REVIEW: PROTECTORS INC. – VOLUME 1 / AUTHOR: J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI / ARTIST: GORDON PURCELL, MICHAEL ATIYEH/ PUBLISHER : IMAGE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Protectors Inc. is the latest graphic novel from J. Michael Straczynski , a writer better known for his TV series, Babylon 5. Unlike a more regular superhero world, Protectors Inc. is a place where super-powered humans are part of a larger corporate franchise. The thing that makes them powerful is seemingly attracted to the wealthy (though it’s not explained why this is) and those with powers are also celebrities. When one of these creatures dies, it’s clearly the fault of someone with similar powers and a gritty, hard-boiled Chicago Police detective has to solve the murder.
Postmodern commentary on superhero books has been done so much that it’s become its own subgenre. Protectors lacks the groundbreaking insight of Watchmen and is closer in style to Garth Ennis’ The Boys. Though it doesn’t suffer from that book's childishness and toilet humour, it doesn’t fill the void with anything either. Despite a promising start, what we get is a fairly bland detective story with incredibly unsubtle social commentary and some sharp digs at the broader comic book industry.
This isn’t even JMS’s first go at the idea; some of the characters feel like they’ve been cut and pasted from Rising Stars, the women particularly. It’s hard not to think of the detective character as Garibaldi from Babylon 5 and the plot itself also feels lifted from various parts of JMS’s previous work. This mishmash of ideas works fine and the pacing is good – it’s simply nothing terribly special and lacks the sort of spark we’ve come to expect from the author.
The art is functional and a little bland. Everyone looks the same as everyone else and the character design is a little lacklustre. It also doesn’t help that every single character looks like they’ve either just chewed a wasp or that they’re posing for a photo shoot. Both Purcell and Atiyeh are clearly capable of producing much, much better.
Protectors Inc Volume 1 is one for the hardcore fans; we can only hope that the story improves after this disappointing opening book.