There have been a lot of books featuring the origins of how a person or a group of people have received their superpowers. From companies like Marvel to DC to Image and books like Suicide Risk to Straczynski’s own Rising Stars, all have played with the theme in one form or another to greater or lesser success. Protectors Inc., written by J. Michael Straczynski is one such book and is coupled with a murder mystery to make it all the more interesting.
So the book goes through the standard motions of introducing us to the ‘heroes,’ a group of rich and entitled people who of course, think they deserve their powers. It does not help that the only people who get powers are the rich because as random as it seems, it never hits the poor, only those that have actual means. Luckily, in this reality there are no villains, that is at least until one of them named The Huntsman gets himself killed and thus, the aforementioned mystery.
At the center of it all is our protagonist and erstwhile hero, John Riley, a police officer and detective who already has too much on his plate when he receives this new case. With Riley, Straczynski does what he does best and gives us the ‘everyman,’ who is much like Michael Garibaldi of Babylon 5. Riley is a lead character that you can latch onto easily as he could be you or me or the guy down the street. He works a normal job and puts up with the co-workers he does not especially care for and when all is said and done, goes home for the night to do it all again.
Riley also provides a stark contrast against the Protectors in many ways. He is a regular guy whereas the Protectors have their extraordinary powers and where he comes from an assumedly normal, middleclass family; all of the heroes obviously do not which creates an underlying contention between not only Riley and the heroes, but much of the populace. The Protectors, while powerful and financially well off are also incredibly vain and feels as if they should be adored which makes Riley’s attitude all the more intriguing because he does not care about them one way or the other. John pretty much thinks they are ridiculous, all of them that is except Angel, whom he has more than a passing feeling for.
One thing you can count on from Strazynski is that nothing is ever what it seems on the surface. For those that have watched Babylon 5 or those who have read any of his previous work, will know that The Huntsman’s murder which looks pretty straightforward with all the hints and clues pointing towards the Patriot will actually turn out to be someone or something else. The only bad thing about the book is the fact that the murder was not solved in the six issues present and that it was done so well, you will now have to buy volume two to keep reading. So maybe, not so bad after all.
Gordon Purcell does a great job on the artistic front and fits perfectly with the subject of the book. It is forthright and expressive and is a style of artwork that is not so prevalent these days that when you do come across something like it, it is actually a little refreshing being somewhat old-school compared to most of today’s artists. So while Straczynski and Purcell’s first story arc of Protectors Inc. might have you wanting more, it does so in a good way. There are many questions left unanswered and done so purposely of course, so as to keep you intrigued and it accomplishes that on every level. Straczynski’s return to comics has been a success with this book being another link in a long chain.
4.5 out of 5