This is one of the relatively rare titles about which I had no pre-existing knowledge whatsoever. I know that both the Shield and Inferno were recently brought back in the series of JMS’ “Red Circle” one-shots, but I had little desire to read those. I picked up The Shield #1 largely because of how much I enjoyed Trautmann’s collaboration with Greg Rucka on DC’s stellar Checkmate. The Shield #1 follows a young American soldier given amazing powers in the form of his ‘war suit’, a nanotech combat mod that increases his speed, strength, senses, and more.
The book follows more of the fall-out of Black Adam’s rampage across Bialya a couple years back. Insurgents have taken over much of what remains of the country, and as you can imagine after the slaughter of millions of their countrymen, they aren’t terribly pleased with Americans or superpeople. So when American troops begin to mysteriously go missing, the government decides to send in the Shield.
The book never gets much more complex than that, but it doesn’t have to. Trautmann does a good job at giving us a few important character beats in what is otherwise a relatively slow set-up issue, giving the title character some much-needed humanity before diving fully into the action.
Marco Rudy does an all-around excellent job on art. Whether it’s the joyous smile on the main character’s face as he freefalls through the air or the stretch of creative shield-themed panelling, Rudy’s work fits much more comfortably here than it did rushed into Final Crisis as one of a number of replacement artists.
The book’s back-up feature, an Inferno story written by Brandon Jerwa and illustrated by Greg Scott, doesn’t quite fare so well. Though both are clearly competent, the relative unknown nature of the character doesn’t exactly help as they have to establish a few things about him – namely, that he looks like a completely different person when he’s on fire, that he remembers almost nothing about his life before now, nor about who is after him or who is helping him. All this helps those who didn’t read the Inferno one-shot, but it doesn’t make for a particularly gripping 8 pages of comics.
Overall, The Shield looks like it has the potential to be a well-handled replacement for those who miss Checkmate. Meanwhile, Inferno doesn’t seem like much of anything at all, but it’s hard to judge the back-up’s potential after only 8 pages with an unfamiliar character. The Shield could very well fill a niche that DC and Marvel are largely ignoring right now, but a potentially bland back-up may make audiences wary of paying the full 3.99$.
– Cal Cleary