“Try Something New.” That challenge is the whole reason for this feature’s existence. Month in and month out we buy the comics we know and love, the ones we look forward to every time but there are countless series that travel under our radar, ones that we just don’t give a chance and get passed by. That’s why I made a vow: every week I’d pick up an issue for a series that wasn’t on my pull-list in the hopes of finding a hidden gem. Welcome to Off The Shelf where we’ll discover if my leap of faith paid dividends this week. Also, I should mention that there be SPOILERS in this review. You are warned!
Protectors Inc. #1Publisher
J. Michael Straczynski and Gordon Purcell
Prior Experience With Title
None, though since this is the first issue of a new property I’m pretty much in the same boat as everyone else besides those who have already picked up the two issues that have been released so far.
Why Did I Give It A Shot?
Well first off it was because JMS was writing the series and secondly I heard that it was something akin to a superhero murder mystery. I’m a sucker for a good mystery and with JMS onboard I thought it would be one hell of a good read.
The issue opens with us being introduced to CIA Field Agent Leo Addison and Josef Mueller. The Agency has agreed to let Josef see his family before travelling to DC for his testimony. During the car ride, the car’s axle breaks and they have to pull over to the side of the road. Josef watches the lighting in the sky that has suddenly appeared before we transition to a courthouse where we get our first glimpse of Detective John Riley. Riley is trying to present some key evidence during a murder trial but the jury is distracted by the lighting, lightning and thunder that has no rain. We shift the scene to later on, the lightning still raging, everyone on the streets looking up, enamored. It is then quickly revealed that this lightning is not natural but rather created by two individuals fighting in the night sky. As Detective Riley turns in for the night, he regales us with the details of how it all started. It was during World War II, June 11th 1944, when an American soldier is hit by a mysterious object falling from the sky. This soldier was granted a whole range of powers including invulnerability, flight, and super strength and he used these abilities to help win the war going under the secret identity of the Patriot. More super powered heroes began to pop up, heroes that strangely enough were only Americans with the majority of them being wealthy as well. Unlike the Patriot though who didn’t do it for the fame and wouldn’t accept a single dime in endorsement money, these heroes were in it for the fame and fortune and belonged to a corporation that dubbed them Protectors Inc. The Patriot didn’t join Protectors Inc. but still helped in his own way, refusing as well to reveal his true identity unlike the rest of these heroes. More and more heroes popped up over the next 50 years (never once did a single super villain ever emerge), settling into different cities across America. The Protectors’ battles in the sky (the cause of the thunder and lightning) occur either when one challenges another to a fight or one wanders into someone else’s City. The average citizens root for their hometown hero in a spectacle that resembles a sporting event in a way with any property damage that is incurred being paid by the City since they bring in tourists. We end our history lesson by meeting the various members of Protectors Inc. that reside in Chicago: Mr. America, the Pulse, Black Mask, the Huntsman, the Blade, Shrike, the Predator, Lady Justice, and last but not least…Angel, a woman who posses eternal youth and whom Detective Riley has a schoolboy crush on. The Patriot, meanwhile, simply disappeared one day, turning off his powers and retiring for some unknown reason. We end the issue with a bunch of people leaving a bar, one of which is a young blonde female named Lisa. She arrives at her car only to be met with a flash of lighting and then she is suddenly gone.
Leo Addison: Remember, just two days. You see your relatives, make nice, and then we continue on to DC. No more side trips. We’re not a travel agency.
Josef Mueller: No? I would have thought with all your rendition flights, the Agency would have enough frequent flyer miles for a trip to, perhaps, Bermuda?
Leo Addison: This is a non-smoking car, you know.
Josef Mueller: Not any more it isn’t.
Detective John Riley: Everybody knew their names. They wanted the fame. The attention. The groupies. I guess they did some good at first, but after a while, it became all about ego, and money, and who had the biggest fan club. Hell, the Protectors t-shirt concession alone runs a billion dollars a year.
Detective John Riley: Because they popped in sporadically over a period of fifty years we’re talking some of the worst costumes imaginable, especially the Huntsman, who looks like a refugee from the 1970s, right down to the chest hair.
Final Verdict: This first issue was a whole lot of set-up, one giant info dump. It wasn’t until the very end that we truly got things rolling but I have to admit that I’m intrigued to see how this all plays out none the less. We got quite a few questions posed. Why are all the gifted individuals only heroes, Americans, and primarily rich? Why did the Patriot give it all up? How does Josef Mueller connect with everything? And what exactly happened at the end of the issue? It was a serviceable debut effort that didn’t blow me away but I have a feeling that it is only to get better and better with each subsequent release. Thusly, I’m going to Add It To My Pull-List. Let the mystery begin!