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Friends Don’t Let Friends Lead Ninja: Shadowland #1 [Review]

FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS LEAD NINJA – Shadowland 1 (SPOILERS FOLLOW)

New York is a tough place. The city’s big and unforgiving, people are cruel to one another, and sometimes it seems like an individual can’t make much of a difference on their own. It’s all too easy to fall in with the wrong crowd, particularly if they promise you the sort of strength you’ve been unable to wield on your own. That bad influence can come in many forms, ranging from a street gang to the New York Yankees to an investment banking firm.

In Matt Murdock’s case, however, it takes the shape of an ancient mystic ninja order. Which, based on my the results of my extensive searching, is a phenomenon that’s rare, bordering on non-existent in the real-life Big Apple. But in the pages of “Shadowland,” written by Andy Diggle with art by Billy Tan, Batt and Christina Strain, it’s a very real concern for Daredevil, whose time as leader of the Hand has reached a critical point. Having constructed an imposing temple headquarters in the midst of Hell’s Kitchen on the site where Bullseye blew up an apartment building and killed 107 people, Matt Murdock is now engaging in the sort of bold, no-nonsense leadership that’s making friends nervous and minor acquaintances start to draw up battle plans just in case.While the over-arching plot of “Shadowland” involves the street-level crimefighters in New York against Daredevil and the Hand, most of issue 1 focuses on Bullseye. Daredevil’s longtime nemesis is fresh off a disappointing end to his time as a Dark Avenger, and having shed his fake Hawkeye costume he finds himself on the verge of trading it in for a prison jumpsuit. Before that can happen, though, he manages to escape from a maximum security flying prison car and kill all the guards. Having staged his own one man version of “Con Air” over the skies of Manhattan, Bullseye decides to do the one thing that comes natural to him: Go pick a fight with Daredevil.

Now, that doesn’t sound like the best of decisions. Going to the fortress of a guy with his own personal ninja army and yelling insults until he comes outside is the sort of thing you put on the bottom of your own personal bucket list, because once you do it odds are you’re not going to be doing much else afterwards, ever. But it’s possible that Bullseye is familiar with either comics, video games or any of Daredevil’s previous fights against the Hand and is secure in the knowledge that identically outfitted ninja rack up fatalities less reliably than falling coconuts. Also on the scene are Luke Cage and Iron Fist, who picked the same time to stop by good friend Matt Murdock’s new house and have a heart to heart about his murder-happy new friends. When the offer to join in the fight against Bullseye, Daredevil sternly tells them that this is a ninja-only thing and they’re welcome to stay out of it.

So with Iron Fist and Luke Cage on the sidelines and the Hand predictably useless, we’re down to a standard Daredevil versus Bullseye fight. Except that Daredevil’s playing by a new rulebook. One that results in Bullseye being first surprised, then dead. Iron Fist and Cage are shocked and appalled that one of their best friends killed a man right in front of them. They may be the only ones. Murdock’s unforgiving delivery of a sai blade through Bullseye’s gut seems intended to be a “Oh no the hero has crossed a line between right and wrong” moment. But I’m not buying it.

Even if the entire issue up until that point hadn’t gone out of its way to demonstrate that Bullseye can’t be effectively held by the most secure prison facilities that exist in a world that must routinely imprison supervillains, and even if it hadn’t shown him to be a man single-mindedly dedicated to spreading murder and mayhem, there’s still the little matter of the fact that he’s killed countless people, including over a hundred in one act extremely recently, and prior to that he’s chalked up kills of multiple Matt Murdock love interests. I see him killed and all I think is “that was a practical and reasonable decision,” and I’m generally the sort of guy who looks at heroes like the Punisher and thinks they’re too extreme in their methods.

This is the least effective “crossing the uncrossable moral threshold” moment I’ve seen in a superhero comic, and considering the whole issue builds up around it that leads to the whole issue falling flat. It’s not a good start to an event I’d been hopeful about. Maybe when Spider-Man and a few other heroes show up, or we get to see more moments of Murdock’s friends interacting with him, “Shadowland” will deliver. But you’d be safe in skipping issue 1 and waiting to hear if things improve.

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