Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fidelity To The Issues Pretty Much Kills Shadowland: Daredevil (An Otherwise Great Story!).

The Good: Engaging story, Moments of artwork
The Bad: No character development, Much of the artwork, Huge story holes.
The Basics: The Shadowland arc of Daredevil might be one of the character's most engaging conflicts in years, but it won't be found entirely in Shadowland: Daredevil.

Lately, as I have read through many graphic novels, I have noticed a disturbing trend from the major publishers. That tendency is to preserve fidelity to the issues of a book instead of fidelity to the storyline of that character. The most troubling incident of this before now was in DC's Blackest Night. When I began reading Blackest Night (reviewed here!) I quickly discovered that there were missing chapters and it was only when the book was combined with Blackest Night: Green Lantern (reviewed here!) that readers got the very most basic story of that Saga. In the case of Daredevil, I was excited to get my hands on Shadowland: Daredevil Or Daredevil: Shadowland but when I sat down to read it, I became more disappointed the longer the book went on. This was irksome because it was one of the more enjoyable Daredevil arcs that I have read in a while.

Sadly, though, the missing chapters in this book are so significant that the book is pretty much worthless after the midpoint. Writers Andy Diggle and Anthony Johnston let the story get broken up, so Shadowland: Daredevil is only the Daredevil issues of the Shadowland Saga, as well as the one-shot Shadowland: After The Fall. There was, apparently, a mini-series Shadowland whose issues cross over into this book to fill in the missing chapters and make the story make sense. Sadly, they are kept in a separate volume. The result is half the story and the key fights, conflicts and character moments (if they exist) are not in this book.

Daredevil has erected a fortress in the middle of Hell's Kitchen and from there, he is using the ninjas from The Hand to keep the peace in Hell's Kitchen. At night, citizens could walk the street, if they weren't so afraid of the Hand and for those who do go out, they discover they are protected by Daredevil's standing army. But Daredevil's friends and Matt Murdock's remaining friends believe something far more sinister is going on and that Murdock's life is in jeopardy. This fact is confirmed when Daredevil allows Typhoid Mary to join his ranks and Elektra arrives with the knowledge that the Hand is using Murdock as the vessel for an evil beast.

No one believes more in the unerring goodness of Murdock than Foggy Nelson, a man whose faith in Matt is so great that when Daredevil openly kills Bullseye, Foggy is adamant that it must be a ploy by the Kingpin. With private detective Dakota, Foggy enters the sealed off Shadowland district and makes his way through assassins to try to reach Murdock before his soul is entirely lost.

Sadly, I have no idea how that goes because it is not in the book. One chapter ends with Daredevil standing over fallen superheroes preparing to kill Foggy himself and the next chapter begins after the principle characters have cleared out. But Daredevil: Shadowland is pretty good up to a point. The story - even though I am so far behind in reading Daredevil that I was surprised Elektra is back in the mix (last I read, she was dead) - is engaging and the cast is an intriguing blend with Typhoid, Elektra, White Tiger and Black Tarantula making for an interesting palate to paint from.

What truly bites about Daredevil: Shadowland (and that is a professional term in this case) is the utter lack of character. This book belongs, if to anyone, to Foggy Nelson. Matt Murdock is a peripheral character to his own demise in this book and the key character moments are robbed from the reader. What happens when Elektra and Matt meet up inside Shadowland? How does Foggy save Matt Murdock? How did all those heroes like Spider-man end up impaled inside Shadowland? The answer . . . is not here. This is frustrating on more than just a plot level. Instead of leaving me scratching my head saying "what just happened," I spent more time asking "Why did these things happen and who did them?"

As one might suspect, Foggy Nelson could have a compelling character arc to do a story about, but this is not that either. Instead, Foggy is Foggy. He's the eternal optimist. He starts that way, he miraculously ends that way. Whatever happens in between, he seems fine with.

As for the artwork, Roberto De La Torre and Marco Checchetto continue to deliver Daredevil as if it is a runny painting. The panels have a decent sense of movement and most of the characters are recognizable in most of the frames, but they cheap out on some key panels or get lazy, especially with Elektra, whose proportions are off in several of the panels of the book. That said, the colors are vibrant and there is a good sense of movement through most of the book.

But, ultimately, that doesn't save the book. I've seen a number of big Marvel anthologies at the book store lately (many of them pertaining to the "Civil War" arc) and I am at a loss as to why they did not present the Shadowland Saga as a complete, big story. I am betting it has to do with making more money by selling more, smaller, books. I'd like to discourage that practice, so for my money, I'm advising against Shadowland: Daredevil until Marvel gets its act together, shows some respect for the fans and puts it together in a sensible book with the entire story in one linear narrative.

For other Daredevil books, please check out my reviews of:
The Essential Daredevil Volume 1
Daredevil Vs. Bullseye
Daredevil: Visionaries Volume 1 - Frank Miller
Born Again
Typhoid Mary
Guardian Devil
Parts Of A Hole
Daredevil: Yellow
Batman/Daredevil - King of New York
Daredevil Noir
Daredevil: Golden Age
Daredevil: Hell To Pay - Volume 1
Daredevil: Hell To Pay - Volume 2

4/10 (very liberal for that rating!)

For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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