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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:45 pm
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The Shield #1 Review
The last of the revived Red Circle heroes is the first to earn a new ongoing series.
by Jesse Schedeen


September 10, 2009 - I wasn't too impressed with last month's Red Circle mini-series. Despite the appeal of having J. Michael Straczynski working in the DCU again and updating a handful of forgotten heroes, the final products were just downright bland in most respects. Perhaps for no one was this more true than The Shield. The only sustaining area of interest the Red Circle books had to offer was the vague connective tissue Straczynski weaved throughout. It certainly wasn't enough to get me excited for any ongoing Red Circle books.

Luckily, writer Eric Trautmann has a habit of hooking me with projects I might not otherwise care about. And that streak isn't broken with The Shield #1. Trautmann addresses many of the problems with Straczynski's one-shot and crafts The Shield into a hero I can actually see myself following now.

This issue picks up pretty much where the one-shot left off, with Lt. Joe Higgins settling into his new role as The Shield. Higgins is air-dropped Ultimate Captain America style, into hostile Middle Eastern territory to carry out a delicate mission. What immediately struck me was the quality of the art. Marco Rudy's pencils are far more realistic than the stark, almost sketchy work of Scott McDaniel, and it helps generate a more grounded and real world feel. I have issues with the old, old, old-school feel of Shield's costume, but I can live with that now that the series sports a suitably detailed and cinematic tone.

Trautmann's writing, in turn, lends more depth of character to Higgins. He came across as little more than a generic Captain America ripoff in the one-shot, with no real emotional tie to the events around him. Yes, I'm aware the original version of The Shield predates Cap, but that has no real bearing on this revamp. Trautmann sets the two heroes apart in a number of ways. First is the sheer joy Higgins shows in exploring his newfound powers. As a side effect, Higgins begins to utilize them in unconventional ways, proving he isn't just another generic, patriotic strongman. Trautmann also focuses on the gulf between Higgins and the people he tries to help. There's a bit of cultural interplay at work that could have been heavy-handed and trite in a lesser writer's hands.

Trautmann also works to make The Shield feel like a cohesive part of the DC Universe, something the previous Red Circle stories barely attempted. For starters, the bulk of the issue takes place in Bialya, still war-torn and suffering after Black Adam's rampage. Unfortunately, a late attempt to bring in an unrelated DC hero isn't so welcome. I despise it when new heroes are forced to work alongside established favorites so as to receive a quick boost. At this point I run and hide whenever the Punisher shows up in another Marvel book. It's too early to say whether this appearance will serve a true purpose or not, but it's certainly not the best way to end an otherwise solid first issue.

Also featured here is a backup story starring fellow Red Circle hero Inferno. Brandon Jerwa does a reasonable job in the space he's given. He too strikes a tone that is far more grounded and realistic than the preceding one-shot. Unfortunately, the script seems to lack a real sense of purpose. And agonizingly enough, it too ends with a surprise appearance by a random DC hero. I would much rather have had these pages devoted to The Shield's story than this little diversion. Rather than try to build up all four of these Red Circle heroes at once, it may be better for DC to stay focused on a good thing and build slowly from there. And so far, it appears they have a good thing in Trautmann's take on The Shield.

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