Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shadowland Puts Daredevil At The Forefront In An Incomplete Story.

The Good: Moments of plot, Most of the art, Moments of character.
The Bad: Not enough character, Gaping plot holes
The Basics: Shadowland is another Marvel story that has a good general story, but is missing so many key elements as to not stand up on its own.

I miss the days when graphic novels were not simple, but complete. A good story with real character development makes me happy. But more than that, I like being able to pick up a book and get the whole story. Lately, it seems like the big graphic novel stories are so massive or dense that they become such large crossover events that they require a guide to read them, like my guide to reading Blackest Night (that's here!). I wish I could believe that it was merely that the publishers wanted to tell great stories, but given how they churn out graphic novels that do not connect the stories, I know that is not the real reason. The latest cashgrab I have gotten into is the Shadowland Saga. I read Daredevil: Shadowland (reviewed here!) and was disappointed by how incomplete it was. But, I was intrigued enough to pick up Shadowland.

Sadly, though, Shadowland suffers from many of the same problems as Daredevil: Shadowland did. That is to say, the story the graphic novel tells is noticeably incomplete. Even more annoying than Daredevil: Shadowland, Shadowland has a choppy sense to it that lacks cohesion and reasonable breaks. Also like Daredevil: Shadowland, Shadowland does not have much in the way of character development. When combining the two works, though, there are overlaps and some of the resolution in the other volume - notably Foggy Nelson's reactions - read as entirely baffling.

Daredevil has degenerated behind the walls of the Shadowland castle he and the Hand have erected in the middle of Hell's Kitchen. With the residents of Hell's Kitchen free to walk under the protection of the Hand, fear spreads through the community there. When the Avengers decide that the Shadowland problem is not a problem they want to take on at that point, the more mundane heroes in New York decide to take on Daredevil themselves. What they plan as an intervention quickly becomes something more urgent when Daredevil defends Shadowland against Bullseye and he kills him.

With Bullseye dead, the criminals fall in line faster, with many of them like Elektra and Typhoid Mary joining Daredevil's Hand. When the traditional good guys - Spider-man, Ghost Rider, the Punisher, Luke Cage and Iron Fist - are visited by Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, they are reluctantly forced to agree with him when he argues that Daredevil must be taken down. The heroes and Foggy Nelson converge on Shadowland to stop Daredevil, who has been possessed by a demon.

Without spoiling anything, Shadowland holds up poorly on its own, though the story is a generally engaging one. Matt Murdock has been a moral absolutist, but Shadowland finds him possessed by a demon. The only real character development for Murdock comes as the demon is exorcised late in the book and it is a tragically unremarkable. It does not reveal anything about Murdock that readers or even those not invested in Daredevil would not already know ("demon bad!"). Of course Murdock would feel remorse about being possessed, but it is hard to care when the character of Matt Murdock is absent for the bulk of the volume.

Within the volume, it is sensible that even Elektra thinks Murdock is gone when he decides he needs to bolster his personal army by resurrecting Bullseye. This is also that last moment any reader ought to believe that Matt Murdock is even still within Daredevil. In addition to pretty obvious costume changes - which Spider-man makes note of - that idea just rings as terrible.

The other niggling problem with the big picture is that the books do not fit together well - or sensibly. So, for example, after the climax, Foggy Nelson is awfully proud of himself in Daredevil: Shadowland. Because of where that story cut out in that volume, I assumed his reasons for being proud of himself and the elements he alluded to would be present in Shadowland. That scene is completed in Shadowland, but it does not have Foggy Nelson doing anything he did not already do in the other volume.

The artwork in Shadowland is good with a decent sense of movement and all of the characters are recognizable. But the story is still too fractured to recommend and the lack of actual character development is troubling to serious readers.

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


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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