After the lackluster "The Red Circle" mini-series introduction, I'll admit that I'd almost given up on the stable of characters that DC licensed from Archie. Eric Trautmann's work on "JSA vs. Kobra" made me decide to give "The Shield" #1 a chance, though, and I'm glad I did. Between "The Shield," "JSA vs. Kobra," and his co-writing on "Checkmate," Trautmann has rapidly become a writer to look out for.
"The Shield" mixes war comics with a superhero universe, inserting the Shield and his invincible warsuit into Bialya, still decimated from Black Adam's attack in "52." It's a smart follow-up to that story, as Trautmann logically places the country in a situation where insurgents have overrun the area and target U.N. relief efforts. Having the Shield go into the country to find missing soldiers is a traditional war story trope, but one where extremely advanced technology and even superpowers still exist. Trautmann's script ends up being a synthesis of the two, providing just the right delicate balance from each side. There's a lot of action to be had here, and the Shield interacting with the suit's computer manages to both deliver exposition and also increase the tension, which is a nice feat. The best part of "The Shield" #1, though, is when he meets the locals. Trautmann manages to make them distrusting yet understandable; you see and hear what they've gone through and can't help but think that you wouldn't want the Shield anywhere near, too.
Marco Rudy's pencils look sharp here; he's able to get a lot of the facial nuances that Trautmann's script asks for, and he's just as good as the larger, bigger moments. When the Shield is climbing through the mountains in Bialya/Kahndaq border, that first glimpse into Bialya hammers home the amount of destruction that the country suffered at the hands of Black Adam, and gives a lot of punch to Trautmann's script. Rudy also plays a lot with page layout here, and in a nice way. So often fancy panels that form shields or crests are distracting, but Rudy makes it work in an unobtrusive way.
The second feature starring the Inferno doesn't hold quite the same punch, although Brandon Jerwa and Greg Scott do their best. Jerwa seems to be turning the Inferno story into a conspiracy thriller, and it seems like a reasonable take on what to do with the character. He and Scott are able to make the story tense by the halfway point, and there's certainly more promise here than we'd gotten during "The Red Circle." With some more pages released, it'll be easier to tell just how this second feature is going.
"The Shield" #1 is a promising start to the series, although I must admit that I winced slightly at the surprise DC Universe guest-stars that showed up at the end of both of the features. Hopefully Trautmann and Jerwa can do something interesting with each of the guest-stars; I'll admit that as a cliffhanger both felt a little forced. Still, they both did a good enough job that I'm more than willing to be pleasantly surprised next month. And after all, they make me want to see another issue, so they're definitely on the right path.