Last week, The Shield #1 pleasantly surprised me. Though the recent set of Red Circle one-shots from JMS did not draw my attention, I was intrigued enough by the creative teams for the main books to give them both a shot. Angela Robinson, The Web‘s writer, is another import from film and television (“Hung”, “The L Word”, “D.E.B.S.”), and she makes her comics debut here on the main feature. Her specialty is LGBT stories, but that doesn’t come out, at least not in any obvious way, in the opening issue of The Web. Where Trautmann, now a veteran comic writer, felt comfortable just diving into his story and letting us keep up, Robinson’s approach is slower, and has less pay-off.
The bulk of the story fills us in on the history and family situation of John Raymond, aka the Web. Though the information is certainly handy to have, especially since the issue strongly suggests that the death of John’s brother David will be the driving motivation of the book’s first arc, she drops a lot on us through a great deal of exposition. That’s hardly uncommon in a first issue, and the amount of forward momentum Robinson provides throughout the issue is definitely promising, but it made for a slow start.
Also promising? John solves just as many problems by knowing who to bribe as he does by putting on the suit. Though artist Roger Robinson’s pencils are clean and crisp throughout much of the issue, his action scenes in the book appear fairly stiff, more a gathering of action poses than a genuine fight. On the whole, however, Robinson’s work outside the in-costume scenes prove him to be an apt choice for the book.
The Hangman back-up feature is the issue’s biggest weakness. Writer John Rozum’s first 10-page story is in large part an info-dump about who the Hangman is, how he operates, his secret identity, etc…. Unfortunately, Rozum doesn’t seem quite sure at all where to go from there – for ten pages, the story tries to do a lot of different things. Is it a gritty urban anti-hero story? How does that mesh with his ‘tortured hero lacking control’ bit? Is that an element of supernatural noir I see? Derenick and Sienkiewicz, reunited after Reign in Hell, offer up gritty, scratchy art that fits the Hangman sections quite well, but don’t quite fit his secret identity. They also have a little trouble with the cramped space in which they’re working – forced to cram a whole night’s worth of fighting onto a single page, the result looks sloppy and confusing.
Still, a high concept character that few readers will be familiar with is a tough one to introduce so quickly. Both the main feature and the back-up to The Web #1 are fairly flawed, but both have a great deal of room to grow. Whether Rozum and Robinson are up to the task remains to be seen, but both introduce more than enough potentially interesting ideas into their story to warrant giving them a second chance.
– Cal Cleary