THE SHIELD: DAUGHTER OF THE REVOLUTION collects four comics that put a new face on the Golden Age hero. The Shield goes way back to 1940 when Archie Comics ran PEP COMICS. Because CAPTAIN AMERICA would make his debut a year later, The Shield is actually America’s first patriotic hero. No joke.

For the 21st century, Dark Circle Comics (an imprint of Archie Comics) gave writers Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig the task of recreating this superhero. They introduced her — you read that right — to the world in 2015. With the art team of Drew Johnson, Ray Snyder, Al Barrionuevo, and Greg Scott — and Kelly Fitzpatrick coloring throughout — they created a four issue arc to introducing this splendid character. Although I was excited to support THE SHIELD, I ended the series feeling a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not because The Shield is a bad character. I have hopes for her and can’t wait to see her grow. However, I couldn’t help feeling the series treats her more like an action figure than a person.

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The Past And Present Of THE SHIELD

Our protagonist is a soldier and a fighter. She always has been — even in 1776. The book opens with her dressed in period clothing, sneaking into a British Regulars’ base. As for her role in the Revolution, she says it best herself:

THE SHIELD
Image Courtesy Of Archie Comics Publications.

We then cut to present day where a D.C. Metropolitan detective is questioning her. Turns out she stopped a purse snatcher, but not before causing a lot of property damage. Rather than detain her, the detective gives her an address and a warning: they’re looking for her. The detective then has our protagonist punch her to look like she left by force, and our hero runs.

A Forgotten Past

At the very end of the book, we learn her name: Victoria Adams. We journey with her as she slowly remembers her past and her purpose. Gifted with superhuman senses and healing, she’s spent history fighting — and dying — in war for the United States. As for why she has been reborn in this age, we don’t discover until the end. Rest assured, a government agent with a demon voice — someone she met way back in 1776 — knows why.

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The story of THE SHIELD has a lot of cool ideas behind it, I won’t fault it for that. The story explores what it means to be a hero: becoming a sword or a shield. There are secret societies that stretch back throughout time. There are women portrayed as guiding characters. There’s even a blatantly evil Russian bike gang (what story would be complete without one?). Yet despite these cool premises, there is still something missing.

Although Strong, THE SHIELD is Weak on Pressuring its Hero

THE SHIELD doesn’t challenge its protagonist. I don’t mean that in the literal sense — she takes out plenty of bad guys. But, internally, there’s no challenge for her. I’ll admit my bias: I want a comic named after a hero to be about the trials of that hero, not necessarily who they fight. The antagonist is there to push a character to overcome meaningful challenges. When your hero can walk off a hit from a car or a fall from a three-story building, is combat threatening? It doesn’t matter if the arc closes with a one-on-one bout against the antagonist. We already know the ending. It’s a little anti-climactic.

THE SHIELD
Image Courtesy of Archie Comics Publications.

However, there is a richness to the character of Victoria Adams. Each comic trickles in information about her origin story. It’s dark, gruesome, and scary. She gets tortured, mutilated, and used — and she never knows why. Still, when she is finally able to take over her own destiny towards the end of the comic, it comes off as matter-of-fact. We don’t get to see her struggle and shake off her old self for the new.

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But maybe that’s her way. Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig write a no-nonsense character with no illusions about what she wants. When surrounded by enemies and dotted with laser sights, she muses as much. “Crisis brings hidden strength. Brings unknown talents. Brings clarity of purpose. Though right now the only thing clear to me is that I’m really hungry and really thirsty and would kill any one of these mooks for a c-ration of chocolate.”

Though it doesn’t come out as strongly in the story, you do see Victoria’s resolve in the art. To me, this is where her character truly shines.

The Art Gives THE SHIELD Emotional Depth

THE SHIELD employs five artists in its arc. Johnson covers issues #1, #2, and #3; Snyder inks the first part of #2; Barrionuevo covers the rest of the art in Issue #2; and Scott is solely in charge of Issue #4. Throughout all, Fitzpatrick colors and Deering letters. Despite each artist covering different time periods, locales, costumes, and characters, there’s a solid tonal consistency between them all. They all know the characters and depict their emotions phenomenally.

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Victoria Adams knows pain and fear, but she also knows resolve and determination. The art and inking of her eyes and posture show this much throughout the four issues. We can see the terror in her eyes when the villain draws a knife. While fighting a Russian terrorist twice her size, her face is scarier than the bullets her guns pump out. Whenever she’s relaxed, it doesn’t look like she has a care in the world. When she remembers the past, the pain is all too real.

THE SHIELD
Image courtesy of Archie Comics Publications.

And it’s not just her. There’s Detective Nicole, who is terrified when Victoria jumps off a building with her in her arms. In the same turn, she faces a riot with just as much will as our hero. Even the villain — who changes appearance with time — practically oozes evil and sinister intent. The plot didn’t move me as much as it could have, but the art certainly did.

Granted, it’s not without flaw. Each artist has a few panels of oddly angled characters and weird facial expressions. Yet as an ensemble, they deliver, and Fitzpatrick’s colors pulls some neat visual tricks.

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Final Thoughts on THE SHIELD

When a hero starts with an unknown past, it’s a good opportunity to relate that past to the antagonist. Fighting enemies is cool, but those fights should mean something to the character. This is what I was hoping from THE SHIELD.

But I shouldn’t be surprised. The writers lay it out in a letter to the reader at the end of Issue #1. “[We had an idea to make] a brand new Shield, one with her own history, identity, purpose. A strong, female superhero who will kick your ass five ways to Sunday.” And they did this. In all four issues. But the danger, I believe, was equating physical might with strength.

Not all stories have to plumb the emotional depths of a superhero. But in the case of THE SHIELD, I think it’s  a disservice to her character. Throughout time, a secret society uses her power and strength to further their agenda. This is with no regard to the sacrifice Victoria had to endure. It’s true — she does realize this by the end of Book #4, but the realization feels tacked-on. At most pessimistic, it’s as if the creators use THE SHIELD like the secret society do: as a tool. A means to an end to sell comics.

The Shield: Not the Hero We’ve Been Waiting For

There is so much more to this character and this story. I want to see the emotional depth I know the creative team put into her. I want to see the challenges she faces coming to grips with her newfound freedom. Fortunately, the chance will come. Ian Flynn — one of my favorite writers — will head THE NEW CRUSADERS in December of 2017. It will follow Dark Circle Comics’ own version of an ensemble superhero cast — including The Shield.

THE SHIELD: DAUGHTER OF THE REVOLUTION TPB by Adam Christopher & Chuck Wending; art by Drew Johnson, Ray Snyder, Al Barrionuevo, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Rachel Deering
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
THE SHIELD: DAUGHTER OF THE REVOLUTION collects the four-issue arc introducing us to Dark Circle Comics' new Shield. She’s a woman as old as the country itself. As she works to regain the memories she lost, we see her new place in the 21st century. Although the plot doesn't challenge her enough, the art team does a good job of showing the depth of her character.
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