By Hank Rea

Behind-the-scenes issues may have affected this latest relaunch of The Mighty Crusaders as ‘The Shield’ is poised for action but hampered by a limited storyline.

Writer: David Gallaher
Artist: Rob Liefeld
Publisher: Archie Comics
Release Date: June 30, 2021
Cover Price: $3.99

THE SHIELD IS BACK! America’s first patriotic superhero, The Shield, has persevered through countless challenges and always manages to come out on top! But what happens when forces beyond anyone’s control threaten The Shield’s legacy of fighting for truth and justice? Follow Joe Higgins as The Shield (and get ready for some surprises!) in this new one-shot comic featuring art by Rob Liefeld and a story by David Gallaher.

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

One of the oldest properties in Archie Comics’ stable is the Golden Age superteam, The Mighty Crusaders. Without going deep in their troubled publication history as recent as five years ago, the Crusaders was Archie’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers and DC’s Justice League back in the ’60s and it just never caught on for long. Despite some valiant efforts to revive the series multiple times over the decades, it’s never been a smooth or popular launch.

Archie hoped to change that and even recruited a comic book veteran, the polarizing but popular Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld. He was supposed to write and illustrate the one-shot issue reintroducing the team but focusing on The Shield. Subsequent one-shots would introduce other members. Everything seemed poised to take the once campy superfriends into a modern collection of gritty heroes. Then, something happened that had Liefeld and Archie parting ways. What exactly transpired isn’t very clear but Liefeld’s art would remain but he would not be writing the issue. Enter writer David Gallaher (The Only Living Boy) who now was tasked to complete the book with a new script.

It’s never easy for the poor underrated Mighty Crusaders.

With all that said, ‘The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield’ is coming out finally and I don’t know what Gallaher had to work with stepping in for Liefeld but he does an admirable job given the circumstances. The story, however, is a little confusing. There are three iterations of The Shield going on simultaneously.

Now, the history of who has donned the super-suit to become The Shield is a convoluted mess thanks to reboots, changing publishers, and relaunches. The mantle has passed on from father to son and to others. So, for this latest relaunch things are still a little fuzzy. First, we see William Higgins, considered the original Shield, being observed by the current Shield, Victoria Adams. She’s the leader of the Mighty Crusaders who are assembled in front of her as she briefs them on the appearance of a grizzled, white-haired Old Man Shield.

It’s a quick and efficient way to introduce the members of the Crusaders with boxes that feature their names and superpowers. All we’re ever told about William Higgins is that he’s been displaced from the timeline and he’s just tripping through time. We never see him again. The focus turns to yet another Shield, Joe Higgins. He’s the one featured on the cover and his narration carries most of the issue as he fights a number of armored agents who stormed his apartment. There isn’t much context as to why it’s happening but it does ignite one long fight scene and exposition to match. He reflects on getting to carry on the mantle of the Shield after being handed down the government-designed armored super-suit from his father.

I’m not one to bash Liefeld’s artistic prowess although I can understand why he gets the criticism he does. I recognize art is hard and he actually does a great job here. It’s very much his signature style of super-ripped men and women in painted-on costumes looking every bit of the ’90s. The action is well-choreographed and exciting. The backgrounds are scarce but the colors are rich and bold giving the characters an added larger-than-life depth. He’s no stranger to super teams so this is his comfort zone. So if you like Liefeld’s work you’ll enjoy this issue.

‘The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield’ attempts to set off another launch of Archie’s Golden Age super team with mixed results. This one-shot reads like a preview highlighting various characters who are considered The Shield seemingly pitting them against one another for reasons unbeknownst to the reader. It opens up a larger mystery as Gallaher does his best to salvage the issue. Liefeld’s art is classic Liefeld providing plenty of bone-crushing action. It’s too early to say if this relaunch is worth the commitment until more issues arrive on time and without the behind-the-scenes drama. So far, The Mighty Crusaders are off to a shaky start lacking clarity and context.