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‘The Mighty Crusaders #1’ (review)

The Mighty Crusaders #1
Script: Ian Flynn
Art: Kelsey Shannon, Matt Herms, Jack Morelli
Published by Archie Comics/Dark Circle
Available 12/6/17 / $3.99

As a kid in the ‘60s, one of my very favorite comic book issues was Archie Comics’ Mighty Crusaders #4.

The story was entitled “Too Many Super-Heroes,” and was a campy romp, written by Superman creator Jerry Siegel, that brought back nearly all of the MLJ Comics superheroes, most of whom hadn’t been seen in 20 years by that point. The regulars in that title up until that time had been Fly Man and Fly Girl, the Black Hood, the Shield (son of the original although that was a secret) and a goofy-looking restyled version of the Comet who looked like David Niven in a spelunking helmet.

Yeah, in retrospect, it wasn’t really such a great series. But many of those older characters looked surprisingly cool!

Steel Sterling! The Web! The Hangman! Mr. Justice! The Fox! There was a half-hearted effort at keeping them around but the timing was poor.

The high camp era in entertainment was giving way to relevance and Archie chose to simply drop all their superhero titles instead of going down that route.

A stillborn effort at doing a dark, serious version of the Black Hood a decade later went nowhere but he popped up again when the early ‘80s comics boom led to a full-scale revival of The Mighty Crusaders concept, headed up by Rich Buckler. Although this effort got off to a promising start with work from, among others, veterans Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, and Dick Ayers, behind the scenes politics and in-fighting led to a slow collapse.

A half-dozen or so attempts at revivals followed over the years, some getting fan press but no actual published results. The characters and concepts were actually leased, sold, or otherwise licensed by DC on two separate occasions but they took everything too far afield and readers simply lost interest.

In the meantime, with the rise of the Internet, we fans that still cared were able to find and read scans of the original stories of the Web…ON the Web! And The Shield and The Black Hood and all the other MLJ superheroes who had gotten left behind in the wake of the success of America’s favorite perpetual teenager, Archie Andrews.

In recent years, there have been yet more fruitless revival efforts including an updated online only series at one point. I lost track and frankly, after all this time and failed efforts on the part of some talented folks to make these characters work in any way, I lost interest.

But things change. My interest is back.

So here we are with a brand new The Mighty Crusaders #1, written by Ian Flynn and drawn by Kelsey Shannon. I’ve never heard of them but they may have finally found the right mixture of old and new to make The Mighty Crusaders a viable concept nearly 80 years after MLJ debuted its first superhero, The Shield.

That Shield is here, too, now the head of a corporation that runs the new Crusaders, a celebrated commercial superhero team. They’re sponsored by a government organization known by its initials, the M.L. J. Nice touch!

The only original active member in this first issue is the seemingly ageless Steel Sterling. He works for the new, young, female version of The Shield. Newer versions of The Comet, The Web, and The Jaguar are also in the group, as is Darkling, whom I seem to recall as a holdover from the ‘80s version, and Firefly, daughter of Fly Girl.

There’s a lot of confusing backstory even just to these recent versions of the characters and I haven’t been paying a lick of attention to it. Didn’t matter a bit as far as the story. You’re thrown right into the good, old-fashioned superhero action and then later on get what exposition you need in a well-written section where the old and new Shields discuss/argue their respective situations as to the team.

That confusing backstory comes up again in an end of issue Data File on “the Broken Shield” where what should be explaining things to the reader just confused the heck out of me. Is this guy the original Shield or not? It seems to say he is and yet also that he isn’t.

The ‘80s version of The Mighty Crusaders was published by Archie’s imprint, Red Circle. This one is from Dark Circle. I hope that isn’t a sign of things to come. As I stated above, this first issue is a good, old-fashioned FUN comic book with superheroes. That’s something that one hasn’t been able to count on from Marvel or DC on any kind of regular basis for ages. I’d hate to see this latest promising revival go the way of all the other promising revivals of The Mighty Crusaders.

Booksteve Recommends…for now.

 

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