Friday, December 6, 2013
"Lightning. Thunder. God, I wish it would rain."
Superheroes fight for the weak. The timid. The unjust. The thrill of it. Most superheroes rarely delve into the last as a reason, but there are some who tend to enjoy their powers for the sheer fact that they can beat the crap out of each other, take a break and go get drinks afterwards. It's a culture that's akin to that of CEOs and their merger and acquisition games, on full display in Protectors, Inc. #1 from the Joe's Comics imprint of Image Comics. The issue is written by J. Michael Straczynski, illustrated by Gordon Purcell, colored by Michael Atiyeh and lettered by Troy Peteri.
Leop Addison is a CIA Field Agent, bringing in Josef Mueller for reasons unknown. The transaction seems innocent enough, yet it frames a much larger issue in that superheroes are real and they're bored. After the Protector started to appear, many more followed suit, including the likes of Mr. America, Pulse, Black Mask, Huntsman, Shrike, Lady Justice, Blade, Predator and Angel. All of them are part of a group that was incorporated and they tend to save the day on most occasions. On other occasions, they're hashing boredom with epic fights above the clouds, while the citizens of Earth can only watch and pay for their messes.
The concept of superheroes making cities their own proving grounds is nothing new. In fact, the recent spate of superhero films, it seems that the heroes can't triumph without some epic battle against the enemy that levels a major, metropolitan area or famous landmark. Straczynski is taking a subtle jab at this "culture," presenting a world where the people who the superheroes are supposed to be saving grow tired of their antics. It's not that they're not appreciative when they need the help, but they're a little weary of all the thunder and lightning in the clouds that signifies the superheroes fighting. What's more, all of them are drawn to the major cities, which means there's even more property damage and headache when the superheroes fight.
Straczynski takes an interesting tact with who could be named the lead character in Patriot. He follows an arch very similar to that of Captain America, in that he was used as a propaganda machine to further bolster the war machine. The major difference between the two is that Captain America was created with that purpose, whereas the Patriot earned his powers more coincidentally and was turned into a walking message. The overarching comparison still holds true though, as there's an inevitable tendency to commoditize a superhero if they're marketable. After all, look at how many comic book films are released each year.
Purcell's illustrations are nostalgic of older books, with the characters showing off very detailed faces and bodies in terms of skin tone. It's the characters who get top-billing as well, considering the backgrounds in the panels are fairly simplistic and effective enough to let you know the character is in a forest for instance. The heroes themselves look like the standard, generic superheroes, as all have basic costumes and the stock hero poses. It helps further the message that Straczynski is trying to get across in terms of capitalizing on superheroes. There's a healthy variety of panel layouts, with Purcell relying on the standard rectangles on some pages and staggered insets and overlays on other pages.
Protectors, Inc. #1 is an interesting, satirical look at what would most likely happen if superheroes were real. There would likely be a 1% link, as they're more likely to have the means to acquire such powers. In this world, gone are the days of the plucky young high school teenager getting bitten by a spider, eschewed for origins that are created more out of boredom than anything else. The combination of Straczynski and Purcell is executed very well, with each complementing the other to deliver a complete package. It's a pretty subversive look at the superhero dynamic and motivations and may even be a jab at the current state of Hollywood superhero films. Not every movie has to end with half a city decimated.
Protectors, Inc. #1 is available in stores now.