Saturday, January 12, 2013

Prelude To Shadowland, Daredevil: Lady Bullseye Is Unfortunately Unremarkable On Its Own.

The Good: Moments of plot, character conflict, and foreshadowing
The Bad: No sense of character resolution, Not really a complete story, Most of the artwork.
The Basics: Daredevil: Lady Bullseye is a necessary component in the build-up to Shadowland, but on its own it is an utterly unimpressive trade paperback anthology.

I love long, complicated stories. I honestly do. I am finding, however, that I loathe the business of Marvel Comics. Marvel Comics is an impatient publisher and they (and, I suppose, their fan base) are utterly unwilling to delay gratification (or profit). I write this because they have an annoying tendency to publish trade paperback anthologies of their comic books that are designed for speed, as opposed to completion. In the storyline of Daredevil, this is particularly annoying in the lead-up to Shadowland.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Shadowland Saga was a Daredevil-centered vigilante crossover event that found Daredevil, possessed, retaking the streets of Hell’s Kitchen by using the Hand, the assassin’s guild that he long fought against. As the head of the Hand, Matt Murdock was twisted into a mockery of what he once stood for. It might be an interesting story, but there is no omnibus version that collects the complete story, so readers have to bounce between several anthologies to try to piece the plot together. As it happens, like most truly important events in a comic book hero’s arc, the major event did not come randomly. There was a build-up to the Shadowland Saga and, as I occasionally pick up a Daredevil book these days, I am tracing my way back up to it. One of the earliest volumes to lay the groundwork for the Shadowland Saga is Daredevil: Lady Bullseye/

Lady Bullseye tells a very simple, suspiciously direct Daredevil story. The Hand is in chaos after, apparently, Electra was replaced by a Skrull, exposed and killed. Now, months later, the Hand is operating with at least two major factions vying for dominance. Lord Hirochi uses a young woman, one who was once sold into sexual slavery, but was liberated by Bullseye when the assassin just happened to be passing through killing people. Taking up the mantle of Lady Bullseye, she arrives in New York and begins waging a war of her own and executing the will of Hirochi.

At this time, Matt Murdock, who is still married to Milla (who is upstate in an asylum), has a one-night stand with Dakota North. Lady Bullseye implicates Daredevil in a murder and Dakota provides Murdock with an alibi, complicating his life. But when Lady Bullseye sets operatives of The Hand against the Black Tarantula and the Iron Fist, they go running to the beleaguered Daredevil. Visited by the ancient Master Izo, Daredevil and his friends try to stop the Hand as they repeatedly attack at night, while during the day, Matt Murdock finds himself under assault from Milla’s parents, who want custody of their daughter.

Lady Bullseye is fine . . . in context, which is what makes this slim volume that collects only five comic books, all the more annoying. On its own, it is very much an incomplete book, the first (or second) chapter in a much, much larger Saga. And Marvel could have easily held off and made a large “Prelude To Shadowland” book that gave readers a single, linear narrative to follow that took readers from whatever the Skrull event was through to the official Shadowland books. But, alas, that is not to be (at least not here).

As a result, Ed Brubaker’s Lady Bullsye is a thoroughly underwhelming book that slowly builds a conspiracy and sets up an inkling of a character conflict without either exploring or resolving the conflict. Instead, this is like the “Phantom Menace” Effect; something is going on, but readers will have no idea (unless they already know what is coming . . . four books from now!). The fundamental problem here is that, despite Matt Murdock’s moralizing about how he is a married man and he is appalled with himself for having had an affair, there is not a compelling conflict within the book for the readers. The book opens with him hanging out with Dakota and until the affair is done, there is no mention of him actually being married (Marvel, rather stupidly, provides no “previously in Daredevil” notes at the beginning of Lady Bullseye). And while he asks the question – “Why am I clinging to this dead relationship with Milla?” – the book ends before that question can be truthfully explored or resolved.

On the plus side, the title character is not simply a female retread of Bullseye, so there is something potentially compelling going on that makes Lady Bullseye worth reading. Like so many decent villains, Lady Bullseye’s backstory is steeped in personal tragedy and has the potential to be something intriguing for most readers. Unfortunately, Lady Bullesye never quite gets there. She is almost a peripheral character – the instigator of the action in the book, but not genuinely the subject of it – in Lady Bullseye.

The artwork in Lady Bullseye is mediocre. The coloring is vibrant and has good depth, but it is shading in blockish artwork that is less distinctive or compelling.

In the end, Lady Bullseye is a fair start or step along a more complicated storyline that is only hinted to in this volume.

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


For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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