Friday, January 3, 2014

Review - The Provider #1


"He does not pay for my insurance so I can run around helping him show off."

If you're a superhero do you use your powers to save the day? Better society? Fight supervillains? Or do you sell your talents to the highest bidders in form of protection in an effort to make money? If you're Luke Ryan in The Provider #1, then you're the last on the list and business is good. Until it isn't. The issue is written by Brett Rounsaville and illustrated by Bruno Oliveira.

Luke Ryan is a superpowered capitalist. That is, instead of using his powers to save the day, he leverages those abilities into Luke Ryan Insurance Services, selling premium policies to the mega-rich. His clients are issued a watch used to call on Luke when they're in danger, something that seems like easy money. It doesn't take long for the sheen to wear off though, as Luke finds himself facing an insurance fraud case. Meanwhile, one of his few remaining clients has mysteriously disappeared leaving him with some tough choices to make.

Rounsaville's story is actually very original and slightly discouraging. Not because the story is bad, but it's a pretty realistic look at how people would react if a superhero did offer their services for private protection. Luke is just as flawed as the people he protects in a way, as he commoditizes his ability much in the way the people he's protecting handle their wealth. The rich love their thrills and using Luke's service as a means of impressing friends is something that offers a sobering twist to the concept. The dialogue is very concise and doesn't really waste words, bringing the reader fully up to speed on the situation while also presenting a new direction for the story as well.

Oliveira's art is scratchy and defined by thin, black lines. There's not a wide variety of facial expressions (most of the characters look angry) and there are some panels where the characters seem to be in the exact same pose as a prior panel. There is a good mix of panel layouts though, with Oliveira relying on insets and staggered layouts. There's also a lot of blank, white backgrounds where the characters exist against, which is interesting and makes the characters stand out that much more.

The Provider #1 is a book where a superhero tries to make an honest living by fleecing the rich. It sort of makes him the same type of person as his clients, so the fact that he's the subject of an insurance fraud case is a little karmic in a way. Luke isn't really painted as an anti-hero per se, but he's not exactly depicted as a hero either. He's really looking to make a quick buck and is taking advantage of those taking advantage, so the twist of the lawsuit provides conflict for Luke to overcome. The bigger takeaway from the first issue is the secondary plot teased towards the end, where one of Luke's preferred clients disappears. It's an interesting book worth checking out if you're looking for a different take on superheroes.

The Provider #1 is available via Comixology now.

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