Daredevil has seemed like a difficult character to write in recent years. Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker have done fantastic work on the “Daredevil” comic book, but Matt Murdock has often been one of the least interesting characters in the series. He’s the straight man (or the sad, grumpy man) in a world of insanity swirling around him. So now here’s an entire mini-event at Marvel, not line-wide, but wide-spanning, with most of Marvel’s street-level characters getting in on the action and maybe receiving their own one-shot as a reward. And in this “Shadowland” event, Daredevil is the focal point. He may not appear much in this issue, and he may not end up appearing a whole lot in the series overall, but it seems like everyone either wants to take Daredevil down or… wait to take Daredevil down. Villains and heroes, included.
Andy Diggle, regular “Daredevil” writer since the end of Brubaker’s run, is the writer of this “Shadowland” series, and even he seems to recognize that the best way to write about Matt Murdock is by having him appear sparingly. This first issue focuses more on Bullseye, which is nice, because Bullseye is a character with plenty of personality, and Diggle gets to the core of Bullseye’s savagely comic persona. Bullseye chews up the scenery here, and it’s appropriate that Billy Tan draws him wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask the first time we see the character, because Bullseye is a scene-stealing character. Even muzzled like Anthony Hopkins, he’s still the most interesting thing on the page.
Everything with Bullseye in “Shadowland” #1 works well. And there’s plenty of it.
The rest of “Shadowland” #1 is not nearly as good, unfortunately. It’s only a few pages out of the entire issue, but the scenes involving the Avengers are more stilted than the rest of the comic. Luke Cage and Danny Rand talk morality as if they hadn’t already been through this same situation with Matt Murdock a couple of years ago when Daredevil became the “kingpin” of Hell’s Kitchen. Bendis underplayed their reaction during that time period, but it was a more effective approach than the moaning about “judge, jury, and executioner” that goes on here.
And though Billy Tan’s art looks just fine in the Bullseye sequences (though I don’t think the black Daredevil redesign looks particularly good), when he’s drawing the Avengers scenes, his character work is inelegant and the poses are awkward. He struggles with the nuance of facial expression in those scenes, and in one three-shot, Iron Man is posed in front of Captain America and Thor in such a way that the floor of Avengers headquarters must be sloped down from the windows at a 45 degree angle or something. It looks odd and physically impossible, which probably wasn’t the intended effect.
But that’s only a small part of an issue that’s mostly about Bullseye preparing to stab Daredevil in the face. And Diggle and Tan are good with Bullseye, and with stabbing. And the final page features, well, not really a surprise, but an exclamation point. “Shadowland” doesn’t evoke the superior Bendis or Brubaker runs on “Daredevil,” but it does have its own Shooter-era Marvel kind of appeal. It’s “Gang War 2010,” but with more superheroes, and I’m willing to give that a read.