Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Advance Review: Protectors Inc. 1 by J. Michael Straczynski and Gordon Purcell

Protectors Inc. 1, out November 6 from Image, is the latest superhero title in the newly revived Joe's Comics line by J. Michael Straczynski. The book is competently though unspectacularly illustrated by Gordon Purcell. (Joe was giving out copies at his spotlight panel at New York Comic Con, the special cover for which by Michael Avon Oeming is pictured at right.)

The premier issue is pretty much all set-up, playing with the well-worn tropes of superhero fiction with a slight twist to it. The issue is framed by seemingly disparate disappearances of individuals in a flash of light, one, a CIA asset, the other, a girl coming out of a bar. The book is narrated by a District Attorney in Chicago, briefly going over the history of superpowered beings. Like many modern independent superhero books, Straczynski remixes the established ideas of superhero fiction into a fresh batch. The source of superpowers dates to a mysterious event in World War 2, with powers popping up around the world soon after. The 50 or so heroes, functionally immortal, called themselves Protectors, and would eventually incorporate and become media darlings, settling in big cities. But superpowered villains did not follow (as is usually the case in superhero stories). Occasionally heroes get into fights with each other, but these are usually just for show. The first time we see the Protectors is a flash in the sky as two of them tussle, and it's pretty cool. 

But even the re-imagined superhero mythos has become its own kind of cliche, and it takes something special to really stand out. And Protectors Inc. isn't that special (yet, anyway). Of course this is only the first issue, but many first chapters in serialized fiction (including many by Straczynski) avoid being as somewhat dull and largely unengaging as this. I am a fan of a lot of Straczynski's stuff, so based on how he tells stories there is much more likely to come, but what we get is just not exactly riveting or moving. But it is just 1/12th of a larger story that will hopefully come into focus later. Jupiter's Legacy, another modern superhero rejiggering, only really got interesting with the third issue (and at least it has Frank Quitely).

J. Michael Straczynski is going to have a ridiculously busy 2014 - this is the third new Joe's Comics title along with Sidekick and the delayed Ten Grand. In addition to work-for-hire books for Dynamite (Twilight Zone) and Dark Horse (Terminator) and a television series with the Wachowskis for Netflix (Sense8), he's also got Apocalypse Al and Dream Police with Sid Kotian, and two projects I'm looking forward to, Alone with Bill Sienkiewicz and the return of the wonderful Book of Lost Souls with Colleen Doran. But not everyone can bat a thousand. Middling art, which also effects Sidekick and may soon come to effect Ten Grand, certainly doesn't help.

I'm a long-time fan of Straczynski's stuff, so I'll stick with the book for now. Honestly, Protectors Inc. isn't that bad, it's just not all that great either. 

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