Each week I highlight the ultimate Comfort Food Comic release. This is the comic that gets me the most hyped. The comic I’ll remember and revisit the most. The one that gave me that special feeling above all the other releases that new comic book day.
The Dish Of The Week for 1/29/20 is Protector #1 by Simon Roy, Daniel Bensen, Artyom Trakhanov, Jason Wordie & Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
I dont read as many indie, non superhero books as I’d like. I try to follow all the indie books that get huge word of mouth or feature creators I really respect. But even then I dont actually get to read as much as I’d love to with all the time in the world. The late 2000’s/ early 2010’s era of indies being dominated by the Kirkman/Millar movie or tv pitch comics really turned me off of these indie comic series for awhile. But every once in awhile a perfect storm of intriguing plot combined with a dream team of favorite creators comes in like a tornado and I cant resist it. Image Comics’ Protector is one such series.
Years ago when Prophet came out it hit me hard. It blended all types of Eurocomic styles mixed with manga sensibilities and hard sci-fi story elements. I loved it. I even had it custom bound into a big hardcover. Thats where I first encountered Simon Roy’s work and immediately became a fan. I ended up loving his storytelling techniques and preferring his writer/artist issues best throughout the run. He just had a brilliant mind overflowing with rich, creative ideas that he somehow had the talent to actually get down on the page in a fluid, kinetic artstyle thats really incomparable in the medium today. Roy’s inventory panel from Prophet 21 is lodged in my brain like a piece of shrapnel
Artyom Trakhanov I must confess I’ve never read a comic from yet. I knew of him from my friend Dima Ivanov’s social media and him mentioning his art before. I’ve been lurking through his art posts for years now, especially loving his Souls Love sketchbooks. Check out his store here: https://gumroad.com/ohotnig I’ve always known he was good, but holy shit, the art in Protector is next level stuff. I fully believe this is his coming out party to the upper echelons of comic artists.
Simon Roy collaborates with novelist Daniel M. Bensen (http://www.thekingdomsofevil.com/) and I think this collaboration sparks some really refined creative stuff. A comic writer/artist bursting at the seams with juicy ideas knocking them back and forth with a sci-fi writer really creates quite the recipe here.
So you may be wondering – what the hell is this book about? The best way I can describe it is if you put Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Conan the Barbarian, THB, Prophet, some sci-fi novels like Dune, reports on climate change, and a book about the Great Lakes Regions into a blender and splattered it on the comic page. I know it sounds wild, but trust me it just works!
Were plopped right down first page into North America in the year 3241 in the Slave Mines of Shikka-Go. The first word ballon is “This Damned Heat!” The book immediately tells you what were dealing with. Climate change has rendered most of the world inhospitable due to heat so tribes of people have gathered together around the Great Lakes Region to create their own tribal societies.
The fun thing about this book is it doesnt give you some text preamble to start, you are thrown in a hot, dirty, foreign world and piece by piece you start to glean whats going on.
Let’s just marvel at Trakhanov’s artwork here. Its as if he found some old woodblock canvas and carved his work into it. It’s next level stuff. I love that he really has a grasp on expressions and a unique way of showing action. From just showing our new character the slave girl Mari’s legs only in a panel while she huffs to a big jagged shape for her pursuer’s shouts and general anger. The next page of showing the vast expanse of this desert world while she is a tiny illuminated dot. And how often do you see a character in comics actually stop to rest and catch their breath. I also want to draw attention to colorist Jason Wordie who is like Picasso here. Coloring the panels of her angry masters all harmful orange is a great touch. Then going from the subdued peaceful coloring of the restful panel to the overbearing, almost predatory dark orange of the very next panel to signal DANGER, YOU ARE NOT SAFE MARI! There is a clear level of deliberate thought and craft here that really makes this book something special. And folks, thats EVERY PAGE of this book. I think this is some of the best coloring for a comic Ive ever seen in my life. Every hue, every palette is blended perfectly with Trakhanov’s art.
Eventually Mari stumbles upon some old NATO cyborg creature and its here were given the opening shot in what will be our sci-fi conflict shenanigans for this book. The immediate next page however does a perfect cut to another part of our world, Sussem-Ri, Southern Capital of the Hudsoni region. Here we meet our other main player, the leader First Knife and we are introduced to the godlike technological alien lifeforms the Deva. The worldbuilding here is done so interestingly and through the point of view of our main characters. We get the different regions and tribes and how each perceives themselves.
Lets again discuss the art here. Ive seen so many comics that have some objectively great art but oftentimes its so clean and stilted with no real sense of the real world around it. this is not the case here. This world is LIVED IN. You can almost feel the rain and dampness here. Each character has a deliberate set of clothing. You really get a sense of this world and how it all comes together here. The art is beautiful, graceful artistic stuff thats also grungy, dirty, practical and real all at once. Ive rarely seen stuff that feels so authentic like this. Everything for the different tribes from, clothing, jewelry, hair, the structures is done in a way you can see the differences or culture of each set of people.
I also want to sing the praises of letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou who somehow makes jagged letters and word balloons that fit right in this lived in world. When gravelly voices shout, the size and look of the words match. Yells are reflected accurately. The font style matches the art style perfectly. Its amazing how every little piece comes together to enhance the other.
At the conclusion of the issue, after we are dropped in to live and richly experience this new setting we are greeted to some Hickman-esque data pages. And this is where the book really shines. They then give you context for everything thats going on here. A map of the region is put in:
We see now the book is taking place all around the Great Lakes Region. The Hudsoni is the Hudson river. Chikka-Go is Chicago. Sussem-Ri is presumably Sault Ste. Marie (“Soo Saint Marie”)Ontario. This comic actually made me Google up a whole map of the region and start learning my geography. Once you start to absorb all these data pages the story only gets better as all of this dawns on you. Its a very smart future North America setting.
We then get some background info on all the different tribes of people in the region and the reasoning behind their names and why they are separate tribes, whether it be old religious beliefs or where they originated from. There is so much to unpack here from cultural standpoints to societal interactions. It is a really engrossing setup for a whole new world. I just loved it so much. The Simon Roy art here is also full of so much personality.
This comic took the top spot this week because it not only gives us an amazing new world brimming with creativity and stories to be told and explained, but it does all that with near perfect execution by a huge team of talent that works in complete tandem with each other like a well oiled machine. Few comics have ever been such a wonderful collaboration, but this one does it with such aplomb. I love it, I hope you all buy it.