Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review--Daredevil: Shadowland by Andy Diggle & Antony Johnston (writers) & Roberto De La Torre (illustrator)

I read this because it is by Diggle(1) rather than because I knew anything about the characters, and it was worth reading on that ground. I cared about the characters--especially faithful Foggy--and wanted to know what happened, and mostly, I enjoyed the read. The big, big problem which I'll get to, is the publisher's fault, not that of authors or illustrators.

Daredevil: Shadowland begins after Daredevil has taken over the Hand, a band of Japanese assassins, in an attempt to turn their organization to good purpose. He's also built a gigantic, forbidding fortress right in the middle of Hell's Kitchen. His friends think there might be a problem with this.

The good news is that the tale really focuses on his friends and allies as they attempt to figure out what is going on, whether they can trust Daredevil any more, and what, if anything, they can do to reach him. That was beautifully done. I felt for them and for their dilemmas, especially for poor, loyal Foggy who so much wanted to believe in his friend. I could also fully understand the friends who decided not to trust Matt/Daredevil any more. Whatever outside influences were working on him, the man had clearly made some stupid decisions, and the sort of stupid decisions that lead to riots and mass-possession are the sort of stupid decisions that really should make friends think twice.

And the art is gorgeous, dark and atmospheric. Characters' expressions are clear, and the individuals distinct. A lot of my affection for Foggy came straight from watching his face as the tale unfold.

I'm so-so on the central dilemma: On the one hand, sure, Daredevil has a literal devil influencing him through some of it, on the other: Do we have to have a "Kill one criminal and your as bad as all of them" dilemma? Again? Yes, it's got to be a strain on any superhero, watching things repeatedly fall apart, but it's--hardly a new story any more. Diggle's focus on the people on the sidelines (to varying degrees) really helps sell this story, but it's not exactly new.

And now we come to the big problem:

Marvel decided to split the TPB of Shadowland up by hero rather than by, say, event. Since several major events apparently took place in some other character's title, there are a couple of massive plot gaps, and not so much as a summary to bridge the space. You'd think that the people who wrote the perfectly adequate "What went before" introduction to the book could have managed a "What happened during..." to fill the missing pages, but no, instead there is a cliffhanger and then, on turning the page, a jump forward to the aftermath. Most of the time, it's possible to do a mental fill in and go on--but at the end there? Nope. I find that unforgivable.

Yes, I know graphic novels do this sometimes. I think it's crazy. What is the reader supposed to do? Sense when you've reached the end of one bit, grab the next graphic novel, read that bit, put it down, pick up the fourth book along and so on? Yes it's possible to get a nice guide off of Wikipedia or something, but it's silly. It's not that Marvel opted not to publish the whole series; as far as I can tell, graphic novels exist for all the bits, it's that they decided to split it by hero rather than plot. Ugh! I'd think even veteran comic book readers who know all the various characters involved would rather read the narrative chronologically rather than in bits. It's a mess!

Who is Who & Other Interesting Bits & Pieces
Shadowland: Daredevil on Amazon
@andydiggle on Twitter
Andy Diggle's website
Reviews on Goodreads Edit: On second thought, mine won't be there. I am afraid it would skew the results against similar stories. My really low score would be based on the publisher's decision, not the writing or the art, and while Goodreads algorithms are good, I doubt they're quite up to that level of discrimination.

According to Wikipedia, the full collection is:

Shadowland: Daredevil
Shadowland: Blood on the Streets
Shadowland: Power Man
Shadowland: Moon Knight
Shadowland: Street Heroes

You're on your own figuring out which one goes where. I liked the book, but not that much. A quick trip to the library to verify they didn't have any of the others was my limit.

(1) The man wrote Snapshot. He has my attention.
(2) After this, I may have to pay some attention to Antony Johnston as well. I did not, I confess, pay close attention to who had what share of responsibility for which part of the plot, or even if that was tremendously evident.

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