Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Red Circle: The Shield – A Review

The Red Circle: The Shield One Shot

Writer J. Michael Straczynski

Pencils Scott McDaniel

Inks Andy Owens

Colors Tom Chu

JMS has done a fantastic job, in my opinion, with these four comics in bringing in the old Archie super heroes into the DCU. Each of the four characters was given enough of an origin or at least the hints of an origin to build a foundation for them going forward. He even added little ties from one to the other and ended the book where it began to bring it full circle, which was a little heavy handed, but still worked.

DC has been green lighting books like Magog, Red Tornado and Azrael and for the life of me I cannot imagine why. I will skip the Red Tornado and may skip Magog and Azrael also, but more likely I will at least check out issue #1.Even in interviews it was obvious with Magog there was no plan other then to give him a series. I don’t get it.

With these characters JMS was going to launch them via Brave and Bold and started down that path but ripped it up and re-did it as four one shots. It was the right move. None of these characters were that exciting to me and I really had little interest in what was going on with them, but now I’m anxious to read the two new series that with back up features will continue the stories of all four men.

The Shield’s story was that of a soldier who gets mortally wounded in a combat mission. In order to save him they try an untested procedure that melds nanotechnology with his body. The technology when activated via mental command by Lt. Higgins gives him a virtually indestructible layer of armor, limited flight, super strength and more. He is a super hero that is a Lieutenant in the army. The Army has made his identity known as he has no family that is alive. Of course his Dad is alive and working for the government but the Shield does not know that. Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens deliver their normal strong art job with a style that at times I love and at times it seems almost too loose, but it works well on this book. We get lots of great action scenes as the Shield is dropped into enemy territory and ripping up the tanks of the bad guys. It is funny how with all the wars the US has prosecuted in the Middle East, they are today’s generic bad guys lets Nazis of yesteryear.

It all sounds a little generic, but the point is that all four books are laying a foundation and starting a bible for the new writers to be able to build up from. Each character has a framework and each character has little things that are mysteries (with Inferno big mysteries) that can be played with. Lt. Higgins is now a super hero inside of the army. If they ever removed the nanotechnology he would die, so he is trapped by the technology that has saved him. He is unaware that his father is alive and has no clue why his father needed to disappear. These are lead to various questions like: What happens when James (The Shield) Higgins is not in accord with what the army wants him to do? Can he ever leave government service? What are his weaknesses? What happens when he is with a girl? Why did his Dad let him think he was dead? With the cost being so high they only could try it once, why was he picked? I think this makes it easy for the next guy to really flesh out the character and add the dry wall to the frame. I have carried the analogy too far, haven’t I? Anyway you get the idea and with the Hangman, Inferno and The Web JMS has given DC a start of what could be some exciting comics. Hopefully there is a bible on each character and a strong editorial hand to shepherd these characters going forward. They are not going to replace Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but maybe they can be the next Green Arrow, Hawkman, Aquaman or Flash or Green Lantern.

Overall Grade A – That grade is not for the Shield itself, but for the whole introduction of the Red Circle Heroes.

Overall Grade B - For The Shield it had a solid story, was a good start and had decent art.

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