by Andy Diggle (writer), Billy Tan (pencils), Batt (inks), Christina Strain & Guru EFX (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Bullseye takes on a newer, nastier Daredevil while the Avengers grow increasingly concerned about that weird castle in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen.

What’s Good: As the first issue of an event, one could look at this issue as being a series of great choices by Diggle.  First and foremost is that it isn’t overburdened by a plethora of characters.  It certainly still feels like a Daredevil book, but has the Avengers, Luke Cage and Iron Fist in particular, be just enough or a presence to make things feel different and a little bit bigger.

Then there’s the central role that Bullseye has in this first issue.  I can’t think of a better way of showing how much Matt has changed than having him fight the guy he’s fought a million times.  It’s a wonderful choice by Diggle, who also writes a really great, crazy Bullseye.  It’s clear the dynamic has shifted when readers immediately get the feeling that Bullseye has insanely bitten off more than he can chew by challenging Daredevil.  It’s also quite the turn to see the “hero” be accompanied by a horde of faceless goons, ganging up on the lone villain.  This, of course, was no doubt what Diggle was going for.

That’s really the strongest point of this issue; there’s no doubt, during this issue and particularly at its end, that the Daredevil of Shadowland is a very, very different Daredevil.  He’s mean, he’s isolationist, and he’s darker than ever.  This, of course, is tied into another great choice by Diggle: debuting the new outfit this month, which looks absolutely fantastic and is a great representation of Matt’s shift in mentality.

But really, the best choices Diggle makes in this issue are related to pacing.  There’s no question that he hits the ground running, but we’re also not overwhelmed by breakneck plot progression and chaotic happenstance.  The plot is simple and straightforward, but filled with great action and status quo defining moments.

Then there’s the last page.  Whoa.  It’s the sort of cliffhanger that you suspect is coming, but can’t actually believe Diggle went for until you flip the page.  Just whoa.  It’s a major character death that gets Shadowland off to an explosive start while hammering home that this is a whole new DD.

I was also very much surprised by Billy Tan’s artwork, which was really solid stuff.  I thought his work was ill-suited to Daredevil after his work on the List one-shot, but this definitely worked.  His style is detailed, but seems a little grittier and Ron Garney-esque.  Strain’s work on colours also helps a lot, as she goes for darker hues with lots of reds and dark blues.

What’s Not So Good: I feel like I missed something between the last issue of Daredevil and this first issue of Shadowland.  I didn’t think that Matt Murdock had deteriorated or changed quite to this level after last month’s installment of Daredevil, so seeing him in such dark shape was a bit jarring at first.  It’s almost as though something major happened between issues, or that we simply weren’t privy to witnessing the complete arc of Matt’s descent, as though we skipped from point A to point C, though perhaps this is more a fault of Daredevil than Shadowland.  After a while, I settled in, but it feels a little unnatural in the early going.

Conclusion: Certainly miles better than Siege #1, this was a fantastic start.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans