Daredevil is a hero who hasn’t been afraid to explore darker moral territory over the years, so the premise of Shadowland — what would happen if he simply became the kind of villain he normally fights — seems like such a logical progression that it’s almost surprising it took so long to get here.
However, after a long build-up, they kind of cheated a little. At the moment, the events of Shadowland feel strangely unreal, because we’re still not clear on what happened to turn Matt into this dark version of himself. There are suggestions of possession, but it seems too sudden. He was on the path to darkness immediately before Shadowland began, but something has tipped him way, way over the ledge. As a Daredevil fan, I’m not convinced it’s a satisfying twist.
On the plus side, it’s entirely credible that the Hand building a castle in the center of Hell’s Kitchen would not go unnoticed by the local super-heroes on the ground, and their introduction into the story — Moon Knight’s in particular — is perfectly pitched. It’s less easy to see why Ghost Rider and Spider-Man are involved, though, beyond shifting units. The latter can just about get away with it by being part of the extended Daredevil cast (though his role as “Matt’s concerned super-hero friend” is filled several times over in this issue) but the former’s presence is downright jarring and makes me wonder whether this story isn’t going to suffer from its “kitchen-sink” casting decisions.
Tan’s artwork is vastly more suited to this issue than the one immediately prior, and his dialogue scenes — never the artist’s strong point in the past — are improving. Ghost Rider, Fisk, and Lady Bullseye are particularly well-drawn, and overall the poses seem less still than Tan’s usual fare. It’s a welcome improvement.
The trouble with Shadowland, at the moment, is that it doesn’t feel believable as an event book. The scenes that a Daredevil story would hinge on, such as Matt’s “intervention,” fall flat when they should be the centerpiece, and the cast feels positively padded out with heroes standing around doing little to justify their presence.
Diggle’s “Daredevil” run has been generally very strong, and the build-up to “Shadowland” has been fit to stand alongside the best of Bendis and Brubaker’s runs. But now that the event is here, something seems missing, and right now it appears to be the personal air that has made “Daredevil” a consistently brilliant series for the last 10 years. It’s fair to say that after that long, there’s nothing wrong with trying something new, but two issues into the story, it’s hard not to conclude that ultimately, it doesn’t appear to be working.