All during the month of August, we where introduced to the newly leased MLJ/Red Circle/Archie superheroes through a series of one-shot issues that all tied together to form a loose mini-series called The Red Circle.Â The Hangman, Inferno, The Web, and The Shield where all introduced into the DC continuity, to varying degrees of success. Now, after a skip-week, we have the first issue of the initial ongoing series based on those issues in the form of The Shield #1.Â Does the Shield shine brighter in his own series than he did in his one-shot? Does his back-up story partner Inferno burn away some of the disappointment his initial appearance caused? Take the jump to find out.
The Shield #1 starts with a new creative team in the form of writer Eric Trautmann and artists Marco Rudy and Nick Gray.Â We start the story with a flashback to a team of soldiers in Bialya and a glimpse into a personal message by General J. Latham.Â He tells of how anti-American and anti-metahuman forces have taken refugee in the mountains between Bialya and Kahndaq, and how covert forces have been sent in to deal with them.Â Now he has lost a team of thirty-two men, and now he has to send in The Shield to get them back.Â We then get a big two page spread of the Shield as he prepares to drop into the area the men where last known to be in, and I mean drop! With a smile, Lt. Joe Higgins steps out of a cargo plane into thin air and plummets toward the earth with no parachute. Lucky for him, he has the high tech war suit that not only keeps his damaged body alive; it protects him from a lot, even a drop from a plane.Â Wanting to be covert, he wills the suit to go dormant, which renders it invisible, and decks himself out in desert fatigues. We are again reminded of World War III, and how Black Adam killed millions of people in a day.Â As he is performing reconnaissance of the area, he is spotted by a young sniper. From there we get a lesson in the effects of the meta-humans battles on the civilians they usually seek to save.
The story is good and the art is as well. We not only get glimpses into Lt. Higgins head and see how his thought process works, but we see a more realistic side of the aftermaths of a meta-human war (World War III). But it is nice to know that while we are shown the effects of a war on a population that was largely innocent, we also get to see The Shield try and play a peaceful role. There is a great little scene where he passes out super hero comics to the children of a war torn village (Superman, Supergirl, and Tiny Titans) and while the children are receptive, the adults quickly bring the Shield back to reality. Continuing his search for the missing soldiers, with a little help from the young sniper, he stumbles upon not only the men, but a surprise guest star. I honestly wasnâ€™t expecting him for a couple of issues, but I will wait and see as to how his presence affects the feel of a story that has started off very well. The writer has a good feel for the locations, and the reactions of the older villagers and the children remind me of some of the conversations I have had with soldiers after coming home from deployment. While it has one foot firmly in the world of four-color comics, it defiantly gives you a more realistic look behind the curtain. The art is real nice as well. There are little details in the clothing and the backgrounds that draw you in. My only complaint is in regards to the colorist.Â Art Lyox, Iâ€™m unsure if this is a company or a person, does some wonderful colors. The subtle differences in the sand tones and the clothing (a LOT of oranges and tans in this issue) is nice. My complaint lies in when Higgins is in his suit, there is a plastic wrap look to the colors that makes the suit seem like it is made of, well, plastic. Cheap plastic. This may be purposeful, but I am more used to armored heroes looking armored. Despite that, which is really insignificant, you get a good, solid beginning to the story.
The second feature stars Inferno. If you read my review of the Red Circle one-shot starring the Inferno, you will know that I really was not impressed and rather disappointed in the comic as a whole.Â After a quick recap of where we where, we find the Red-Haired Stranger, now going by the name Frank Verrano, on the run an hour after his fiery confrontation on the docks. While recovering himself in a cheap hotel room, he spots a news report, complete with amateur video that shows him in his fiery, bald, and bandito mustached form, and realizes that something is wrong. Activating his powers, he realizes he has seen the other face before, and he knows it. We get a little flash back to a military lab and a lot of men immersed in liquid filled containment suits; one of the men is our Red-Haired Stranger.Â Suddenly, he is shaken out of his memory by the ringing of the hotel phone. A mysterious voice tells him that he has to leave immediately and to run and hide until he hears from them.
From this point, we are thrown into an quick series of action scenes with the main character trying to get away from the unknown danger that does not stay unknown for long. And, as with the main feature, we get a last panel appearance by a DC hero. This one I was not expecting, but I still am not sure how I feel about it.Â As a back-up/co-feature, the Inferno does a better job than he did in his one shot.Â It is essentially the same art team, with a different writer. Brandon Jerwa tells a story that works the whole Bourne Identity feel much better than it was introduced to us, and hits all the action flick beats. Having finally moved past the initial reaction on the one-shot, the character seems to have found his feet. This issueâ€™s art is also better as well; it seems much less muddied by to much inking.Â The gritty street level feel fits this writers emerging story much better.Â Greg Scott and Sal Cipriano hit a good balance here, and it adds to the atmosphere of the story.
What about the issue as a whole? Was it worth the $3.99 price tag? I think so.Â I was surprised to find that the Inferno feature was as long as it was. At ten pages, it was a little to much to be called a back-up (which I think of as four to six pages) but not long enough to be called a feature.Â The actual feature of the book, The Shield, was twenty pages long. Add to that the advertisements, house ads, and the Starro preview in the back, and you have a comic that comes in at forty pages, eight more than your average book. Thirty pages of solid story, thirty-six of you count the Starro preview as a story, it a plus in anyoneâ€™s book. That extra dollar buys you quite a bit, and as long as the quality stands up I have no problem paying that much for a good, solid book. My only complaint is the established hero guest appearances. Do we really need them so early in the storylines? Both of the characters have a solid following; one even got his own book earlier this month, but it feels like training wheels. Iâ€™m holding off on judging that part, because I really love one of the characters, and I have nothing but disdain for the other. Hopefully the training wheels will come off soon and we can see how this title rides on its own. Oh, and one more comment, when can I get a poster of J.G. Jones beautiful cover? Can we just make it mandatory to put posters out of his cover work? It would make decorating the Sanctum Sanctorum much easier.
All in all, it was an above average issue, but nothing earth-shattering. If you have a love of the characters, are a fan of the patriotic heroes, or of movies like the Bourne series, pick it up. It will stay on my pull list until it starts to disappointment me, which hopefully wonâ€™t be anytime soon. Iâ€™m going with a 3.5 out of 5 stars.