Launching a new initiative under the Red Circle Comics brand, Archie Publishing presents "The New Crusaders" #1, a digital-first comic running on the Red Circle app. Priced at 99¢ and scheduled for weekly installments, the first issue begins to introduce readers to the town of Red Circle and its citizens.
Ian Flynn has his work cut out for him as this story is twelve pages long and features the debut of over fifteen characters. The character introductions are handled through word balloons with pointers on the tails, identifying the people we meet in this issue. That's a fine and quick way to handle it, but there are a couple of waves of characters introduced one over the other, to the point where I was flipping back and forth matching up who is connected where. Flynn seems to recognize that and uses the character destined to become the Web to help readers make associations.
Even though there are quite a few characters introduced in this comic, the story doesn't feel like a gigantic information dump. Flynn uses the characters to set the stage, showing the reader an idyllic world where good actually has triumphed over evil. That encourages the quieter moments surrounding the character introductions and makes the ending of this chapter all the more intense.
Ben Bates' art is open and engaging, reminiscent of work by Ben Caldwell and Sean "Cheeks" Galloway, but with strong manga underpinnings. Those influences are on full display throughout the issue, but moreso in the action sequences, such as the first page. Those spots are the least interesting drawings of this twelve-page tale. Bates handles emotion well and his characters are lively and energetic, but not overly rendered. In short, the art appears simple, but has more depth and detail than is revealed in a quick glance. Bates, Martin, Herms and Workman mesh nicely in this debut, setting the visual tone for what readers can expect to see in this new line.
While none of the "New Crusaders" appear in costume in this story, the adventure is just beginning. The Red Circle characters have a new lease on life and a new vehicle to find readers. While the set-up is very similar to a standard "digital comic" in basically being a PDF of what would be printed, the price point and delivery schedule combined with the environment and supporting structure around the new comic line offers readers a richer experience than a simple digitized version of a printed comic possibly could. Archie Comic Publications has a well-assembled fine offering with "New Crusaders." Now that it's started, I hope we see it investigate and expand into the greater capabilities of this platform.