"New Crusaders" almost shouldn’t work as a concept because it isn’t terribly new and yet through force of charm this book is a winner. The first issue set up an older superhero team that is wiped out by the Brain Emperor. The children, from a variety of fun storytelling ages, are then gathered by the sole surviving hero, Shield, and held aside for safe keeping and future training. It’s like the Archie editors wanted to replicate Marvel's "Runaways" but make it all a touch friendlier. The result is a fun book that lacks teeth but feels like it could happily nuzzle you into a smile with its gums.
This second issue quickly recaps the events of the first, as I did above, and then moves the story forward. Due to the ground floor nature of this introduction, you could easily start with this issue and not be lost. This book is about the children, the ones who will become the eponymous New Crusaders. They are thrust into dual worlds here with the amazing opportunity to become heroes dangling in front of them while the dead memories of their parents and caretakers are barely behind them enough to be out of sight. Ian Flynn takes the smart road and has these characters grapple with the situation instead of blindly leaping for the chance to have super heroic fun, as most kids would happily lunge for in their shoes. Flynn wants these characters to feel real and so he plays real emotions through them.
The final sequence of this issue is telegraphed a mile away but when it also includes a talking monkey, a Danger Room type scenario, and teamwork between the leads you know there’s enough here to entertain the kids while also delivering to readers those little life lessons that cannot be reinforced enough. This borders the realm between cutesy Saturday morning fare and mindless fun for everyone. The aspects that put it over the line are where the invention outweighs the convention; a talking ape is always fun, a chance to play with fire is always enticing. If the title can keep throwing great thoughts onto the page then it’ll keep on playing to the audience.
Artists Ben Bates and Gary Martin deliver extremely smooth pages that are easy to decipher and enjoyable on a base level. They parcel up big ideas and small character emotions and make them all fit together into the one issue and style. This has the tone of a comic for kids, and is rather reminiscent of "Super Dinosaur." It is built for readability and effectiveness at conveying ideas.
"New Crusaders" is a fun comic which will hopefully find the audience it deserves. The lack of overly complex structures and themes coupled with cool situations and clean art should make this an easy one to throw on top of the pile for the kid standing at your side. Best of all, this issue holds its own story and message while ending on a beat which will get you back next month.