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Shadowland #1

The Devil Plays His Hand: Central to the "Shadowland" crossover and to recent Daredevil storyarcs (both helmed by writer Andy Diggle) is the question of Matt Murdock's possible redemption of The Hand ninja clan, or the damnation of his mortal soul.

With high-level creative talent like event-runner Andy Diggle and core limited series artist Billy Tan, the real question for "Shadowland" is not whether it will succeed, but why it needs to.

Shadowland #1

Publisher: Marvel
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Andy Diggle
Price: $3.99
Contributors: Billy Tan (artist)
Publication Date: 2010-09

It seems hard-fought and hard-won, the new "Heroic Age" that Marvel is just entering into. Ever since "Civil War" things have spiraled into the abysmal . Summer mega-events then and since have seen Marvel holding up a dark mirror to the world of current affairs. "Civil War" would itself mimic a nation split by pro- and anti-war stances, by using the Superhero Registration act as a metaphor. "Secret Invasion" with its hope-fuelled themes would mirror a nation getting ready for arguably the most important election in its history. And "Dark Reign", where villains posed as heroes to seek their own redemption, became the perfect metaphor for restructuring after the economic collapse, arguably engineered, as Andrew Ross Sorkin would suggest, by the very men who resolved it.

It is hard then, not to share in the existential moment of horror, the hell of 'My God, what has happened!' experienced by Tony Stark's Iron Man (an movingly scripted by Invincible Iron Man regular writer Matt Fraction) at the end of the "Stark Disassembled" storyarc. In a single page, after five month's worth of issues, Tony Stark is finally rebooted. His brain is back online after having been months in a coma. But Tony Stark's memories, the memories downloaded from his 'personality backup harddrive', also fail to include events after the dissolution of the Avengers. Reading about what has happened, "Civil War" and "Secret Invasion", for the very first time it is hard to not feel the disillusion and the anguish set in.

Between the far-flung, science-fictional exuberance that began the decade with Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men and the slow-bleed of recursive current-events metaphored as ongoing superhero trauma that ran the full gamut from "Civil War" through "Dark Reign", Daredevil's storyline this decade stands as a kind of sentinel, bridging the gap.

Beginning with the Bendis-Maleev collaboration in the early part of the decade, Daredevil would see the toppling of the Kingpin of Crime by assassination attempt in Underboss, the outing of his secret identity and a running war with paparazzi in Out, Murdock's installing himself as the new Kingpin in King of Hell's Kitchen, and his eventual arrest and disbarment in The Murdock Papers.

The subsequent Brubaker-Lark run would have no less of an impact. Daredevil would escape from jail, chase down a conspiracy across Europe that was targeted against him and his inner circle of friends, and eventually clear his name in the two volumes of Devil Inside and Out. He would go on to reclaim the streets of New York (specifically his home of Clinton), only to lose his wife to psychological trauma in the process. And eventually he would come to blows with The Hand, a ninja clan he has a longstanding history with, only to accept leadership of that same clan in the groundbreaking Daredevil #500. With Andy Diggle taking over as lead series writer from Ed Brubaker, the monthly eponymous series would see a shift back to the occultic elements of the character's decades-long, panoramic history.

So rather than read as Daredevil's story alone, Shadowland Marvel should make clear attempts to integrate his story into the broader Marvel universe? After all Daredevil has been an outlier in Marvel's Earth-616 for the better part of the decade.

Gratefully, no.

Like The Immortal Iron Fist or Nova, but even more so, Daredevil has been one of the secret beating hearts of Marvel's Earth-616 storyline over the past decade. How ever bad things may have gotten for the major superheroes of the day, or for the mutants in the post-M-Day mega-events, Daredevil has been resilient. Diggle's inspired move then, is not reintegrate Daredevil with the broader Marvel panopticon, but to emphasize how significant Daredevil and his own story is, leading to the broader Earth-616 becoming embroiled in DD's story.

In short synopsis, Shadowland #1 ties up some loose ends from Dark Reign: The List--Daredevil. This is the rematch between Daredevil, now clad in a soul-damning black, and Bullseye, perhaps the ultimate DD foe, once again appearing as the villain, rather than posing as Hawkeye.

But the pure thrill of reading Shadowland #1 and I have no doubt this will sustain for the entire crossover event, is seeing how Daredevil has grown greater than his circumstances. In the closing chapter of "Return of the King", moments before Daredevil accepts leadership of The Hand, Brubaker offers a deep-rooted memory of Murdock's grandmaster, Master Izo. In chastising his student Stick, Izo rails, 'You people... You'll be as bad as The Hand with your rules... You were supposed to be what they should have been... not a bunch of prudes...'.

In that single line, Brubaker offered a remarkable reclamation of Miller's Daredevil. If Matt Murdock had a magnificent Ninja Destiny ahead of him, a destiny that singled him out as one birth in centuries, how could his destiny be so small a thing as becoming a street-level vigilante and battling The Hand. In Shadowland Diggle writes out the legacy of Brubaker's one line. And Matt Murdock's Daredevil finally accedes to a destiny that will throw the entire world into turmoil, or redeem it.


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