The Devil You Know...

As always, here there be spoilers, so watch out if you haven't read any Shadowland yet.

I've really, really enjoyed Daredevil, recently. When Ed Brubaker's run was finishing up last year, I wholeheartedly believed that it was the best comic that no one was reading, the one really great comic that no one ever wrote about, that no one ever read about, that no one ever heard about. When Andy Diggle took over for Brubaker last fall, I figured there was going to be a drop in quality but it turned out that Diggle's writing wasn't any worse, just sort of different. The fact that the new writer took the old writer's toys and made me think we were playing a whole new kind of game was really an impressive feat and his Daredevil remained the best book that no one was reading.

I suppose that Shadowland aims to change that, to make the 'Devil' one that we know, and, although my first impressions of its first two issues (Shadowland #1 and Daredevil #508) were rather negative, I think the story so far reads a lot better the second time around. Shadowland #1 goes like this: Daredevil's gone all fascist in Hell's Kitchen and has built a huge pagoda to remind everyone who's in charge, the leaders of the Avengers aren't happy, send the leaders of the New Avengers (read: Luke and Danny, who, lets be honest, I'm always happy to see together in print) to talk to ol' Hornhead. That, of course, ends in an homage to one of Frank Miller's most famous Daredevil moments- which is, in and of itself, a clue to just how much different this Daredevil is to the Daredevil we're used to. Bullseye's moment of realization just before that homage is really clever, as is Diggle's Alan Moore-style arrogant-gods-above-the-fray portrayal of the big three Avengers and if nothing else, those moments are proof that Diggle is a master plotter in the old Marvel style, constantly building off old stories while also setting up new ones and, even if these ideas aren't exactly fresh, Diggle is building his tale and tackling his characters in a way that incorporates ideas that we've seen before and makes them feel new and interesting. My only major problem with what's here is that it feels like a prologue- there just isn't enough meat to it, despite the strength of some of the storytelling. It's definitely part of something bigger, but what it isn't is satisfying in and of itself, which is too bad- this stuff really is pretty good, and it would be a shame if it gets ruined because Diggle doesn't demonstrate an understanding of serial storytelling.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel, though; rather than telling the next part of the same story in Daredevil #508, Diggle and his co-writer Andy Johnston are writing a parallel story, equally as important but not necessarily contingent on having read the first. This seems to be where Marvel is headed as far as event storytelling is concerned- tell a bunch of stories, all of which work on their own but add up to something greater and, as far as I'm concerned, it works. It means I can buy the parts of the story that I want, and not the parts that I could do without- hello Fred Van Lente's Shadowland: Power Man, see ya later Moon Knight one-shot- without missing a beat.

As for the issue itself, it's pretty good- it feels like a more complete story than Shadowland #1 and manages an equally compelling ending, which is another reason to write-off the incompleteness of that other issue as fluke rather than pattern- but I wished it focused more on Matt. We get a lot of what's going on with the people around the title character, but don't hear very much of his internal dialogue, which is a fascinating choice given how important narration has been in the character's past. What we get instead is an idea of how Matt's choices affect those closest to him: Foggy, Dakota, etc, those people that he's recently shut out and the manipulations that are really behind what's going on- that is, we see the Hand behind the curtain and the people of Hell's Kitchen, but nothing of the Devil himself.

Whether or not this is an effective storytelling technique remains to be seen, however, given the crossover so far, I have faith in what Andy Diggle has planned. I'm just hoping that it's as far-reaching and well told as it has the potential to be.

A quick note about the art- both Billy Tan and Roberta De La Torre do good work here, although the latter isn't quite as good on Daredevil as he has been in the recent past and neither did anything that really blew me away. What's really disappointing, though, is looking at their art in comparison to the killer John Cassaday covers (you can't see me, but trust me when I say my hair is windswept)- here's to hoping we get to see something sequential from the Drummer soon.

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