After reading this comic, you could be forgiven for thinking you had just read a Shang Chi title. Of course, there’s a reason this book wasn’t titled “Shadowland: Shang Chi,” and that’s because no-one would have bought it. From the contents, though, it would undeniably have been just as legitimate a title.
It’s unfortunate; What ought to have presented the perfect opportunity for Spider-Man to have a long-awaited, long-anticipated heart-to-heart with his friend and sometime confidante Daredevil was instead used as an apparent excuse to test the waters for some Master of Kung Fu material. While few would be opposed to see Shang Chi getting some page time under the “Shadowland” banner, it would have just been nice to see him given the equal billing he deserves, then readers could have made an accurate decision about their interest based on the book’s title. The relationship between Spider-Man and Daredevil is an important one, in superhero terms, and if Spider-Man is getting involved with Shadowland, we need to see him try to get through to Matt as his friend. Where would have been more appropriate to do that than here, in the book written by Spidey’s soon-to-be-sole writer?
Still, despite the disappointment, there are a few good moments; It’s a Dan Slott story, so that’s to be expected. In particular, it’s interesting to see the characters debating the mechanics and morality of fighting a massive depletable Ninja horde versus fighting a finite number of seemingly unstoppable demons. These are the moral quandaries that exist in no other medium, and it’s undeniably entertaining to see them being treated as if they might be real concerns. It’s almost as entertaining as the moment Shang Chi risks himself to save a pigeon.
Siqueira’s artwork is well-realised, and he skilfully composes the group fights so as not to make them seem too crowded and unreadable. The coloring too is dark and grainy, reflecting the mood of Hell’s Kitchen under the Hand. It’s a problem that, between Mr. Negative’s goons and the Hand’s ninja costumes, the vast majority of this book’s characters are identical to one another. That’s something any artistic team would struggle to keep interesting.
Ultimately, there’s nothing truly upsetting about the story or its execution. It’s just a shame that, once again, a Shadowland spin-off books has used the event as a generic backdrop rather than an excuse to flesh out the core story. Bar some minor thematic links and the appearance of ninjas, this Spidey/Shang Chi Vs. Mr. Negative story could have come at almost any time. It says a lot about the importance of managing reader expectation that as an issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” it would have been welcomed, but in a story ostensibly related to Shadowland, it can’t help but feel like filler.