Writer:  Andy Diggle

Artist:  Billy Tan

Publisher:  Marvel Comics

Price:  $3.99

Previously:  They are called The Hand – an organization of ninjas, thieves, and assassins.  Originally banding together 800 years ago to fight off the oppressive system of feudal Japan, The Hand turned to corruption and darkness when the mutinous Snakeroot Clan seized power.  Over the years, they’ve come into conflict with many superhumans—Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men to name a few—but none of their feuds compared to their war with Daredevil.  Murdock’s ties to the hand run deep; his mentor, Stick, died trying to destroy The Hand, and his former lover, Elektra, served The Hand as an assassin for many years, nearly losing her soul in the process. So when The Hand sought Daredevil out to become their new leader, he was understandably confused.  He initially rejected their offer, but eventually consented, plotting to use the organization as a force for good.  When his arch-enemy, Bullseye, destroyed a city block – and killed 107 people in the process – Murdock resolved to turn The Hand into an army of protectors.  Over the ensuing months, they’ve confronted crime and corruption on the streets of new York – with brutal force.  As Daredevil’s power within the group has grown, so has his willingness to push the limits in order to keep the peace.  He sought to change The Hand but it appears The Hand has changed him.

Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker have had the best Daredevil run since the days of Frank Miller being on the book.  Andy Diggle picks ups after Brubaker and with Shadowland demonstrates that he has a firm handle on Daredevil.  Like Batman, Daredevil is interesting because he walks that fine line of being a vigilante while battling with his demons (with more than his share of manias and mental issues).  So to see him flirt with this walk on the dark side isn’t entirely surprising.  In fact, it seems to be the familiar watering hole his character seems to return to periodically whenever he’s hurt or going through something tough.

After years of epic, global, cosmic, paradigm shifting comics events that reset everything, it’s nice to get a street level event where the non-/not-as-powered folks get some run.  Daredevil’s arch-enemy, Bullseye, chews scenery with every panel he’s in (at one point having him in a Hannibal Lector get up, still oozing sinister charm).  Diggle uses Bullseye to great effect and lets him steal the book.  The rest of the heroes’ reaction to Daredevil is a little puzzling as they’ve seen variations on his act before (“Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen” anyone?).

“Matt Murdock dared evil and lost.”

Shadowland explores a kind of moral ambiguity, as Daredevil begins down a well-intentioned slippery slope.  His goal is to leap into the heart of an evil organization and use it as a force for good.  As laudable as that is, there are two things that he forgets:  1) while all things can be redeemed, evil has a way of baiting traps to take down good; it’s not going to go down quietly or unopposed; and 2) evil is real and exists, demons and the like; and that while evil is to be opposed, it can’t be opposed with evil, because that only strengthens the cause of evil. Evil must be opposed with good.

“He cannot be corrupted from without.  He must damn himself.” –The Hand

At the core of Matt Murdock’s sense of woundedness are a litany of regrets and spoiled/frustrated dreams.  We long to be rescued from our past transgressions, from those out of control elements of our lives. Yet, too often, we believe ourselves too far gone, too sinful, too tainted to be loved or accepted. It’s never too late. We can be met where we are, by finding a community, and with their help, become the people we were meant to be. No matter our past and how many mistakes we’ve made. We are never so far gone that we can’t turn our lives around, starting now. The path sounds “easy” (though not really because there are costs and sacrifices to changing our lives around, and we still have the consequences of our choices to date to deal with). However, it starts as simply as asking for and accepting forgiveness (from others and yourself), then going and “sin no more.”

This is a series not to be missed and it’s no wonder it’s in its fourth printing.  The compelling premise, exploring the dark side of Daredevil against the backdrop of Bullseye (ending with a panel sequence those familiar with the history of Daredevil and Bullseye can appreciate) and ninjas … you can’t turn the pages fast enough.