In Review: The Shield #1

A strong story with superior illustrations make this a book I'll follow.

The covers: Five to find, all outstanding. The Main cover is by David Willaims. It’s a shot of Victoria Adams dressed as the Shield, looking up at the readers. I originally wrote ” the reader is looking down at the Shield”, but seeing the expression on her face, the reader is in the weaker position here. She has an attitude that states, “Think again.” The character is strong and the coloring equally impressive. I like how ultra bright colors weren’t necessary to make her stand out; the dark blue did just fine. The first Variant is by Wilfredo Torres. This features the title character front and center, looking to her left, composed against an American flag. She looks more sedate on this cover, but that could be due to the presence of Old Glory. The colors are somewhat faded, giving this an aged look, which foreshadows what lurks within this issue. The next is by Andrew Robinson. This is the youngest looking version of Adams, but she looks as though she’s ready to do battle with all that stand before her. Her windswept hair gives the appearance that this is playing out on a battlefield. Nice coloring on this as well. The Variant by Rafael Albuquerque is the moodiest piece, with a view of Adams from the waist up, with only her costume’s logo clearly seen against the darkness and the blood that outlines her figure and is on the wall. This shows how violent the Shield can be, and this, too, offers a taste of what’s within. The final Variant is by Robert Hack with Steve Downer. This is a movie poster whose layout screams 1970s exploitation films, and I love it! The image of Adams standing with her arms folded across her chest while being surrounded by several friends and foes is great, as is the faded orange coloring for the background. How could one not love a title that says, “She’s a one woman army, going to war with the whole damn world!” I’d buy this if it were a print. Overall grades: Main A, Variant Torres A, Variant Robinson A+, Variant Albuquerque A+, and Variant Hack A+

The story: “Daughter of the Revolution” by Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig lives up to its title as this is when the book begins: 1776. A female clad in black sneaks into a British camp. She’s able to make her way to a tent that contains supplies. Spying some canisters on a shelf, she produces a knife and slashes them, spilling their contents to the floor. Unfortunately, she’s attacked by a guard, and more follow. One shoots her in the shoulder, and she goes down. An officer with a pronounced scar on his cheek enters and says, “How weak are out enemies that they send you against us? Tell me, who are you whig?” She snarls, “Go to hell! I’m nobody. I’m nothing. Nothing but a soldier. Nothing but a Shield of the Revolution.” That’s a dramatic opening if ever there was one! The scene then shifts to the modern era in the District of Columbia where a familiar looking character has been apprehended by the police for beating a purse snatcher. The police officer says, “Good news: the thief’ll live. Bad news: three government agencies outside that door wanna talk to you.” This is a slam bang beginning in two different eras where a red headed protagonist fights for justice. Readers are learning of Adams’ past along with her, and her abilities are demonstrated with each page: 10, 14 – 16, and 20 — and that’s a “Wow!” on for the last one! Christopher and Wendig smoothly create tension with a villain whose agenda and abilities are unspecified, though the antagonist states, “We have to find her. She is important. Important to us. Important to me.”  Why isn’t said, but it’s understood that it would be bad should be caught. Also impressive is the two page sequence on 17 and 18 that moves this beyond the expected “individual upset with the modern world and wants to make a difference” storyline and into an endless opportunity for stories. Congratulations should also be given to this writing pair for writing dialogue that doesn’t end with an exclamation point for every dramatic moment: the lettering style and the words themselves are strong enough that they aren’t always needed. This was really fun. Overall grade: A

The art: It’s never noticeable until a reader is done with a book, but images in comics look amazing when the artwork stretches beyond the border of the page. Drew Johnson is doing this constantly on this book; the visuals aren’t always stopped within a panel, they bleed off the pages. This makes the visuals seem so much larger and in the reader’s face. The opening five page sequence in America’s past is magnificent. The first panel has the lead looking down from a tree. She looks great and the tree would do Charles Vess proud. Watching her battle Redcoats was exciting. The full page splash of Page 5 is stunning, and visually sums up this character completely. In the present, Johnson keeps the visuals just as exciting to look at by moving the point of view around constantly and keeping the setting just as highly detailed as it was in the past, such as on Pages 8, 9, 15, and 18. Johnson’s architecture skills are really impressive. I’ve been to D.C. and he’s nailed the common and iconic structures of that location. The character work is also very strong, with Adams being amazing; every close-up tells readers that she’s considering something that hasn’t crossed her mind before. The action is terrific, and there’s only a taste of it in this issue, but the way things end, next issue promises so much more. The stand out moments in the visuals occur during the flashback sequences. They represent climatic moments and they are deserving of stories unto themselves. Johnson packs a lot of power into these tiny snapshots that only magnify my desire to see them fully explored in future issues, and rendered by Johnson. This looks great! Overall grade: A+

The colors: The majority of this book is set at night or inside structures. As such, I didn’t know if Kelly Fitzpatrick was choosing to keep things purposefully dim for a thematic reason or “just because”, but several pages in the middle of the story proved that Fitzpatrick was just showing skill and I was overanalyzing. The opening sequence is dim, as it’s night and electricity hasn’t been discovered, but is bright enough to allow readers to see what’s happening. The blast of colors on Page 5 perfectly magnify the emotion of the moment and contribute to a powerhouse statement. In the present, technology has created a constant source of light for interiors, but once outside, and here is where I realized that Fitzpatrick was good, the skies are a brilliant orange that highlight the landscape and the characters. The flashback sequences are not tinted in rusts as is typical in most books to illustrate the past, but receive colors appropriate for the moments, such as on Pages 17 and 18. The neon reds on the final two pages stand out sweetly against the darker colors to show the predicament that Adams is in. A super job by Fitzpatrick on this book. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Rachel Deering provides scene setting and narration (same font), dialogue, sounds, and signage. Every letter is strong and I’m very grateful that she was allowed to put words in italics to show the stress in characters’ speech so as to better be heard by the reader. Her sounds are also powerful, being done in a big bold font. Overall grade: A

The essay: More comics are including short essays after their stories and I’m really enjoying them, such as this one by Myke Cole. A former Lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard, Cole has written “The Price of Freedom: Human Shield.” It is a short, precise examination of what a shield is and what it means to individuals, such as Cole. Accompanied by four photographs, it made what a shield represents more important to me and increased the strength of this issue’s story. Overall grade: A

The final line: This book was completely off my radar, but I had seen it mentioned in places online. I’m thankful that I did because it spurred me to check this out, and I’m glad that I did. An exciting opening that instantly grabs the reader transitions to a woman in search of her past, and it’s a varied one at that. A strong story with superior illustrations make this a book I’ll follow. If you think there’s nothing new in comics, this will prove you wrong. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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