For the past three weeks, I have been reviewing the series of one-shots introducing the MLJ/Archie Comics characters into the DC Universe. Instead of introducing these characters stories into the DCU through the originally planned Brave and the Bold series, plans where changed and Michael J. Straczynski instead introduced the initial four characters into a series of weekly one shots. We started with  The Hangman, which I gave 2.5 out of 5 stars.  The next week,  Inferno was the character in the spotlight, and I gave him 1.5 stars out of 5. Just when things where starting to look really bad for the reintroduction of these characters, the third week featured  The Web, and I felt that this character had finally started to fulfill the solicitations and the 3.5 out of 5 stars showed it.

Now we have the final installment of the inter-connecting “one-shots” in the form of The Shield. Does it finish of the introduction with a bang, or did the whole series fall flat on its face?  Let’s find out after the jump…

RC_SHIELD.jpgAs shown on the final page the Web one-shot, we start this issue with Lt. Joseph Higgins sending off an e-mail to the Web to request his assistance in finding out who killed his father.  He’s part of a group of soldier who has been assigned to stop illegal arms shipments into Afghanistan, and they have performed their job with success. Unfortunately, on this particular day, the enemy is ready and they set up an additional ambush, and take out his entire squad. Higgins, critically wounded, is found by rescue squads. A group of doctors take him, more dead than alive, and decide that he is the subject for “…the procedure. You’re going to be okay, son. You’re going to be better than okay. You’re going to be amazing…”

Flash forward to a military presentation at the Pentagon, three months later. General Latham is making a presentation about how a mortally wounded solider was taken from the battlefield and had an experimental procedure performed on him.  That procedure placed layer of nano-tech over his skin that is invisible until it is activated by a reflex action or mental command. At that point it becomes visible in the form of a hardened war suit that gives it’s wearer limited flight, extraordinary strength, vision in the infrared and beyond and the ability to monitor communication frequencies. The downside? The subject, Lt. Higgins, was so severely injured that if he ever removed the suit, he would die. Why Higgins was chosen is classified, but it is made clear that he is the guinea pig, the test subject for mass release of the suit.  We then get to see our first glimpse of Higgins in the suit, as the Shield.

Higgins puts the suit through its paces, showing off all of its attributes, during a news broadcast. Despite the suit having a mask, the broadcast says, the users’ identity is not being kept secret. Lt Higgins has no living family so there is no fear of him having them used against him. Also, they want the public, and his fellow soldiers, to know his identity, because they plan for all soldiers to have the same type of suits one day.  Watching this report, from the comforts of his home, is an older man. He seems to take issue with the statement regarding Higgins having no surviving family, as he looks at a picture of himself and a young Joseph Higgins.

The rest of the story runs along well.  We see Higgins in action in Afghanistan and meet his handler, who has a history in covert operations.  This handler also conveys a vital piece of information, one which may have been better served earlier in this series of one shots, and we are given more information Higgins family, of which there is definetly at least one surviving member. Also, there is some possible foreshadowing with General Latham stating what he would do with battalion of Shield clad soldiers. To tie everything together, Dr. Robert Higgins, aka The Hangman, is shown to have a hand in the creation of the suit. We have now come full circle. On the last page, we see the Web at a computer performing research, presumably on Lt. Higgins’s father’s death, and the Inferno as he stands in a garden maze possibly symbolizing the maze of his own amnesia. There are enough plot threads open to make me willing to follow for a little longer, and I guess I will be picking up the new ongoing series, The Shield, which starts this week, September 2nd.

As with the other issues, this one was written by J. Michael Straczynski. The art chores where handled nicely by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens, and they give the title a familiar feel.  The story over all is one that we have read before and that kind of worries me. I recognized elements from not only the original MLJ Shield and his later Red Circle incarnations, but a strong resemblance to the Impact era Shield and even some bits that reminded me of the unpublished Impact Phase 2 titles that never saw release. But it does have enough new elements make it its own character, and one of those elements is the connection that has been made between the other three Red Circle characters. The purpose of this, and the other one-shots, was to introduce the characters and their situations to the DC Universe and its readers. I think this was done nicely, but there were a few potholes that made the experience a little bumpier than it should have been.  These characters date back to the Golden Age of comics (not just the sixties and seventies as I have seen reported elsewhere) and any attempt to update them and bring them before a new audience would have had problems. Add to this the burden of the Shield being the first patriotic/flag themed costumed hero (he beat Captain America to the scene by over a year) and the fact that the re-introduction had to take place within on of the most crowded and busy comic universes out there and I for one am willing to cut some slack to the creators.

The Hangman was shown to have the heart of a healer, and the Web was working on his “Hero’s Journey”, but like the Inferno, you are introduced the Shield and not given a real reason to care about him.  The story seems to be less about Lt. Joseph Higgins, wounded war hero, and more about his supporting cast. That said, the emphasis on the supporting players gave a way to introduce information to the reader at a rapid pace and to set up several plot threads within his own story and add some information to the other characters he shared this banner with.  In my opinion, this issue was not as strong as the previous one, but it is stronger that the first two in the series.

The Shield will be headlining his own title starting in September, with stories that are supposed to cement him and his fellows into the DCU proper and make him a major player. I look forward to reading those stories, but hope that The Shield and the other Red Circle ongoing title, The Web, don’t turn into a guest-of-the-month books. These characters have a proven track record, and should be able to run on their own. Only time will tell how this integration will work. I for one am hoping for success. I’m going with 3 out of 5 stars for this introductory “one-shot.”



About Author

Back in February of 2008, Stacy Baugher wrote his first article for Major Spoilers and started a solid run of work that would last for over two years. He wrote the first series of Comic Casting Couch articles as well as multiple Golden Age Hero Histories, reviews and commentaries. After taking a hiatus from all things fandom he has returned to the Major Spoilers fold. He can currently be found on his blog, www.stacybaugher.com , were he post progress on his fiction work as well as his photography and life in general, and on Twitter under the handle @stacybaugher . If you're of a mind, he also takes on all comers with the under the Xbox Live Gamertag, Lost Hours. He currently lives in Clinton, Mississippi with his understanding wife, and two kids.


    • While I can;t really speak to McDuffie being annoyed with DC, I do agree with you on the Milestone characters. I would have rather seen at least a Tales from Dakota type mini-series to catch everyone up on the characters and then a series staring Icon or Static. But, as we discussed over in the forum, I’m not the EiC. ;)

      As it is, I am hoping for the best with the new Red Circle books.

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