The Shield #1 (Dark Circle) Review

Archie's Dark Circle imprint breathes new life into the patriotic superhero with The Shield #1.

(Spoilers within)

The character of The Shield originally debuted in the first issue of Pep Comics in January 1940 from MLJ Comics, the publisher which would later become Archie Comics after a certain red-headed teen appeared in the same title and won America’s hearts. Much hullabaloo has been made about how the character was the original patriotic superhero, debuting over a year before Captain America.

Over the decades, The Shield has been the subject of various comeback attempts, both from Archie’s Red Circle imprint and even DC, who briefly licensed the various Archie superheroes. Yet despite many valiant attempts, the Shield never quite gelled with audiences.

That is about to change.

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The third title in Archie’s Dark Circle imprint, The Shieldcompletely reinvents the character for 2015, packing the book with a sense of mystery, Fugitive-style thrills and plenty of action. Written by novelists Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig (the latter of whom is currently getting much attention for his Star Wars: Aftermath), this Shield is unlike any of her predecessors. Other than the obvious gender-swap, which is a welcome change in a field that can always use more strongly written female superhero characters, the biggest change with the new Shield is that she doesn’t know who she is and what she is supposed to do. True, the character of Victoria Adams/The Shield has an inherent affinity for the American flag and an almost primordial desire to help those in need, but other than that she — and, by extension, readers — don’t know much about the character.

Following a brief prologue set in 1776, we are brought to the present day, where Victoria Adams is being questioned by a Washington, D.C. detective who seems to know more about her than she does herself. The officer sets her free, much to the chagrin of a shadowy government agent whose motives are as questionable as his choice in facial hair. On the run but weirdly not injured, Adams begins having memories of her fantastic past…not to mention her previous deaths. Who is the character? Why doesn’t she have any fingerprints? How is she able to sustain getting hit full-on by a car without being killed? (In fact, the impact makes her feel even better).

These are all questions raised in this first chapter in the “Daughter of the Revolution” story arc, and the brilliance of what Christopher and Wendig do here is that both readers and the Shield herself discover what is going on at the same time. The quick answer: Plenty of visceral thrills and a truly engaging heroine whose mystery you’ll want to unravel as much as she does.

It’s also worth mentioning that the art Drew Johnson (Wonder Woman) is rich with detail and is able to convey the book’s several action beats (just check out that opening sequence set against the backdrop of the American Revolution) with ease. His work here is arguably a career best, eye-catching and packed with emotion that lures the reader in to the world of the Shield.

With this issue ending on a cliffhanger that promises the second issue will be packed with revelations, The Shield is a welcome return for a classic superhero whose potential finally seems realized until now. It is another example of how Dark Circle isn’t just Archie’s superhero imprint, but one whose considerable strenghts rival, if not surpass, the work being done by Marvel and DC.

Don’t miss it, or risk losing out on one of the year’s most stunning debuts.

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5 out of 5