Review: Sword and Shield

S.W.O.R.D. #1

Twice last week, Marvel surprised me.  Perhaps they’re now making a concentrated effort to get out of the self-destructive, obsessively grim ‘n gritty cloud that they’ve been desperately living under in recent years, but, much like Strange, S.W.O.R.D. #1 is a surprisingly light-hearted adventure with a solid creative team, a cartoonish tone and a strong sense of the bizarre.  Following the adventures of Abigail Brand as she juggles new obstacles from Osborn with hectic space adventures, writer Kieron Gillen quickly introduces readers to the important cast-members, making each distinct and lively without stealing too many pages from the narrative itself.

Steven Sanders’ energetic art is well-matched by Gillen as he draws a bizarre assortment of alien entities with verve, if not with a particularly memorable sense of design aesthetics.  The pair introduce a large cast, but they do so entertainingly.  Like Strange, the book is not without its flaws, but, like Strange, it is nonetheless an engaging, fun read that offers a reminder of just how expansive, and how weird, the Marvel Universe can be.

Grade: B+

The Shield #3

Trautmann’s opening issue of The Shield impressed me.  It seemed like it might be a fitting successor to the action-espionage tradition that DC lost when they cancelled Checkmate (or rather, when they gave Checkmate to Bruce Jones) and Marvel lost when they put the two least subtle human beings on the planet, Bendis and Millar, in charge of their world-building.  But while Trautmann is hardly a novice at comics anymore, The Shield #3 displayed what looks like a surprising lack of confidence, despite still-excellent characterization and a good use of the arc’s guest star, Magog.

The back-up feature remains relatively forgettable, which was less of an issue when the main story seemed so promising.  Jerwa and Scott are hardly turning in bad work, but it doesn’t particularly fit, tonally or thematically, with the book to which their back-up is attached, a bad sign for the book’s consistency (and sales).  With one arc completed in the main feature, the book’s grace period is over.

Grade: C+

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Review: The Shield #1

SHIELD

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$.

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

JSA vs. Kobra: Engines of Faith #1