Friday, 7 January 2011

A Marvel 2010 Retrospective - Shadowland

This week I have the torturous task of picking my 2010 Marvel favourite.

This year has seen many memorable new starts, restarts and rebrands. We learnt who Red Hulk is and what happens when you cross Bruce Banner too (which produced my favourite revelation of the year “What if Bruce Banner is the monster and not the Hulk?”).

We have seen the birth of a new generation in Hope and we have also seen Wolverine literally going to hell. The rise and fall of Osborn - villains becoming heroes and vice versa whether they like it or not (Dark Avengers/Thunderbolts). We’ve even seen the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. in possibly the most innovative series in a long while.

But it was the breaking of a man that caught me the most.

That man was Matt Murdock... Daredevil.

Sporting an impressive resume Andy Diggle has helmed Shadowland, after taking over from Ed Brubaker in 2009 with Daredevil #500. Getting settled with other titles such as Thunderbolts and then Dark Reign (including the Daredevil Dark Reign: The List one shot) he is now exclusively Daredevil’s writer and has really flexed his muscles.

Shadowland follows Daredevil's decent after finally taking over as the leader of the Hand. For those who don’t know, The Hand is an organisation built from ninjas, assassins and thieves which on numerous occasions has tried to rid themselves of Daredevil but then approached him to lead them.

Confusing? Possibly, but through reading Shadowland you can see there is a much deeper goal from the Hand and DD’s fall is an integral part of it.

Instigated by Bullseye’s destruction of a housing block, killing over 100 innocents in the process, Matt strives to turn the Hand into a protectorate of Hell's Kitchen. Unbeknownst to him, each turn he makes and each choice taken drives him deeper into the clutches of the Hand and in doing so making him the vessel they seek.

Utilising a cast including Luke Cage, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Iron Fist, Elektra and many more it would be fair to say that maybe there were too many big hitters from the Marvel world thrown into this mini series. It can occasionally get hard to follow the interactions and motivations of everyone in comparison to Daredevil. I was also a little let down by a convenient double agent at the end.

The series spawned a number of accompanying titles and also a variety of one-shots. Of which Ghost Rider was both fantastically written and drawn. This gave me a feel that not only was this Diggle stamping his name on the series but also had the forethought to use this as a conduit. You meet a lot of new characters including a new Power Man and the rebirth of Heroes for Hire after the conclusion.

Whether you agree with the possession angle or not Shadowland explores a dark and enticing corner of the Marvel Universe and veers away from the happy ending culture a lot of stories seem to chase. This is further hit home by Johnston’s “After The Fall” one shot. This is a mass of jump on points. It presents you with a gateway to a multitude of stories to follow in a way anyone can pick up, without being too complicated, and should do too! Plenty of new starts including more to come such as Black Panther: Man Without Fear and Diggle forging on with Daredevil Reborn.

The Shadowland Premiere HC is out February 9th. Selected images taken from The Other Murdoch Papers.

Matt Puddy is the Man Without Beer. Bad times.

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