I’ve avoided these Red Circle comics since they launched. They seemed easy to avoid, with characters who surely wouldn’t make an impression on the DC Universe and writers and artists who didn’t get me to rush to the comic shop looking for their work. But the Archie superhero characters — the Web, the Fox, the Shield, the Comet — do have a bit of nostalgic value for me. I had some of the Mighty Crusaders action figures back in 1984, and I enjoyed a few issues of DC’s Impact line, which revamped the characters a decade later.
So I have been vaguely interested in what DC is doing with the Shield and his pals, but not interested enough to actually read any of the issues. Until this month, when Brandon Jerwa and Michael Avon Oeming came in to kick off the Fox “co-feature” in “The Shield” #7.
Jerwa has been working in the comics industry for years, but I believe this is his first DC work. And Oeming is, of course, a striking visual stylist, who has not only done great work on “Powers” and “Mice Templar,” but has a bold, thickly-black style that evokes Alex Toth by way of Bruce Timm. The Fox story in the back of this issue looks very good, even if the narrative isn’t quite firmly established yet. The words don’t match up to the quality of the art, but it’s just the first installment, so we’re still at the stage-setting phase. It’s an urban ninja superhero story, though, and I’m always a fan of that genre mixture.
I checked it out for the Fox and for Oeming’s work, but the main Shield story is pretty, good too. At least it looks great, even if Eric Trautmann’s writing is mostly by-the-numbers military action (and flashback) sequences. It’s military superhero action of course, of the variety seen in “Checkmate,” which Trautmann co-wrote with Greg Rucka for a short time. But it’s Marco Rudy who’s the star of the story, with his early J. H. Williams III-inspired artwork, using page layouts with design flourishes that the story doesn’t need, but add a lot of visual spectacle to a conventional plot. Mick Gray provides the inks, and that helps to reinforce the J. H. Williams vibe, but this is Marco Rudy’s best-looking work yet, even stronger and more boldly-designed than his pages in “Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape.” He’s aping another artist, sure, but it’s the best artist in the business, and Rudy knows how to use that style to make this story look great.
The art is so good on both the Shield and the Fox stories in this issue that I might keep picking up this comic just for the visuals. The stories are a bit tepid, a bit conservative, but with Rudy and Oeming around, that’s less of a problem than it might be.