Andy Diggle

Daredevil #510 – 512 and Shadowland #3-5

I finished reading all of the Shadowland issues that I own. Shadowland was a 2010 “mini-event” that centered on Daredevil and his involvement with The Hand. It (core issues) was written by Andy Diggle and drawn by Billy Tan.

I read:

  • Daredevil #505 – 512
  • Shadowland #1 – 5
  • Shadowland: Elektra (one-shot)

I think to understand and enjoy the full story, one also needs Shadowland: Spider-Man, Shadowland: Ghost Rider, and Shadowland: Moon Knight.  The first two are one-shots, the other is a 3-issue miniseries. There are a few other tie-ins, but I wasn’t interested in them – and I don’t feel that I missed anything necessary. One should get the Moon Knight tie-ins, but I don’t really care for Moon Knight, so I am okay with being left slightly clueless regarding Moon Knight in this event. It seems that the majority of readers did not like Shadowland; generally I see people giving it 2.5 stars out of 5. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the storyarc and have already thanked Andy Diggle (on Twitter) for not wasting my money.

Timothy Callahan on CBR wrote a review of Shadowland #1.  He gives it a 3/5 star rating not really explaining what he disliked – except for mentioning some frame with Iron Man in it. On Spider-Man Crawlspace, Nathaniel Collins gives the entire event 2.5 / 5 stars.  Collins wrote: “One of the big problems I had with this event was that weren’t we suppose to be taking a break from them for at least the year?”  One comment that I hope is an obvious point:  being burned out by events in comics is not relevant to the storyline of Shadowland. Collins does go on to complain about the treatment of Wolverine and Ghost Rider in the event. I suppose those are valid points, but again, the storyarc really wasn’t about Wolverine and Ghost Rider as much as the psychology and actions of Matt Murdock. I found numerous other reviews that also seemed to dislike Shadowland, but not for any real fault of Shadowland – or at least not to the extent that it should be given a 40% out of 100% grade.

Daredevil 508

Daredevil #508 cover

Callahan made a good observation when he wrote:  ” the best way to write about Matt Murdock is by having him appear sparingly.”  In Daredevil issues #505 – 509, Daredevil is quite present and in the majority of frames. In Shadowland, there is less of Murdock to be seen – except when he’s surprising us by jumping out of a dark corner or when he’s lounging in his darkened throne room.  However, this fits nicely with a storyline entitled “Shadowland.”  If people wanted to see Daredevil in bright sunlight in every frame, why are they reading something called Shadowland?

Several reviewers bemoaned the fact that in recent years, Daredevil / Matt Murdock has been mopey and miserable. While this may be true, its certainly not any fault of Diggle’s, nor should we demote Shadowland because of what happened in previous storyarcs. If this is so disagreeable, I’m glad I started with issue #505, because I am unaware of previous Miserable-Murdock. Finally, several people had the audacity to dislike Daredevil’s black costume. While I am mockingly amused by Daredevil’s quick change (is there some superhero costume shop everyone goes to in a pinch or when they change their modus operandi?), I think the black costume is the best Daredevil suit ever. (Wanna talk about the YELLOW suit?!) But enough about the naysayers!

The plot:  Shadowland is the story about the deeply rooted bitterness, self-doubt, and interior struggles of a blind lawyer/superhero.  The protagonist is also a martial arts expert who happens to have good intentions when he takes over a notoriously corrupt organization of ninjas.  With the hope of turning the organization into a force of good, the protagonist is ridiculed and attacked by those who seek other goals.  Influenced by the secret Snakeroot group, the protagonist loses the struggle with managing superhero morality and his role in a powerful organization. Snakeroot, capitalizing on the weakened psyche of the protagonist, forces him to become a conduit for an evil magical being. Supporting characters do not understand the inner turmoil of the protagonist, nor are they aware of the efforts of Snakeroot. These characters are left to make sense of their friend’s actions while maintaining their own moral code.  Now, if you say you do not like this plot, you’re probably lying – since this plot has been used countless times in all sorts of media to great success.

Shadowland Elektra

Shadowland: Elektra cover

This is the perfect plot for the Daredevil character, I believe.  Murdock being a loner from Hell’s Kitchen can carry a plot that that involves secretive scheming and nighttime ninja fighting. In some sense, its almost Gothic without any of the modernized Gothic emotive babbling. In fact, throughout Shadowland, we are fortunate that we aren’t privy to constant drivel in the form of inner dialogue while Murdock grapples with his inner demons.  Instead, for the most part, we only see the exterior results of Murdock’s “transformation.”

If there is a true deuteragonist, its probably Master Izo. He was in New York when the ninja lords of The Hand were conspiring to make Daredevil their new leader. Izo helped Daredevil and together the two overcame the Kingpin and Lady Bullseye, eventually banishing them from Hell’s Kitchen.  Izo later faked his own murder at the hands of Daredevil in order to deceive the Hand so that they accept Daredevil as their new leader. In other words, Izo’s been the hand moving the chess pieces well before these issues of Shadowland. In this event, Izo is the one aiding the heroes by getting them to understand that the Beast has “wormed its way inside” Murdock and they must act quickly – and kill, if necessary.  Izo urges Elektra to get involved and he tells Luke Cage and Iron Fist the real situation. Also, he’s the reader’s help because he acts as a pseudo-narrator for those of us who haven’t been keeping up with Daredevil.

Other great elements include Iron Fist’s use of Chi. Finally, someone utilizing Iron Fist and his power in a way that doesn’t emphasize destruction.  Shang-Chi has good moments and bad. In his bad moments, he’s somewhat annoying. In his good moments, he really completes the “martial arts” trinity that could be Daredevil, Iron Fist, and himself. In the pages of Daredevil, the reactions to the situation are demonstrated by “Foggy” Nelson, Dakota North, Becky Blake, and Detective Alex Kurtz. These pages give the reader a good sense of what is happening in NYC at the street level for the regular citizen. It looks gritty, scary, and ominous.  If you are interested in these characters, it seems they are handled fairly well.

Overall, Shadowland is well worth purchasing and reading. I don’t think one needs every tie-in (as I listed above, I did the bare minimum) to get an enjoyable read. I liked this mini-event and am a bit sad it’s over.

5 stars

Daredevil and Shadowland #1

I have never been a huge Daredevil fan. There are two reasons for this:  1.  (at the risk of seeming absurd) Daredevil seemed impossible to believe. Yes, I am aware that all kinds of things go on in comics that are impossible, bizarre, and unreal. However, I think somehow my willing suspension of disbelief stops at a guy who is a mix of Batman and Spider-Man and is blind. I just cannot make that leap.  2.  Daredevil always seemed like a “nice” guy.  I mean, he seemed obnoxiously goody-two-shoes.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating villainy, but something about Matt Murdock’s morality irritates me.  Nevertheless, I was vaguely interested in the renumbering of the Daredevil series at issue #500 and I was actually excited for writer Andy Diggle to take over the title. Unfortunately, I was never able to get my hands on (and maybe because it was never top priority) issues #500 – #504.   I probably should attempt to scoop them up.

Last night and today I’ve begun reading these Daredevil issues. Obviously, much of this is the lead up to the Marvel “mini-event” Shadowland.

Shadowland card

Shadowland teaser card

I didn’t really know what Shadowland was going to be about. However the art was definitely awesome looking. And it was called “Shadowland.”  If that’s not an interesting title, I dunno what is. So what if it focused on Daredevil? This had to be something worth reading.

So, I made the effort to get some of the Shadowland issues and some of the issues of Daredevil prior to Shadowland. I managed to get issues #505 onward, but I didn’t begin reading them. As is usually the case, I was unsure of the reading order for the event anyway, because like all events, Shadowland seemed to run through a core miniseries, Daredevil, and a couple of one-shots and miniseries. As I collected the issues, I had to continually admit that the covers were really awesome. In particular, Daredevil #505 and #506 were really great. Eventually I went and looked at the variant and second printing of some of these issues and I was even further impressed. (#501, #508, #510 second printing covers are even better than the first printings!)

I read issues #505 – #508 and Shadowland #1.   I am thoroughly impressed and I love what I have read of this arc, so far. I mean it. Its great. By far, this is some of the best artwork interior-wise that I’ve seen in a long while. I do not mean that there are just a few good frames. I mean that there are whole issues where the art melds perfectly with the story and is beautiful, intense, and colorful. (Here’s me, putting this stuff in the Louvre and The Met….)

As I mentioned, I jumped in to these issues at #505. What’s going on? I don’t really know. Matt Murdock and White Tiger are flying to Japan to meet with Daimyo and The Hand.  What/Who is The Hand?  Well, if you read any Marvel Comics, you know The Hand is an organization of ninja. So, of course, I’m sold. Ninja.  There isn’t a whole lot in the world that’s better than ninja. Its like even the worst story can be okay if it includes ninja.  Daredevil has become leader of The Hand. He’s going to meet with the daimyo to attempt to unify them in order to turn The Hand from a criminal organization into one of protection and justice.

While in Japan, there is intrigue among the daimyo which results in ninjas fighting. I’ll say it again: ninjas fighting. And the artwork is tremendous. Seriously. I would make posters out of all of these frames. Marco Checcetto and Matt Hollingsworth were the pencilers and colorists, respectively, for these issues. They did a ridiculously good job. Ninjas fighting – great artwork – awesomeness!

After I finished issues #505 – #507, I read Shadowland #1, which starts the event. Andy Diggle is writing the event and Billy Tan is the main artist. This is new territory for me, because although I’ve heard about these guys, I had never read any of their work. I approached the first issue expecting it to be a sort of “build up” issue in which not much happens and we are supposed to learn backstory.  Instead, Shadowland #1 continues straight where Daredevil #507 left off.

Shadowland #1

Shadowland #1 cover

Matt Murdock has returned to NYC.  Bullseye is being transported on a prison transport ship (amusingly with the call sign whiskey tango foxtroti.e. WTF) – and he escapes. We learn that Daredevil, who has copped a very cold, dark attitude, has fought with Bullseye previously – wherein Bullseye leveled a city block and killed over 100 people in doing so. On this city block, Daredevil has built “Shadowland.”  Its a Japanese-style building serving as headquarters for The Hand under Daredevil’s control. The purpose is to protect and defend Hell’s Kitchen from criminals.  The Avengers (i.e. Thor, Iron Man, Iron Fist, Captain America, Luke Cage) are discussing these new changes. Luke Cage is very vocal about disliking Matt setting himself as judge, jury, and executioner of NYC.  Iron Man and Captain America understand the need for Shadowland, but insist that it must be a temporary situation.  They encourage Iron Fist and Luke Cage to chat with Matt to find out Matt’s intentions and to discuss his recent attitude changes.

Bullseye confronts Daredevil on the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen. He fights off a pack of Hand ninjas. (Read: cool ninjas fighting) Finally, Daredevil steps in and mercilessly beats the crap out of Bullseye (breaks and dislocates his shoulders and arms) – ending the fight with stabbing Bullseye through the torso.  Luke Cage and Iron Fist, who were on their way to see Matt, witness this and are shocked.

What’s great about this issue? Everything. Daredevil’s black costume is very, very cool. Luke Cage and Iron Fist as minor characters are interesting and well played. Bullseye getting killed? Also surprising in the first issue of this event. The artwork is tremendous and I have to say that I am hooked.

I can easily give all of these issues (Daredevil #505 – #508 and Shadowland #1) 5 stars.  The writing is just to my tastes and the artwork is perfect. Again, let me reiterate: NINJAS.

5 stars