Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing The Shield 1, originally released October 21st, 2015.
Drew: Who are remakes for? I have loads of cynical answers, from “vain artists” to “money-hungry IP owners,” but the most cynical — and, unfortunately, perhaps the most true — is simply “not fans of the original.” We’re all familiar with film buffs wincing at the thought of a classic being redone, but they’re clearly not the target audience: there’s no reason to remake something for someone who loves the original. Unless, of course, you aren’t being as cynical as I tend to be. It’s entirely possible for a remake to celebrate what was great about the original without being tied to it — that is, it welcomes both new and old fans alike. That’s the name of the game for Archie’s Dark Circle imprint, which manages that tricky balance again in Shield 1.
Or, at least, I think they do. As with Black Hood 1, I’m completely new to the character, so I can’t really comment on what the experience is like for a diehard Shield fan. That said, a quick pop over to Wikipedia makes it clear that the “start from scratch” model is baked right into the Shield’s history. Of course, the differences are perhaps more pronounced, particularly an origin that doesn’t seem concerned with chemistry or physiology. Indeed, this issue presents fewer parallels to Captain America (long the obvious analogue for the Shield), and more to Wolverine, giving us a character with a long, half-remembered history and a superhuman healing factor.
Indeed, Victoria Adams’ history seems just as full of killing as Wolverine’s, albeit with a decidedly more patriotic bent. As far as we know, that history begins during the American Revolution, where we meet Victoria sabotaging a British encampment.
It’s a bravura sequence that establishes Victoria as a total badass long before we learn about her healing factor. I’m particularly enamored with how artist Drew Johnson uses those initial inset panels to establish the spatial relationships in a kind of continuous establishing shot. It gives us a real understanding of the layout of the camp, which makes Victoria’s infiltration all the more impressive.
Johnson is fantastic throughout the issue, but I’m also impressed at the decisions writers Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig make in establishing this character. After this impactful opening sequence set in 1776, they drop us into the present day without any explanation. The protagonist here is a total cipher, though apparently a kind of over-the-top vigilante who would lead a Blues Brothers-style car chase just to catch purse-snatcher. She’s in an interrogation room when we meet her, though the detective mysteriously helps her escape.
Just as mysterious is this woman’s connection to the one we met in 1776 — they look an awful lot alike, in spite of the 239-year gap. Are they related? Are they the same woman? As the issue wears on, we get a few hints. We learn that this woman has a healing factor that makes her virtually invincible, which suggests that she’s the same woman from 1776, but then she remembers “dying,” which suggests that there’s some kind of reincarnation going on. The detective more-or-less confirms the latter when they meet back up, stating that this woman is Victoria Adams reborn.
I’m sure we’ll learn more about the nature of that rebirth in coming issues, but for now, the meta nature of making a reboot a literal reincarnation is enough. It honors the history of the Shield (while also acknowledging its many “deaths”), but doesn’t commit to the tortuous history that bogs down so many superheroes. This Shield is a legacy character, but the legacy comes from within the universe, rather than from outside of it. That’s an inviting idea, which has me ready to find out more. Were you as hooked by this first issue as I was, Ryan?
Ryan D.: Sometimes, dearest Drew, I enjoy the ideas you excavate from a work more than the work itself, as exemplified in issue one of The Shield. I think I want to like this comic. I really do. I love the idea of a resurrected Golden Age joint being resurrected and standing on its own feet, especially by two writers who seem so excited just to BE here — as seen in the letter Christopher and Wendig included at the end of the issue; however, this comic left me focused on its wrongs more than its successes.
When I pick up a new title, I crave something new: a fresh global perspective tied to topical moral quandaries, an inspired choice of protagonists, or some art that makes me pull a friend over and say, “Look how far comics have come! You are a philistine for not knowing how amazing this medium can be!” Not to be a Negative Nancy (or to “take the piss” as they say here in the UK), but what have you not seen before in The Shield? As cool as the opening two-page spread from the Revolutionary War looks, I already played that level in Assassin’s Creed 3 and watched it in Turn: Washington’s Spies (good show, by the by). I love super-powered and emboldened female leads, but Victoria Adams has yet to show any of the pathos or multidimensionality which has me excited for the Jessica Jones series. In fact, the only real moment I felt connected to our heroine came during this throwaway line of narration in the caption box here:
This fun little moment of meta-realization serves as a fun burst of much-needed characterization during the Jason Bourne-esque amnesiac confusion, and if Christopher and Wendig could root Victoria Adams’ voice on a note like this, than I could see myself picking up more issues of this title.
But first, I need some assurance that this villain will work his way out of the realm of cliche. From the first panel we see this yet-unnamed Agent, everything about him boldly proclaims his villainy as much as a Razor Ramon promo from the 90’s (if you’ll pardon the pro wrestling reference). Even his henchmen seem taken aback by this ne’er-do-well’s ostentatious evil:
It is good to know that this type of preposterous pontification feels odd even in the universe of this comic. I have no real interest in reading about a bad guy who knows he is bad and commits nefarious acts for the sake of chaos, so hopefully the Agent will, in the coming issues, also get his time to shine and do more than just cry havoc in special black font to insinuate that he, too, possesses powers.
Lastly, artists Rachel Deering and Drew Johnson do their damnedest to illustrate an issue comprised mostly of action scenes and flashbacks, and manage to keep the intensity consistent through a nice mix of high angle shots and smash-cuts. I do have some issues, though. For example, tank tops don’t work like the artistic team depicts. Victoria Adams’ tank top defies all natural laws of gravity. And is it…tucked in? Have you ever seen someone tuck IN a tank top? Whaaaat? Also, this may be picky, but my eyes could not look away from one detail in this issue’s climax:
The angle of that soldier’s wrist seems unhealthy, if not impossible, as he attempts to wield what looks to be an M4A1 carbine (with foregrip and laser sight attachments), which took me right out of the scene. Correct me if I am wrong, weapons enthusiasts!
Ultimately, I appreciate the idea of resurrecting a Golden Age gem and re-breathing life in a character which could lend some contemporary significance. After one issue, however, I am left wanting more from The Shield: more characterization, more depth, and more individuality. I suppose we will need to wait for more content before we can decide whether or not the internal legacy of the comic which Drew mentioned can deliver something the reader has not seen or read before.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?