The Red Circle books are being cancelled after 10 issues and one Mighty Crusaders special. No matter how you cut it these books have to be considered a failure and right from the jump even someone who is just a fan of the industry could see this was doomed to failure.
DC had some great ideas, but ultimately they were setting themselves up for failure. In launching a new line of comics within the DCU they need to take it slow. DC rolled the dice with four one shots by JMS introducing the heroes and setting the stage for them and then launching two $4 books into the marketplace with talent that are not names yet in the industry. Contrast the First Wave launch with Brian Azzarello and Rags Morales.
You had characters the vast majority of the world knew nothing about, $4 books and talent that were not marketable names. Now I believe Eric Trautmann is a rising star at DC and when I see his name on a book I’m looking forward to reading it. At this point I’m probably in the minority as it takes time for most people to recognize a writer. Eric did great work on the JSA/Kobra series and has done some spot work and co-writing with Greg Rucka here and there and he is getting better and better with every effort. If the Shield had any problems on the writing side it was because it was too dense. Eric had so many ideas and trying to convey how the suit and the modern military work that often it slowed down the action side. Marco Rudy on the art did some stunning work, but often his layouts were overly stylized and sacrificed style over storytelling once in awhile, but he is obviously a rising star and could well be another Ivan Reis in the making.
Now on occasion the unknown talent can become known on a book like this but the character was being thrown out as almost a blank slate. JMS had done an opening shot but DC never built even a small fan base for this character before they started up an unlimited series. Add to that burden the $4 price tag and you are swimming against the tide. The backup feature was a good idea that did not work, but to add these to a new launch was again a strike against the book. Getting 10 pages of a character we never really knew before was not enough. Now personally the Inferno backup was enjoyable, but hard to follow in 10 page bites as the story was complex.
The Shield had good talent and good storytelling in both halves of the book, but no fan base was built by DC. They would have been better served having these characters in the background of the DCU or started each Red Circle character as a mini-series. Finally they needed to put a big name to get a book going. Ask Greg Rucka to come on as co-writer for the first arc, get George Perez to draw the covers or Brian Bolland or something to get the attention of the market. In fact make the books fully returnable for the first 25 issues ordered or something else to give the retailer incentive to stock extra copies. The problem with a new and under the radar book is even if it generates some buzz after a few issues it is too late as the retailers have already abandoned the book.
The Web was even a worse case because Angela Robinson was over her head in writing this story and it went off the rails by issue #2. Sometimes I think the editors need to stand up and tell the writers this is not working, but often it seems the writers are given too much rope or the editor has no clue what they are reading is going the wrong way. No writer is 100% and Angela may wow me on her next project but this series died a horrible death and even bringing in a new writer it was too late to save the book. By pulling the line early it gives DC a chance to rework the concepts and still build on what has come before.
I love these characters and think they can be great adds to the DCU, but maybe start with the team book, or have Batman tracking down Inferno and let Inferno’s story weave through a lot of DC books to generate its own buzz, then do a mini-series and market it to the hilt and back it up with incentives to the retailers.
Also $3 books, don’t go high dollar on middle tier books. And yes it had more pages, but it is the low recognition factor that hurts it, all the general public see is The Shield or The Web is a $4 books and Batman and Robin is $3. DC is trying to develop their mid range books and these are good ones, they just need a lot more planning, stronger editing and some TLC because there was a ton of good work and some really nice concepts thrown out in these books and I hope to see them again. Heck it often takes a few times for the market to notice a book, but DC can do better than they did this time.
I will be curious if Dan Didio gives us his Executive Editor role, who would be next in that slot for the DCU and how will they build the line.