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.
- 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.
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.
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.