REVIEW: New Crusaders #1

by

Or – “Okay, Digital Distribution…  Let’s See What You’ve Got.”

Thanks to a pretty canny marketing campaign, Archie has had me quite excited about the relaunch of the Crusaders, so excited that I’m willing to venture into entirely new forms of multimedia to get these stories…  How does the first issue pan out?

NEW CRUSADERS #1
Writer: Ian Flynn
Penciler: Ben Bates
Inker: Gary Martin
Colorist: Matt Herms
Letterer: John Workman
Editor: Paul Kaminski
Publisher: Red Circle Comics/Archie Comics
Cover Price: 99 Cents

Previously, in New Crusaders:  The heroes of Archie/MLJ Comics date back the very dawn of the Golden Age of Comics, with The Shield actually predating the higher-profile Captain America as the first patriotic superhero in history.  The likes of The Comet, The Jaguar, The Web and The Fly helped to create the role and tropes of the superhero as we know them, and have been relaunched periodically (usually about every 10 to 15 years) to try and recapture their former glory.  This version of the team is not related to either of the last two revamp attempts, instead tying back to the team’s original 1940′s adventures.

START THINGS OFF WITH A BANG…

So, as far as the book itself goes, I’m not going to do anything different to review than what I would normally do for a print comic book, except let you know that you can download the app and sign up for your copy at www.redcirclecomics.com, and that you don’t have to have an Apple device to read the issues.  Our story opens with a big conflagration, as several young people (familiar-looking young people, if you’ve read the preview material) running away from the explosion.  Cut to a few moments earlier, as Joe Higgins arrives at a party held by some of his oldest friends, including John Dickering, Ted Tyler, Ralph Hardy, Jack Sterling, John Raymond, Kim Brand, and their families.  I kind of like the way these retired heroes are identified by their civilian names here, with each showing their age (though it’s unclear how long they’ve been living in the city of Red Circle at first.)  The kids/protegees of the elder heroes get their own introductions, as well, and it’s interesting to see the assembled cast before anyone suits up.  I really like the art, with it’s deceptively simple faux-animated feel reminding me of the late Mike Parobeck’s work…

WHAT ROUGH BEAST, AND ALL THAT…

For most of the issue, the only sign of any sort of supernatural element comes from Wyatt, the son of John “Web” Raymond, who seems to have some sort of psychometric or clairvoyant powers, sensing the connections between the various players on the field.  The grown-ups take a moment to toast those gone missing or just plain gone, giving us a slight glimpse into the fate of at least one original MLJ hero, when bad things start to happen, transitioning towards the scene that opened this issue.  One excellent touch comes as the former heroes suddenly recognize the threat in their midst, and the identifying arrows appear again, identifying The Shield, The Comet, Fireball and Steel Sterling as they bravely rush to battle.  The cover image and Red Circle’s solicitation material lets us know who the official team members are going to be, which leaves me a bit worried about the fates of Ralph, John, Ted and the other John, but it’s an exciting kickoff for a series that could be a game-changer…

THE VERDICT:  WELL-DONE, EVEN AT THIS LENGTH…

I think the most telling part of this issue comes in the fact that the 12 pages feel like a complete chapter of story, with some compact but effective character work, and a lot of intriguing questions raised throughout.  All the kids’ personalities are sketched out for us, and even though there’s no actual combat in the issue, the artists still give us some nice action work during a touch football game, and each character has a unique and definitive face and body structure.  The art is really good, and the coloring manages to channel the classic comic book look and feel without feeling flat or retro.  New Crusaders #1 is an impressive start for the new adventures of old friends, nailing a classic all-ages superhero vibe without being childish or simple, earning 5 out of 5 stars overall.  There’s nothing not to like here…

Rating: ★★★★★