happening to Matt, this issue sees him get a power upgrade to go with his possession which results in him bouncing around for much of the issue. Not a big fan of this at all. By the time we get to the part where he decides to dig up Bullseye, I’ve already stopped caring about whether anything that happens in this issue is either in character or even logical.

Billy Tan’s artwork improved greatly last issue. Here, it feels a little bit more uneven again. Some pages are beautiful, but others are hard to follow and the fight scene could have benefited from a different approach and more fluidity.

At the end of the day, I realize that this may not be for me. My complaints may seem like nit-picking, and you just have to go to the CBR boards to get a very different view of this issue, but I have to be honest about how I feel. Yes, Frank Castle makes a cool entrance, I agree, but this story has to be about more than cool moments and big fight scenes. Shadowland is supposed to be about the battle for the soul of New York – and that of Matt Murdock – but I’m left wondering about the soul of the whole event.

We’ve seen a lot of news about the future of Daredevil and Matt Murdock in the last month or so, and I can’t say that I’m particularly worried that Matt will die (at least for very long) or that the character will sustain any kind of long-term damage from spending time as a villain. But I will say that, unless Daredevil #510 manages to change the direction of this event, whatever the future brings can’t come soon enough. What started out as an exciting roller-coaster of an event has turned into a bumpy ride, and I’d rather just fast forward to the end.

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

10 comments

  1. “this story has to be about more than cool moments and big fight scenes.”

    Everyone at Marvel should be strapped to a chair with their eyes stretched open like in “A Clockwork Orange” and made to stare for a few weeksa this sentence. Or until it sinks in.

    Ed Brubaker, Peter David, and a very very few others are the exception.

  2. “I’m getting a growing sense that I’m not the target audience for this kind of story.”

    I feel like the majority of Daredevil loyalists aren’t the target audience for this event. It’s as if this event is designed to bring in readers who are lukewarm on DD because they like the other street level characters in the event, while polarizing their loyal, long-time readers.

    “There are parts of the plot that I’m not really getting either. Are the first two pages of Moon Knight fighting just showing how he imagined it happening in his head? If not, it contradicts what happened last issue since he wasn’t fighting any ninjas when Ghost Rider burst on the scene.”

    This is how I felt when I read Daredevil #509. To me it felt like the time line for the event was out of order.

    After #512 comes out, I’m going to go back and read all of the Daredevil Shadowland issues, without reading the Shadowland mini, and see if I enjoy the event without the main book. Quite honestly, the main book is pretty terrible. Billy Tan is a poor man’s David Finch, and his art is bland. That said, the initial Shadowland teaser image that he did is really fantastic (http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/shadowlands.jpg), but the event art has been painful to look at.

  3. Oh man. Yeah. I don’t know what the hell is going on anymore, and I’m really not happy with the direction this event is taking.

    Shadowland is supposed to be about the battle for the soul of New York – and that of Matt Murdock – but I’m left wondering about the soul of the whole event.
    Wonderfully put. This could have been a good story done in a more interesting way that doesn’t involve Matt basically not acting like Matt anymore. I mean, Bendis kind of already did this story when Matt became Kingpin and his friends tried to talk the crazy out of him, and it was interesting and complex then.

    Luckily, my comic book store had Daredevil: Yellow on clearance, so I bought it and read it afterward as a nostalgic cleanser. Have you reviewed that one? I really liked it.

  4. I have been so disappointed with everything lately. I am hating shadowland and if the rumors are true if they kill him off or remove Matt as Daredevil I am so done with marvel. There will be no hope left and everyone will know for sure they are all money crazed morons.

  5. I like the acknowledgment that Danny and Shang-Chi may be the two greatest hand-to-hand fighters in the MU.

    If nothing else, this mini has increased my interest in Moon Knight.

    To me though, with this issue, what I thought was the whole point of this mini (the corruption of Matt) has been undercut severely. Yes, it may be good that Diggle is bringing back elements of the DD mythos not seen for ten, twenty years, but with the Beast apparently possessing Matt now, that seems to be a cop-out.

    I thought this story was about the downfall of Matt, about his turning to the dark side and fulfilling that lost promise of being a strong, dangerous villain. Two adepts born this age: Matt and Elektra. Elektra turned dark and we saw what happened to her. Now, we were supposed to see what happened when Matt finally followed her down that path.

    But now the whole thing can be pinned on the Beast. Matt may have been corrupted enough to allow the Beast to possess him, but everything after is a result of that.

    Doesn’t that undermine the supposed tragedy of this story??

  6. I’m not as particular about most of the details mentioned, but what bothers me is here we have a decent Daredevil story and I find out he’s simply possessed. Really? That’s it? I would love for Marvel or DC to REALLY change and impact one of their characters. Make DD a bad guy. Permanently. That’d be awesome! But no, the plane’s going down…surprise, there’s a parachute under the seat.

  7. Perhaps this will be made more clear in the coming months, but in what way is MATT essential to the Snakeroot’s plans? They needed a “pure” soul to become “corrupted” to bring the Beast into this world. Assuming that to be true without further explanation as to why, why choose Matt Murdock? Why not choose Bill the Hot Dog Man and tempt him to corruption with money, drugs, sex, etc.? There seems to be a lot of risk in appointing your enemy leader when he might just overcome your influence and destroy you from the inside. Bill would likely not do that.

  8. When I get the time (some time after this coming Sunday), I will try to write up a post about what I see as the event’s greatest flaw, namely the complete lack of subtlety and ambiguity. I disagree with the notion that Matt should have gone “full villain” of his own accord, but I also don’t like the strong presence of the supernatural in this story, particularly as the easy alibi.

    The way to go, in my opinion, would have been to stay in the kind of gray area where we as readers can see that the path Matt has chosen is the wrong one, but where we could still sort of buy the idea that he doesn’t. Don’t have him go to the dark side, have him enter the gray zone where right and wrong become difficult to tease out and where he would have been allowed to grow as a character.

  9. “The way to go, in my opinion, would have been to stay in the kind of gray area where we as readers can see that the path Matt has chosen is the wrong one, but where we could still sort of buy the idea that he doesn’t. Don’t have him go to the dark side, have him enter the gray zone where right and wrong become difficult to tease out and where he would have been allowed to grow as a character.”

    This is just base conjecture on my part, but I suspect that the writers, artists, & editors felt that they needed to go further to differentiate this story from and expand upon that during the Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen storyline. In that story, one of the major themes was that Matt had crossed a line into new and questionable territory and was confronted by his fellow superheroes over his actions. He changed: he wasn’t quite the same old Matt. Indeed, it was later described as a nervous breakdown! That story is still relatively recent.

    Any story written about Matt as Shogun of the Hand needed to steer away from simply telling that same story with the same moral conundrum on a different stage. This placed the creative team in an awkward position since they seemingly wanted to tell a story about Matt’s moral struggle. So, they needed to go much further than Bendis & Maleev ever did; they needed to up the ante. And to do that, they seemingly have chosen to go evil/possession. Could they have told a story that didn’t go so far, yet was still different than Bendis’? Sure, but I don’t think their choices were as open as normally would be.

  10. “Perhaps this will be made more clear in the coming months, but in what way is MATT essential to the Snakeroot’s plans?”

    Good point. Other than taking down one of the Hand’s greatest enemies, how does Matt fit their plans exactly?

    All-out villain may be a tad too much, but I’ve always believed in Miller’s essay that Matt has every reason in the world to be a villain and yet he’s not one. It’s his choice.

    But that choice has been taken away from him by being possessed. That’s what I feel is wrong with this event now.

    I guess Matt can actually say now that the Devil made him do it. *headshake*

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