Writers: Simon Roy and Daniel Bensen
Artist: Artyom Trakhanov
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Logo Design: Richard Ballermann
Cover Artist: James Stokoe
Publisher: Image Comics
Protector from Image Comics drops us right into the 33rd Century, but the future isn’t full of tall buildings and flying cars. Global warming has flooded much of North America, and in the wake of its devastation, humanity has regressed into tribal societies reminiscent of our ancestors. One young slave girl has escaped from her captors, and while fleeing from her pursuers, she awakens an ancient being. Is it a robot, or is it a dreaded demon? The Hudsoni tribe means to exterminate it either way.
When you finish the final page of this first issue for Protector, the one aspect that will stand out to you is the world-building. There’s a significant amount packed into this story, but what writers Roy and Bensen cleverly do is let their world-building guide the story along and then give you some more of the specifics in the back-issue material. The story itself isn’t overly-burdened by exposition.
The problem is, the story isn’t exactly overly-burdened by anything. Normally, this is the type of story I’m a sucker for. In addition to great world-building, there’s a high-fantasy bent to it while mixing Asian and Incan aesthetics with steampunk subtleties, and it’s a story about the underdog taking on authoritarian oppressors. But what good high-fantasy stories do best is transport the reader into a world where they very much desire to visit with characters they desperately want to befriend.
I didn’t get either from this story.
Starting with the characters — our main character is a slave girl named Mari who stumbles upon a laser-shooting cyclops robot from a distant past. Think Iron Giant meets Horizon Zero Dawn, and you’ve got a decent idea. But as for Mari, why should I care about her? She’s a runaway slave, sure. In our modern world, we are ripe with stories about runaway slaves who successfully overthrow their oppressors. We feel that plight with them because of their humanity expressed throughout the work. In this first issue, Mari says maybe, like, five words. I don’t know anything about her as a character, so I have no sympathy or empathy — only apathy. Then there’s the tail-end of the story with a wizened warrior named Long Knife who leads his band of Hudsoni to take out the “demon.” More dialogue exists here, but it’s essentially pep-rally jazz.
As for the artwork, I will say it does a great job of letting the action flow — especially since there’s a good six pages with little dialog. I remember liking Trakhanov’s work in TKO’s The 7 Deadly Sins because of its frenetic style that kind of worked with a story about a bunch of hoodlums. In this one, it was pretty overwhelming. The lines were crisp and sharp — and there were a lot of lines. I imagined this comicbook perhaps working better had it not been colored, but even so, black-and-white would still have been a lot on the eyes. Also, there are times that the coloring makes the lettering difficult to read.
Protector sets its ambitions high with its detailed world-building and equally detailed art, but ultimately, it sacrifices character development and a compelling narrative along the way.