The Shield #1 Review

By | Thursday, June 03, 2021 2 comments
Let me start by getting everyone caught up on some of the real life backstory on this comic. Archie Comics decided to relaunch their superhero properties and hired Rob Liefeld to write and draw the kickoff issue: The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield. I believe this was originally announced back in December. In May, Tone Rodriguez posted a variant cover he did for the issue, and Liefeld complained that the image spoiled the big twist of the story so he quit, not having actually scripted the issue yet. (Or, at least, not having turned a script in!) I'm not sure what Liefeld felt was spoiled since the new character depicted on the Rodriguez variant was shown very clearly in the hype material dating back to mid-December! Regardless, Liefeld quit without having finished the issue and so Archie Comics pulled in writer David Gallaher to make sense of the art Liefeld had already turned in, and to turn it into an actual scripted comic. Gallaher's involvement was announced in the last week of May. The final order cutoff is on June 7, with the issue itself due out in stores June 30.

I happened to get a hold of a digital preview of the comic and, given that the FOC is in less than a week, I thought folks might be curious to see what the story is actually about before then. Don't worry, though! I'll avoid spoilers, since that apparently caused some problems before! 😄

Normally, with the kind of shitshow backstory the making of this comic has, I would expect a hot mess. Bringing in a new writer at the last minute to craft a story around existing art without any guidance from the original storyteller is always going to be a challenge, and whatever you think of his illustration style, his actual storytelling abilities are not great. I've seen other comics where a new writer was brought in to try to recover a project (which may have gone sideways for any number of reasons) and the lack of synergy is usually pretty apparent. One of the classic examples is Fantastic Four #108, which Jack Kirby wrote and drew, but Stan Lee reworked it considerably with the help of John Romita, Sr. after Kirby had left Marvel. The result is a passable story, but it's more than a little clunky in places. Here, though, things turned out surprisingly smooth!

I have no idea what kind of tale Liefeld had originally planned for this, but what we get is an organization called the Burning Hand trying to get their hands on the Shield armor, while The Mighty Crusaders discover that an alternate version of the Shield is "tripping through history" and about to cause a major temporal catastrophe, which they want to avoid at pretty much any cost. The Shield himself seems largely ignorant of what's going on and is trying to get some answers for himself, but not surprisingly for a superhero conflict this results in a bit of a physical altercation. We get a fair amount of action, with the Shield's inner monologue filling readers in on the any necessary context. I've never been overly familiar with Archie's superhero line, but everything needed to get up to speed is in this issue. Oh, and the character that Liefeld felt spoiled the big twist of the issue? He's identified as the alternative timeline version of the Shield on page 1.

Liefeld's style actually works to the final story's benefit here. Because the backgrounds are pretty sparse, and the panel-to-panel transitions often aren't clearly defined, that's allowed Gallaher the flexibility to craft a story that's not working at obvious cross purposes to the art. Unlike many other instances of a new writer being brought, like I mentioned above, I think this is one of the more successful instances I've come across. (Unless, of course, there have been some that we SO successful as to have been completely seemless. That probably has happened before, but I'm not aware of it.) If you like Liefeld's art, there's plenty of that here, with lots of pages of the Shield fighting Burning Hand agents. But Gallaher has crafted an actual story on top of that, and the two work together pretty well. Especially considering the backstory that got us all here!

I believe Archie had planned this round of their superhero books to be a series of one-shots focusing on individual characters. I don't know if they're still planning that, or if they've soured on the project after the problems getting this issue finished, but The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield certainly strikes me as a surprisingly promising start if they want it to be.
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mike said...

hope this does not get shelved would like to see more to come and not get to involved and stay uncomplicated and drawn out as many story lines seem to go on forever and interest is lost.

Ray said...

Goodd blog post