Andy Diggle's "Daredevil" run has been firing on all cylinders recently, which is why it's so confusing that despite featuring Daredevil as the main villain, Shadowland has felt much weaker.
In this issue, Matt's odd behavior finally gets an explanation, but it's hard to say whether this plot development is an improvement. It takes what started as a very personal downward spiral, and apparently makes it someone else's fault entirely -- far less interesting than if Matt were genuinely at fault. Despite this revelation, it still feels as though we're missing a chapter between the previous arc of Daredevil and the start of Shadowland which would have explained all of this a little better.
Although the series is ostensibly a street-level crossover, the focus is largely on Daredevil, and the other characters suffer as a result. Although I like the "wild card" element of having Ghost Rider in the mix, it feels completely artificial for the Hand to have the ability to summon and control him. To Diggle's credit, at least he addresses this, but only in a cursory manner. There isn't really enough time for any more.
In all fairness, it's hard to tell how much of this series' weakness is down to Diggle, and how much is down to the team around him. Tan's artwork, while capable and enjoyable during action scenes, is stunted and wooden whenever nuance is called for. Elsewhere, there's a sense that those in charge have had a little too much say over what's going on in Shadowland, as its structure shows the same failings as "Civil War" and "Secret Invasion" did before it: characters appearing just so their story can be told in another comic, scenes and chronology that don't match up with spin-off titles... I'll say this for the X-Office's inter-book crossover format, at least you feel like you're reading one single story that makes sense on its own -- something Shadowland can't really claim (unless you think it's advantageous, structurally, to still be introducing the cast at the half-way mark.)
There are glimpses of Diggle's normal high standard -- the scene between Lady Bullseye and the Kingpin is the most enjoyable part of the series, and his slightly forlorn version of Shang Chi raised a laugh -- but normally, Diggle produces a whole comic this readable, not just the one scene.
On the plus side, the development at the end of this issue is an interesting one, though not entirely unexpected. The series has been gradually improving, so perhaps with his obligations to the crossover format out of the way, Diggle will deliver a fantastic two-part finale. Three issues in, though, I have to admit that with half the series gone, it hasn't lived up to the standard I was hoping for. But, then, I'm not sure I can remember the last Marvel event that did.