Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Billy Tan, Victor Olazaba and Guru eFx
Lettering by Joe Carmagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
Talk about the difference between premise and execution -- because while Shadowland has been getting a lot of flak for its simplification of Matt Murdock's character arc as Master of the Hand, when you take that out of the equation, there's a lot of interesting things that Andy Diggle and Billy Tan add to the mix. It may not be your cup of tea, but as far as the team dynamics go, there's a bit of a silver lining to Daredevil's otherwise cloudy status quo.
What do I mean? Well, yes, it's tough to ignore the fact that Matt Murdock's personality has gone from a personal crucible -- would taking over the homicidal ninnja clan known as the Hand turn them into a force for justice, or pervert one of Marvel's most hard-luck superheroes into a killer? -- and is now the sort of inorganic about-face that would get Parallax-level outrage if it wasn't so drawn-out. I get that, it's frustrating, but if you're reading the fourth issue of this, well, that's kind of par for the course.
Where I think Diggle does succeed -- or at least makes some real improvement -- is his use of Marvel's plethora of street-level characters. Was their inclusion in the previous issues organic? Heck no. But seeing them in Issue #4 Diggle gives lots of great moments, whether its Elektra taking down Hand ninjas with her blades, or Spider-Man going one-on-one with Tyhpoid Mary. It's not the cleanest dialogue in the world, but maybe that's fitting -- if you're not into the hyper-naturalism that goes into Brian Michael Bendis's Avengers, you get the sense that this is almost a reaction to that, almost harkening back to the super-utilitarianism of Grant Morrison and his JLA years: Even if the moves aren't the smartest in the world, you see why Wolverine takes one tactic, and the Punisher takes another.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Billy Tan, who's also been getting a lot of flak for his art. Chances are, he won't win any new converts, but I have to give him a lot of credit in the fact that this is the cleanest issue he's put out yet. While sometimes I think the characters get a little blocky and a little too craggy -- almost a marriage of David Finch and Leinil Francis Yu's styles -- there are some moments of real pop here, especially seeing the musculature in Elektra's arms as she somersaults through a cadre of sword-swinging ninjas. I think a lot of this also comes back to Guru eFx's colors -- it's a little bit warmer of a color scheme, and I think it definitely is a step in the right direction towards giving Tan's art some real energy.
Now, that's not to say that this book doesn't have some heavy flaws, almost entirely stemming from its central premise -- it feels like an incredible disservice to Daredevil as a character to take what could have been his finest (and most morally ambiguous) hour and turn it into a case of mind-control. Ultimately, it makes the central figure of this arc almost an anti-character rather than a character, a villain with no real motivation that the rest of the cast is just reacting to. But ultimately, how much of that is on the writer's end, and how much of this is due to sales? Is Shadowland less an attempt to reinvigorate lagging sales and more of a launchpad to wipe the slate clean for a new beginning? In that way, the plot seems to mask the storytelling, which is a shame -- he may have a thankless job getting us there, but when Diggle has his fun with the characters, you see that there might be a bright spot in Shadowland after all.What did you think of Shadowland #4?