Review: New Crusaders Issue 1 act 1

New Crusaders is a book I really want to like. It’s Archie’s latest attempt to find the holy grail of modern comics: the all ages super-hero book that will magically transform the current generation of video game saturated kids into comic-book readers while simultaneously reminding  jaded cynics like myself why we fell in love with this medium in the first place. I also have a certain nostalgia for the Red Circle characters from DC’s Impact imprint. I’m in Archie’s corner on this one, but they really need to step up their game if they’re going to go the distance.

The story is fairly run of the mill: the old generation of heroes gets together for a cook-out with their children, an old enemy shows up, the parents are neutralized (it’s unclear after one issue if they’ve been killed, captured or just mind controlled), a house explodes and the kids escape. It’s a time tested premise that has been used successfully in everything from Filmation’s Ghostbusters to Runaways and still has plenty of life left. The problem here is solely one of execution.

The art is perfectly adequate. Ben Bates’ manga inspired style isn’t my cup of tea but it is appropriate to the story and is likely to entice the kids who are reading Sonic or Mega Man. I also found that it had grown on me by the end of writing this review. Matt Herms’ colors and Gary Martin’s inks are the stand-out visual contribution: they’re bold, clean, and they work together to give the line work a real sense of animation. It’s also worth noting that the interior art is markedly better than the cover. Since no inker is credited on the cover, I’m going to take this as an indication of just how good Martin is at his job.

Unfortunately New Crusaders is a pretty house built on the flawed foundation of Ian Flynn’s script. This first act is thirteen pages including the cover. The twelve pages Flynn has left to work with isn’t much, and it’s not used very efficiently. Instead of choosing one or two characters to focus on and really get to know, he decides to gives us very broad and shallow portraits of sixteen people, that are so thinly defined it’s difficult to care about what happens to them. Some of the characters (mainly the women, make of that what you will) are only identified by their name and profession in a word balloon floating next to their faces on the panel in which they’re introduced. It’s an annoying and superfluous convention that clutters the art and insults the reader’s intelligence without adding anything essential, though it does deliver a single hilarious moment in which a character is singled out as “apprentice, orphan”. The dialog is completely out of sync with the way people actually talk and at times becomes so bad it’s funny (“You don’t have to observe rank or protocol here”).

So is New Crusaders worth buying? That’s a really hard call to make. The quality is sub-par but at only 99 cents, the buy in for the digital exclusive is small. It’s certainly no worse than that Marvel or DC book you’ve been buying for six months solely out of force of habit. I’m giving this one a very cautious recommendation to readers who remember Impact comics, and those with kids who are into Archie’s genre offerings.

Story: Ian Flynn, Art: Ben Bates,  Colors: Matt Herms
Story: 4.5    Art: 7.5  Overall: 6

Graphic Policy was provided with free copies for review.

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