By Andy Frisk
September 22, 2009 - 23:00
Army Lieutenant James Mattoon Higgins/The Shield begins his first mission as the US Military’s greatest living weapon by being airdropped into the war torn mountains between Bialya and Khandaq. It appears that several US soldiers have gone missing while tracking insurgents in the region and the US Military is sending The Shield in to investigate. Along the way, he encounters the members of a small village of refugees of Black Adam’s attacks, which occurred during 52 after the death of his wife Isis. The villagers are very wary and distrustful of costumed heroes, but a young soldier of the village helps The Shield track down some of the missing soldiers. The Shield meets with some unexpected hostility though, that is further complicated by the appearance of another relatively new super hero…
DC Comics’ visual version of Ultimate Captain America has arrived. The Shield packs military gear, and sports a hybrid superhero/military look much like Ultimate Cap does in many of his appearances. The Shield also leaps out of planes without the benefits of a parachute, much like Ultimate Cap does also. Beyond these visual similarities though, they don’t have much else in common. Ultimate Cap was a semi-ironic figure in the hands of Millar, whose, at times, morally ambiguous actions often called into question his heroism. Thus far, The Shield is a much lower key figure than Ultimate Cap, and he is also much more of a “soldier in the field” type. Where Ultimate Cap is supposed to be a symbol, The Shield spends most of his first issue hiding the nanotech war suit and its flashy colors from the villagers he encounters. While he obviously is meant as a symbol as well, and will prove to be in time, he’s also much more of a covert operative at this point.
The Shield’s war suit is one of the best superhero suits to come along in a while. It can totally disappear, manifest partially, and be partially powered up for long range reconnaissance. Part of the fun of The Shield’s first mission, is that Lt. Higgins is still felling his way around and testing out the suit’s capabilities. The reader is learning about the war suit along with Higgins. Its technology is quite interesting, and it’s definitely a “superpower” with a lot of potential.
|The original Shield|
The real potential is going to rest with Trautmann’s handling of this interestingly re-imagined hero as he begins to encounter other heroes, and comes into contact with some of the other conflicts of the DCU. Several of the plot threads left dangling from The Red Circle: The Shield One Shot are still dangling after this first issue of the ongoing series. Presumably they’ll be picked up at some point in the future. With the potential strength of this character as a storytelling vehicle, we’ll probably see these threads picked up sooner than later.
Rudy’s pencils fit the title quite well. He’s obviously done his research into contemporary military tech, and his use of authentic US Military soldier dress, weaponry, and aircraft really lends a sense of authenticity to the title. Lyon’s colors are also quite good, particularly during the morning sky dive that The Shield makes at the beginning of the issue. His use of color is really the only distinguishing factor between the blended clouds and sky and the ground as The Shield dives from the plane, and he creates a beautiful image of the calm before the storm of conflict and devastation on the ground.
The Shield #1 contains a Second Feature, like many of DC Comics’ books have been recently. The Second Feature stars The Inferno, one of the other Red Circle heroes who has been reinvented and placed in the contemporary DCU. This story continues the tale of the quest of this mystery man to find out just who he is, what has happened to him, and most importantly, why he is able to change into a man who controls fire that has a totally different physical identity. The Inferno’s tale is much more of a mystery story, but feels more like an afterthought like many of the Second Feature tales do.
Overall, The Shield is off to a good start and definitely warrants following. As Higgins/The Shield learns more about his father, whom he believes to be dead, but actually is alive and has something to do with his son’s becoming The Shield, Higgins will face some interesting quandaries. For example, will he stay an operative of the US Military, or will he eventually strike out on his own like the Marvel Universe Captain America did, and become a symbol of the people as opposed to the military? Also, how will he react to the news that his father is alive, and what toll will it take on him when he learns of the secrets that his father has been holding from him? It will be interesting to see…
Rating: 8 /10