Or – “Heel Turn Or Swerve?  Only Vince And The Writing Team Know For Sure…”

The real fact of the matter regarding Daredevil is that he’s pretty much ALWAYS been marginalized in the Marvel Universe.  Sure, there was the Fantastic Four Crossover back in the day, and he played a role in Contest Of Champions (aka Marvel Super-Heroes At The Winter Olympics, a story I’m sure I should tell one of these days) but generally speaking, Matt Murdock doesn’t come and play in all the superheroic reindeer games.  Things are about to change, though, as DD is going to be a power player in the post-Norman-Osborn Marvel U.  Whether his role will be that of hero or villain seems to be up in the air…

Shadowland #1
WRITER: ANDY DIGGLE
PENCILS: BILLY TAN

INKS: BATT
COVER BY: JOHN CASSADAY
COLORS: CHRISTINA STRAIN
LETTERS: JOE CARAMAGNA

PUBLISHED BY: MARVEL COMICS

Previously, on Shadowland:  The Hand has a long and storied history in the Marvel Universe.  Originally a feudal-era Japanese offshoot of some sort of ninja clan, they’ve grown to become a thorn in the side of most of the heroes in the Marvel Universe.  They killed Matt Murdock’s mentor, co-opted Elektra, and eventually lost favor as villain groups go, replaced by Hydra and such.  In recent years, they even found themselves fooled into being led by a Skrull, but when the fake Elektra was unseated, the ninja clan was leaderless.  Enter:  Daredevil.  As the Hand splintered, DD agreed to take over leadership of the group, ostensibly to try and keep them on the straight and narrow.  But there’s an old saying about ‘gazing into the abyss’ and its effects on your psyche, and Mister Murdock has found himself traveling a pretty dark path of late…  Can the “street-level” heroes of the Marvel Universe pull him out of his tailspin?

We open with some dark and seedy doings in the bowels of a Japanese castle.  A cadre of evil ninjas (known as the Snakeroot) has infiltrated the Hand, and are slowly trying to corrupt Daredevil, leading him down a path that will taint his spirt forever blah blah blah fishcakes.  “He cannot be corrupted from without,” muses one of the evil ninja.  “He must damn HIMSELF.”  Luckily, they keep their evil schemes numbered for just such an emergency.  Back in New York, the fallout from Norm-O’s deposement (is that a word?) continues, as the merciless psychopath known as Bullseye is out of Hawkeye’s costume and being remanded to the custody of The Vault, a maximum-security facility of metahumans and costumed nutjobs.  Chained up and wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask, Bullseye tries to get away using psychological tactics, and fails, but suddenly goes into cardiac arrest.  It’s an interesting gambit, but I was dragged forcibly out of the story by the fact that the second half of this sequence is dark and muddy as heck, and Bullseye’s entire facial shape changes from panel to panel.  When the guards try to save Bullseye, he ends up killing them with the defibrillator they tried to save him with.  “The heart’s just another muscle,” he sneers.  “It can be CONTROLLED.”  Bullseye kills his jailers and sets forth to New York, specifically to Shadowland, Daredevil’s pagoda/castle (built on the site of a building that Bullseye himself razed, apparently.)  We get a glimpse of a few of our ground-level, realistic players: Moon Knight (who is also on Mars this month), The Punisher (who just last month was a scarred cyborg mess),  The Kingpin (whose blindness was cured by miraculous something or others) and Spider-Man (whose wife was sold to the devil in exchange for a donut that represented his soul.)  It’s a good thing that we have these stories to remind us of how the normal folks live.

Regardless of backstory, though, all the players seem to sense something big is in the wings, and the Kingpin remarks to his majordomo, Lady Bullseye that it’s time to begin…  But begin WHAT?  At the same time in Avengers Tower, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor meet with Luke Cage and Iron Fist, asking them to act as Avengers ambassadors to Hell’s Kitchen, and see what’s really going on with DD.  The Big Three want to make it clear that as soon as things are back to normal, Shadowland will be a thing of the past.  When Luke wonders what they’ll do if he says “no,” Cap curtly responds “That would be UNWISE.”  While they do have a point about building a fortress in the center of New York being a questionable idea, the thought that three super-soldiers would drop from the sky and dismantle it brings back the old Civil War-era Iron Man tactics, making me kind of side with Daredevil on this one.  As the threesome observes the castle, Bullseye actually climbs up it and calls the man out.  “The last time I agreed to fight you alone,” comes a voice from the darkness, “you murdered 107 innocent civilians.”  To keep that from happening again, he lets a batallion of his ninjas attack first.  Luke and Danny arrive to help, but Daredevil wants an assurance first:  That they swear their eternal allegiance to The Hand.  “That would be a no,” replies Cage, and Daredevil turns down their help.  Bullseye hacks his way through Daredevil’s retinue, only to face the man himself in hand to hand combat.  Daredevil quickly dislocates both the assassins arms, to Bullseye’s disbelief.  Power Man Cage and Iron Fist leap into action as Bullseye babbles for mercy, but they’re too late.  Daredevil takes a sai and performs some poetic justice on the man who once ran Elektra through…

If this series is what I hope it is, we may be looking at a REAL game-changer.  There have been a number high-profile villains who played anti-hero (Venom, The Punisher, and others) as well as misunderstood villains gone straight (65% of the Avengers) but we’ve never actually seen a first-tier hero go rogue on this scale.  The implications of the ending (presuming that Bullseye is actually dead) are that Matt Murdock has finally been corrupted by his near-constant stream of indignities and dead girlfriends due to ninja attack and has finally come to the realization that his morality has been keeping him down.  Pretty heady stuff, especially given the Avengers ready to swoop in and shut down his operation, and the fact that it looks like none other than The KINGPIN may be his only ally.  Either way, this issue was nice and tense from a character viewpoint.  Having not read Daredevil in a while, I can’t telll you if he’s out of character, but Luke, Danny and Thor are well-done throughout, and Captain America and Iron Man aren’t distractingly written.  (A bit more hardcase than in recent months, but still.)  My major complaint comes in Billy Tan’s art, stiff throughout the issue, but almost grotesque in the final panel of page 8, and distracting as hell when he draws Iron Man repeatedly in nearly the same pose several times.  Parts of the issue are just plain ugly, and I am saddened that the whole thing is wrapped in a cover by John Cassaday (at least the issue that I bought.)  Still, the writing makes up for many of the faults here, and if I’m the only one rooting for an honest-to-Goran/Globus heel turn, some people are seriously missing out on the potential here.  Shadowland #1 earns a well-done 3.5 out of 5 stars overall (a score which could have been a 4, possibly a 4.5, if only the art were a bit clearer.)

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Would it not be awesome to see a major hero turn dark for REALSIES?  Imagine the dramatic potential!

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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10 Comments

  1. brenton8090
    July 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm — Reply

    Yeah, I’d like nothing more than to see him turn bad and stay that way. Remember, writers and actors: never be afraid to make the more interesting choice, and never look back. And seeing him turn bad F/REALZIZ is by far the more interesting choice.

  2. kirk3d
    July 9, 2010 at 7:14 am — Reply

    I can’t buy Marvel’s claim as DD becoming the MU’s #1 villain. Not because of his heroic nature, but because of his limited power set.

    To call him the #1 villain puts above the likes of Apocalypse, Magneto, Dr. Doom, Annihilus, Super Scrull, Vulcan, Kang, etc. That’s just stupid. I’d view even Kraven as a bigger threat than DD.

    • aerspyder
      July 9, 2010 at 8:37 am — Reply

      I couldn’t disagree more abotu DD not being a threat. If anything, it the underpowered that usually make the worse villians. Kingpin, Norman, Lex Luthor (if I can bring in someone from the DCU) are three that just pop into my head without any deep thinking. Sure Kingpin and Norman are strong and Norman has a healing factor but that is it and they were all badass.

      DD can hear you coming a mile a way and has an infinite number of ninjas to throw at you to soften you up before he unleashes the uber ninjas to kill you, then if that doesn’t work kills you himself.

      As for the question, seeing DD as the new kingpin/evil hand leader whater of the MU would be great. All of that pathos of Spider man saying “Matt come back to us, we were friends” and then DD saying I don’t know you anymore (b/c of the deal with the devil) would be awsome.

      • kirk3d
        July 9, 2010 at 10:05 am — Reply

        I’m not saying he isn’t a threat. I admit he would be a good contender and an interesting villain. I’m just saying he’s far from #1.

        I understand your point about the underpowered making good top villains, like Norman for instance. But for Dark Reign, Marvel had to find a way to take guys like Hulk, Thor, and Cap out of game first for it to work.

        Seriously, so DD can hear you a mile away and sic an army of ninjas on you. You think that’s enough to stop some of the top Marvel heroes? Think Thor, Silver Surfer, Black Bolt, Gladiator or Nova level guys. If you are gonna be “#1” you gotta be packing something that can topple the Big Dogs. I just don’t think DD has that.

        DD’s Hand will make a good fight for Spidey or Wolverine or Punisher. But I’d love to see Doom send a single vibranium enhanced Doombot to squash him like a bug for his impudence.

        It’s also interesting that they point to DD’s impaling of Bullseye as evidence of his heel turn. Didn’t Hawkeye just pump 4 slugs directly into Bullseye’s chest not too long ago?

  3. MaximusRift
    July 9, 2010 at 12:11 pm — Reply

    Well, so far he’s only killed Bullseye (…and he had it coming. Prick). That would put him at Punisher’s level. While you can call Punisher and DD villans solely based on that, not everyone will call them that. Heck, Logan might have done the same thing and nobody would’ve batted an eyelash. In this age of comics, can we call DD a villain based solely on that?

    However, for me to accept him fully as a villain, he has to kill off the whole Snakeroot. I won’t be into it if he’s just a lapdog or a puppet.

  4. Obsidian
    July 9, 2010 at 1:13 pm — Reply

    I think DD has the POTENTIAL to be an incredible villain but it really depends on how they make him work. I don’t agree that his ability to throw a bunch of ninjas at someone makes him dangerous. What can make him lethal, however, is his mind. He’s a lawyer, right? So, already he knows the importance of strategy and planning. Those two things along make his ability to throw ninjas dangerous. Not because of the ninjas themselves but because (in theory) he will (hopefully) know how to use those ninjas to cause the most damage, both physical and emotional.

    I think that’s really what makes him dangerous. Matt will be able to levy emotional attacks as well as physical ones. And we all know how quickly the former heals. Add to that the fact that the heroes will be pulling back (at least from the outset) and you have a villain that will be devestating on many different fronts.

    I don’t care much for the mindset that the mega-powered are the only ones who can prove themselves deadly. I’ll take a brilliant mind over super-strength any day. (How do you think Batman KEEPS beating Superman, anyway?) Let’s hope that’s what they focus on and keep the ninjas for basic mayhem.

    And you’re right, Matthew–it would be awesome. I’m hoping that Marvel has fully realized that and lets DD fall from grace.

  5. Jim
    July 9, 2010 at 11:40 pm — Reply

    Seeing how DD has an ongoing series and few villains have been able to support that, I would think he would be going the Punisher route, if anything. I don’t take any of Marvel’s promos at face value, though, since they’re often swerves.

    As far as the issue, I thought it was strong but felt pretty short to me. Diggle has been doing a good job leading up to this, so I hope he’s able to make something awesome here. I like all of these “street” heroes, so I’m excited to see where it goes.

  6. July 10, 2010 at 12:03 am — Reply

    (How do you think Batman KEEPS beating Superman, anyway?)

    Um… Complicity of the writer. Duh? :)

    • Damascus
      July 17, 2010 at 9:22 am — Reply

      Also the same way Superman used to constantly get caught in the same ways in the old TV show and seem to forget half of his powerset for about 21 minutes and then at the last minute find a different way out. That’s one of the reasons I used to hate Superman, not really because of the character himself, but the way the writers kept portraying him.

  7. Damascus
    July 17, 2010 at 9:28 am — Reply

    I think one of the potentially significant aspects of Daredevil as a villian/anti-hero isn’t that he has all these powers or ninjas, it’s the knowledge that he has of all the heroes and the resources at his fingertips. His army of ninjas can be a whole massive grapevine of eyes and ears, and the relationships he has with heroes in the Marvel U can get him very far. Take his ability to quickly dislocate Bullseye’s arms and I’m sure he could have aimed for a non-lethal stab and then keep him locked away in Shadowland and put on the appearance of evil/doing whatever it takes. He doesn’t need the power cosmic to do some damage. I’m actually excited for this, the last time I bought a Daredevil comic was when DD was in a 3-4 part miniseries of Amazing Spider-Man. I hope this does something great for the character.

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