Rating: 4/5 – Re-imagining and Modernizing a Classic Superhero
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.
Archie Comics’ patriotic superhero, the Shield, has been around for over 75 years, predating not only the company’s namesake character, but also the arguably better-known icon Captain America. The character and concept have gone through many changes over the years, including different personas donning the mantle, a brief stint with DC Comics’ Impact line, and several years of non-publication. With the launch of its Dark Circle imprint earlier this year, Archie Comics promised to re-introduce this classic hero yet again to a modern audience, with a gender swap and the tease of a wholly new origin story. After several delays, it’s finally storming onto comic shop shelves on October 21st with an action packed first issue that is truly different from any of its previous incarnations. And while I still appreciate the Shield’s legacy and have enjoyed many of the classic stories, I think this re-imagining is right on target for modern comic audiences.
The Shield’s story begins, appropriately, at the dawn of America’s fight for independence. However, it’s evident as the first issue unfolds that this heroine’s tale is one that traverses the pages of history, as our apparently amnesic protagonist catches glimpses of past exploits while navigating through the minefield of the present day. Although many modern comics decompress a story arc into 4 or 5 issues, writers Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig opt instead to jam pack this first issue with plenty of substance and exposition, giving us a story that feels weighty and meaty while also leaving ample mystery to be fleshed out in future issues. The reader learns things right along with the protagonist, but it’s obvious from the nefarious forces stalking her that there is plenty to which we are not yet privy. Through it all, there is rarely a stop in the action as our heroine is either kicking butt, running for her life, or coming to terms with who or what she is. It’s edgy in a way that you don’t expect from a typical Archie comic, but seems to be the standard they are setting for their Dark Circle line. I got a very smart action movie vibe from this first issue that I thought was refreshing and fun.
The pencils by Drew Johnson were crisp and clean and along with the colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick providing sleek, beautiful art to kick off the series. Some of the layouts are interesting, occasionally mirroring the confusion of the protagonist, but other times making it hard to follow along. This was particularly true in some of the action scenes, which weren’t as fluid as I’m used to and required me to fill in the gaps between panels. Still, it’s a stylistic choice that works okay for the book and carried the first four dialogue free pages nicely. There was one 2 page splash in particular that I enjoyed that was beautifully rendered and showcased the full weight of the Shield’s legacy.
The Shield is a solid third entry into Dark Circle’s line of relaunched superhero books, following the gritty Black Hood and whimsical Fox with an action packed heroine that kicks butts and takes names. It’s refreshing to see another strong female protagonist take the lead in a comic book and while many complain about gender swapping established heroes, I think Christopher and Wendig did the right thing here. Based on this opening foray, I think this series holds some real promise. It remains true that the revolution will not be televised, but one take on it will unfold within the pages of this comic and I look forward to seeing where it leads.
Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
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