Almost like clockwork, every few years some publisher or another attempts to relaunch the Mighty Crusaders, a group of super heroes originally published by Archie Comics (though often under sub-imprints like Mighty Comics and most famously Red Circle Comics, which is utilized this time). Most of these heroes date back to comics’ Golden Age of the 1940s. It wasn’t until the 60s that Archie placed them together as a super team, hoping to emulate the success of the Justice League, Fantastic Four and the Avengers. Each time, these heroes enjoy a respectable run, only to eventually fade back into limbo.
This time, the creators pay homage to the original characters, by depicting them as retired heroes, having rid the world of evil and living in quiet retirement in the suburban town of
Riverdale Red Circle. That is all shattered with the return of one of their archenemies, Brain Emperor.
The book opens with an explosion as several teenagers fleeing in pandemonium. We then flash back to a backyard cookout/reunion at the mayor, Jack “Steel” Sterling’s house as the Mighty Crusaders, in their civilian identities chat and get re-acquainted. The characters are all labeled by their real names and current jobs, but I think it would have been a better idea to tell which hero was which. While most of the kids play football, the adults adjourn to the formal dining room to toast to their success. The former Shield, Joe Higgins mentions that one of their comrades, Mr. Justice, made the ultimate sacrifice. The doorbell rings and two of the female members wonder if it’s “Paul.” It’s not. As stated, it’s the nefarious Brain Emperor who promptly destroys the place.
The Shield leads the kids to a high tech underground lair, run by a program called Dusty. (Kind of like Jarvis in the Iron Man movies.) He leaves the kids but suits up only to find the town has been trashed by Brain Emperor. Obviously, this means the kids will soon adopt their parents’ and mentors’ identities to exact revenge.
I’m not really sure for whom this book was created. The vibrant, animation-like artwork is appealing and would seem to be aimed at children. (Well, that and the fact that it’s an Archie comic…) The art is VERY cartoon-y with a lot of overly exaggerated poses and facial contortions. Not a bad thing, necessarily. It’s very eye-catching.
However, the events of the story are so bleak! It seems that all of the older heroes, except the Shield, not to mention their spouses, are killed off by their enemy who then destroys the town in which they live. The kids are essentially orphaned right off the bat.
Also, it’s not a fault, exactly, but it seems the books is trying to appeal to existing fans of these characters by utilizing the original characters, still reasonably young a la the Justice Society. They are all labeled with their real names, but if you don’t already know their identities– which I don’t– it’s meaningless. Add to that, the fact that their spouses, who may or may not even be former super heroes (I’m guessing not) are also labelled along with their kids… it’s pretty chaotic.
Now they do get labeled once the fighting starts. But by this point, I had to flip back to figure out who was who. I even looked on Wikipedia and that didn’t really help much. I still don’t know who “Paul” is. There’s one character, Rose Raymond/Pow Girl, who isn’t listed, so I don’t know of she’s a new character or not. I’m just saying, for a first issue, there’s a LOT to take in and process and if you aren’t already familiar with the franchise, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
But that could all change once the kids step into the roles of heroes and we get more clarification. The art is really nice! And from what I’ve seen the character designs are very sleek and clean. (The antithesis of the New 52’s fussy, overly designed looks.) There are also several extras in the back of the book, like interviews with the creators and a mock Life magazine article about The Shield. Obviously a lot of care went into creating this package. ‘The New Crusaders’ has lots of potential, but the kick off was a bit rough for me.
THE NEW CRUSADERS – RISE OF THE HEROES #1
Written by Ian Flynn
Art by Ben Bates
Regular Cover by Ben Bates
Variants by Bates, Mike Norton and Ryan Jampole & Matt Herms