Sep
18

David Reviews The Shield #1

Posted by on Friday, September 18th, 2009 at 02:00:25 PM

The Shield #1 cover
The Shield #1
“Kicking Down the Door pt. 1”
by Eric Trautmann & Marco Rudy
“Burning Inside pt. 1”
by Brandon Jerwa & Greg Scott

The first thing that struck me about this was how much it differed – in a good way – from J. Michael Straczynski’s lead-in that capped off his Red Circle series of one-shots. Where Straczynski combined the traditional Captain America super-soldier origin with stock scenes heavily inspired by Generation Kill and added on a layer of military conspiracy to tie it in with the other Red Circle stories, Trautmann creates an early-career super-soldier who isn’t fighting as morally convincing a war as Captain America was, and as a result, is forced to operate a bit more cynically.

And to be honest, that’s really what the book is – a modern-day early-career Captain America story, and it’s a distinction that means a surprising amount. Trautmann’s Joe Higgins is still idealistic enough to be sympathetic as a patriot DC superhero, while pragmatic enough that the book doesn’t descend into a series of polemics regarding the nature of the war on terror. The Shield’s environment is what it is, and he has no pretensions of changing it, just doing what he can to make it suck less for other people.

Marco Rudy’s art job is definitely taking a star turn here – there’s a lot of J.H. Williams III inspiration (one that DC seems to acknowledge and encourage, considering they gave him early JHW3 inker Mick Gray), particularly with the panel layouts and the use of geometric shapes and circuitry to accentuate the actual storytelling. When you’re in year two of your career with the Big Two, there are far worse artists to be taking inspiration from, and I look forward to seeing how Rudy develops in the coming years (his storytelling is already considerably more adventurous than his probably rushed work on Final Crisis). In all, what Trautmann and Rudy are setting a strong foundation for a bunch of stories, and although Straczynski’s conspiracy from the original Red Circle stories must have to return at some point, I’ve got faith in this creative team to freshen it up from JMS’s rather hackneyed approach.

The Inferno backup by Brandon Jerwa and Greg Scott has more immediate ties to the overall Red Circle story and makes it clear that these ongoing series are going to remain at least somewhat related. It continues from the end of Inferno’s oneshot way more directly than Shield did from its own, and the fact that it keeps one-shot artist Greg Scott certainly adds a lot to that feeling of continuity. It’s entertaining enough – so far, a fairly standard amnesiac-fugitive story with a few superhuman twists – but while it doesn’t impress as main story, the extra buck you’re spending on this doesn’t feel like a rip-off either. And it’s only ten pages, so there’s certainly ample room for improvement. I’ve never read Jerwa’s work before, since I tend to perhaps unfairly stigmatize licensed material (I really couldn’t care about Battlestar Galactica or G.I. Joe comics), but he’s solid enough here that I won’t skip this in the future. In short, I was really happy paying four dollars for this. It’s a lot of relatively new talent going as wild as they can within the admittedly pretty tight editorial constraints, but it’s a smart, pretty and entertaining read with a lot of potential. I just hope it doesn’t get canceled within six issues.

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