• Protectors, Inc #9

    Published by: Image Comics
    Released on: Aug. 20, 2014

    John Riley’s investigation gains more traction in this issue and he’s met with a pretty big surprise at the end so...spoilers? Yeah, this review’s got ‘em.

    Riley, having learned a bit more about the members of the Protectors from Angel after she took him to the now-deceased Huntsman’s hidden home, is feeling like he’s on the right track about one of their number being responsible for the Huntsman’s death. He manages to then get a copy of lead detective Ruiz’s voicemails the night he died and he finally gets to hear what the now-deceased coroner, Chris, spilled to him.

    During his autopsy (as best he could on a super-hero) of the Huntsman the coroner found skin under his fingernails, skin that actually belonged not to his attacker but to the “Jane Doe” they also found in a lake, missing an arm. Chris figures then that the Huntsman was carrying this woman when he was attacked. Riley figures then that the coroner’s office fire wasn’t meant to just hide a murder but also to destroy this evidence linking the crimes.

    Later that night the big special event across the country involves the Protectors flying over each of their adopted cities in a formation that shows where the Huntsman would have been in their number. Riley’s not touched at all by this tribute and leaves a bar in snarky spirits. Those are short-lived, though, when he’s suddenly attacked by someone with super-powers. A good chunk of a parking garage gets destroyed in the process but Riley, somehow, survives.

    He then takes this news to the human head offices of Protectors Inc. who believe that this makes it clear that the Huntsman’s murder was NOT one of their number since they were all flying over various cities when Riley was attacked. That is, all of their number except the one superhero who vanished after a storied and remarkable career, The Patriot. The suits are only too happy to pin this on that super who never joined into the “incorporation” part of it all. They give Riley read-access to the Patriot’s file, everything except his true identity.

    It’s then that Riley recognizes the face of The Patriot as the one he’s noticed leaving the scenes of the coroner’s office fire and Ruiz’ apartment. But given the Patriot’s career Riley’s not entirely convinced he’s to blame here so he asks the main suit, Dexter, about the possibility of anyone else having powers, someone they wouldn’t know about. Dexter says that’s impossible but doesn’t say how they can know that with such certainty, the information being highly classified. He’s just ready to assign blame for the murder on The Patriot and leaving it at that.

    Riley checks in with his computer expert, Kenneth, on decrypting the Huntsman’s hard drive but it’s slow going. Riley then goes to a comic book shop and asks for a rush job on a particular item, to be made of iron - the element that the Protectors have a weakness against. As he leaves that shop he’s greeted by Angel. She’s heard of the attack on his life and wants to make sure he’s alright. He’s flustered at having felt so powerless but soon changes his mood when Angel agrees to a date with him the next day.

    He’s happy as a man can be at the prospect after she leaves. So when he hears another wind/energy surge behind him, he assumes she’s come back for more already. He’s quite stunned, then, to see The Patriot standing before him. But before he can react that super knocks him cold with a clean left cross…

    Straczynski continues to move the investigation forward, teasing out a few clues each issue as he builds this story. It works fairly well, though, and keeps the pace moving as playfully as any superhero-based title can be. Gordon Purcell’s artwork really aids that sense, too, with his beautifully glossy and richly detailed artwork. Though the story feels like it’s being drawn out a bit more than it should it’s still engaging and entertaining. It’s a solid superhero story that isn’t entirely anti-hero but has those elements that make it worth reading.