Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review - Protocol Orphans #1

"The average 8-year-old can hold her breath for 90 seconds. Therefore, you have 90 seconds to solve this thing...or you will die."

Living as an orphan is not a life that anyone would choose given the choice. Thankfully, there are those out there who make that life easier for orphans by adopting them. The thing is, they're not always raising the orphan with the child's best interest at heart. Every now and then, an orphan is adopted and raised to be a super-spy, a story showcased in Protocol Orphans #1 from BOOM! Studios. The issue is written by Michael Alan Nelson, illustrated by Mariano Navarro, colored by Gabriel Cassata and lettered by Deron Bennett.

Dad is more than just a dad. He's actually the boss for a group of elite agents trained from childhood to be exquisite tactical machines. Lewis, Lisa, Damon, Jamie, Parish and Tristan also happen to be orphans. They're tasked with finding and stopping a bomb while Dad watches, at the behest of the Grandparents, who serve as Dad's boss. What entails is a series of unplanned events, car chases and fighting, all of which the orphans are aptly suited for. Mix in the intrigue at the end of the issue and things are looking more and more serious than any of them anticipated.

If anything can be said about Protocol Orphans #1, it's how fast it moves. Nelson drops you right in the thick of things and doesn't let up, crashing through the story at a blistering pace. It works very well though for the story itself. There are also quite a few characters thrown at you, but their cohesion is effectively presented by Nelson so that you don't miss a beat. These kids love to play around despite the stakes and are quick to point fingers when things don't go according to plan, characteristics that really help the book. The seamless transitions from character to character in those events and from present to past in flashbacks highlighting some of their training really give you a sense of what they've been through and are expected to do. And there's tons of action, giving you everything you can handle in the way of a classic espionage tale.

Navarro's art is spectacular. It pays a lot of attention to detail and really showcases all the talents of the orphans, both in the present and past. The character renders fall somewhere between serious and cartoonish in a way similar to how the story goes between the two as well. Facial detail is given attention and Navarro affords the characters a pretty wide range through that detail. What's more is that each orphan is illustrated as their own person, helping to further emphasize the contrast in personalities among the orphans. The panel layout is pretty standard, with little in the way of varied page structure or inset panels.

Protocol Orphans #1 straddles the line between fun and serious, offering a tried and true espionage story that factors in the complicated psychology that accompanies the parent/adopted child dynamic. These orphans have been raised to deal with adversity (usually with their life on the line) and it shows in the future as they're constantly looking to one-up each other and impress Dad and the Grandparents. The twist at the end of the first issue was quite a surprise and almost takes the book in an entirely different direction. Protocol Orphans #1 offers a very fast-paced story with great art that presents familiar storylines blended together in a unique way.

Protocol Orphans #1 is in stores now with interiors below.


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