About a year ago on this very blog I briefly detailed my excitement over the return of some obscure heroes that DC comics had gotten the rights for. The characters originally appeared in a line of comics put out by Archie comics in the 50s and 60s. In the 70s Archie published these characters under an imprint called Red Circle comics which is why these characters are referred to as “The Red Circle Characters”. In the nineties DC launched a short lived imprint “Impact Comics” which is where I first read about and fell in love with several of these characters. Now the head honchos at DC comics have these characters again and instead of publishing them under a different imprint or in their own self contained universe they are integrating them into the main DC universe. Over the past couple of months they have had interactions with other DC characters. Most notably Inferno running into Green Arrow and Black Canary. DC comics is currently publishing two books that feature Red Circle characters: The Web which has a co-feature that stars The Hangman and the Shield which has a co feature that stars Inferno. Although DC recently announced that Inferno will go on hiatus for a while and the co feature in the Shield is going to star the Japanese themed super-hero The Fox.
So How are these books going? Do they live up to my own fan expectations? I’m going to examine each book starting with The Web:
The Web follows the adventures and misadventures of John Raymond. John is a rich womanizing socialite that after the murder of his brother decides to use this hi-tech “Web” suit to help people. Solving his brother’s murder is also one of his goals. John sets up a web site where people can submit a plea for the Web’s help. He decides to start a super-hero franchise and gives the suits out to 100 other people around the world that pass a stringent vetting process and have the cash to buy in. These people are called Web-Hosts. This way the Web-Hosts can deal with problems submitted from their areas and thereby being more productive and of course John Raymond makes a profit from this. This leads to all sorts of problems and frustrations for the main Web as well as the super-hero community in general.
At first I thought that I wasn’t going to enjoy this one but I must confess that the rich characterizations and the intriguing use of technology and premise of this book has me hooked. A super-hero franchise that uses the internet to fight crime. This is the finest example of 21st century super heroics that i’ve been able to find.
The Co feature in this comic belongs to the Hangman:
By day this character is a doctor working at a local hospital and by night he transforms into te mystical Hangman. When I say Transform I mean transform. When the sun goes down he becomes an avenging spirit seeking justice. This character has some odd powers not to mention the dramatic transformations. Still this co-feature has some gritty art and some interesting storylines as our immortal hero is currently cleaning up San Francisco. As far as co-features go this is the best of the two. As i’ll discuss later Inferno is a confusing mess. This co-feature makes the price of $3.99 bearable.
Now we move on to the other Red Circle book: The Shield
This comic centers around the adventures of a young Army man who was mortally wounded in Afghanastan. The army fused an experimental nanosuit to him which saved his life and allowed him to become the Shield. What I like about this character is that he doesn’t see himself as a super-hero. He just sees himself as a soldier with a job to do. He isn’t the idealistic patriotic hero like Captian America. That’s not to say he doesn’t love the states he just doesn’t give rousing speeches or try to embody “America”. What he does do well is kick butt. Of all of the Red Circle books this one has done the best job of integrating the character into the overall DC universe. He has faced down Gorilla Grod and the Chinese Super-team The Great Ten. The Shield has been a great read and of the two RC books I recomend it the most. The only thing that drags down this book is the Co-feature which stars Inferno:
So after six issues all I can tell you about this is that there is this guy that is on the run from an evil corporation that experimented on him. When he “flames up” his appearence completely changes to look like the dude in the picture above. At other times he looks like a clean shaven white guy. Best of all he has no idea who is and honestly this co feature never made me care. I am so glad that they are dropping this co-feature next month and putting the Fox in its place. At least for a little while. I don’t know how much Inferno I can take.
Overall i’d say that DC has done a good job with most of these characters. Both The Web and The Shield are enjoyable reads. The Shield main feature is better but the co-feature is horrendous while both the Web and its Hangman co-feature are entertaining. Next month the Shield Co feature changes to new character. So i’m hoping the Fox will turn out to be a cool character and not the confusing mess that Inferno is.