Contrary to what my employment might make you think, I don’t know about every superhero out in the world. Some of them that have been around for a long time are still new to me. This happened when I picked up the New Crusaders trade paperback from Red Circle Comics which is a sort of relaunch of the older title “The Mighty Crusaders.”
As some comics have done previously, New Crusaders does a spin on the superhero team tale where the children of former heroes are tasked to pick up where their parents left off, and that’s one of the biggest problems with the comic. There aren’t a lot of ideas here that are brand new. Some are fresh and exciting, but they end up being put on the back burner for things we’ve seen before. You’ll see threads and inspiration from decades worth of superhero comics here and it begins to get tiring after a while, but it’s still fun to read if you want a lighthearted story.
Written by Ian Flynn, the series does its best to place itself in the modern world and could have gone one route and been a comment on how different the time period is from when the characters’ parents were heroes, but instead opts for a tale that is the typical ‘We’re heroes now?! We have powers?! Whaaaaat??’ This is where one of the fundamental flaws of the comic comes into play, it can’t decide if it wants to be serious or not. I described the comic as ‘lighthearted’ above and for the majority of the comic it is, and it’s fine for those kinds of stories to take a quick turn and be serious because it will throw the reader off guard, but New Crusaders takes its time to set up the neat and clean lives of these characters with little snippets of darkness that feel wildly out of place.
To talk specifically about the characters, I can’t say I was particularly invested in any of them by the end of the trade. Halfway into the story, I liked two of the seven heroes and the rest seemed to just be cookie-cutter style cliches that we’ve seen for years in comics. I will say the villain was really interesting for the first 2/3 of the book because he maintained an air of mystery since his motives and his story weren’t beaten over your head with tons of exposition like the rest. Though I could have used a bit more of what he’s actually planning on doing, because at the end he hasn’t accomplished all that much.
The artistic duties for the comic are divided between Ben Bates and Alitha Martinez. Though their style is similar in design it is ironic that when the tone of the comic takes a darker shift the art gets a little grittier as well. Similar in nature to Jason Howard’s work on The Astounding Wolfman, the art here starts to feel stale after a while which might have more to do with the repeating color palette than the actual pencils. Bates’ style fits better with the kind of story the first half of the comic is telling and Martinez’s works well enough for the later portions, but again, this goes back to the tonal issues of the comic, with an art style that looks so cartoonish and friendly it randomly decides to tackle very dark issues and the art doesn’t help it in those cases.
I’m willing to give this series the benefit of the doubt and think maybe I’m not ‘in the know’ for it. Fans of The Mighty Crusaders might enjoy this, but as someone that’s read a ton of superhero comics and is always on the lookout for something that does it differently, this just didn’t work for me. It has its ups and downs certainly, but overall it’s a story we’ve seen before with powers that are overdone and caricatures of heroes and villains. Not my cup of tea, but maybe it is yours.
Rating: 5 / 10
New Crusaders: Rise of the Heroes will be available in stores April 9.