In Protector #4 First Knife and his tribe, the Hudsoni, travel down a great canal, towards the ruins of St Louis. Luo is challenging First Knife, who looks to be leaning towards Princess Mari and the Deva she worships. Luo finally has enough, and rises against Mari, but is she willing to pay the price? You’ll have to read this Major Spoilers review to find out!
Writers: Simon Roy and Daniel Bensen
Artist: Artyom Trakanov
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: July 1st, 2020
Previously in PROTECTOR: A thousand years into the future, North America is marked by the ruins of our civilisation. The Anthropocene Epoch collapsed, and an out of control environment devastated the landscape. Humanity devolved into tribes, with alien technology intervening to terraform and heal the Earth. The Hudsoni Tribe, led by First Knife, has barely escaped sacrifice atop the Yanqui Ziggurat, and flee into the wilderness near the old St Louis…
ILL MET AT ST LOUIS
Well, PROTECTOR #4 is a real trip. Set in the future, after the collapse of civilisation due to runaway climate change, the remnants of humanity have reorganised into feuding tribes. It’s a harsh, brutal world, full of slavery and swift violence. There’s also more than a hint of alien intervention, all making this series a heady brew.
The artwork by Artyom Trakhanov and coloring by Jason Wordie deserve immediate attention and praise. In a world where modern technology has disappeared and nature has rebounded, it is a landscape teaming with plant and animal life. It seems like every panel has a tree or a bush or a frond poking its way into the frame. Animals abound – birds swoop, or mutated fish linger menacingly in the water and insects hover, ready to drink the blood of the unwary. The artwork itself is organic and loose, more sketch sometimes than real substance. Events in the foreground merge with the teeming background. Panels are packed with a lush, fertile life that perfectly suits the setting. Even the fight scenes, absent any human technology, are filled with a raw energy that comes from hand to hand combat. Up close, the reader can almost feel the hot breath of the combatants on their face, as they chop and whirl around each other. Even the technological elements, such as the robotic looking Deva, lack the sharp planes and angles we typically associate with far future technology. The robt is slumped in shape, and it is all curves, with an animal like snout.
A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND A LITTLE BIT OF THAT
PROTECTOR #4 is not the book you want to jump straight into if you want a handle on what is going on. There’s a lot of backstory (helpfully, there’s a sort of technical manual at the back that looks at some of the technology appearing in this series, as well as an explanation for some of the more outlandish evolutionary offshoots that appear) that appears here that you need really to have read in the earlier issues to have a firm grasp on events. But the themes – jealousy, power, hatred – are timeless, and if you aren’t quite sure why Luo is challenging her leader, First Knife, you at least understand what the motivations are.
One thing I particularly liked about PROTECTOR #4 was the way writers Simon Roy and Daniel Bensen balanced the narrative. There are hints of the future the characters are moving through, with atmospheric stratro-shunts, which, while unexplained, add to the richness of the story. Elsewhere, we see a power play in slow motion, as Luo continues to challenge First Knife. First Knife himself has to balance the needs of his people against what Princess Mari and her Deva are seeking. Deva herself, as befits a woman who nearly had First Knife and his people sacrificed, disdains his efforts to inveigle himself into her good graces. The characters and motivations feel real, even if the landscape they are moving through is puzzling and alien. It’s a great mix and makes for an immersive experience.
BOTTOM LINE: ECOLOGICAL MAD MAX
The Mad Max may not be too far from the mark, as those who have survived have to deal not only with the power plays within their groups, but a hostile environment also, without the familiar cushions of modern technology. Life in PROTECTOR #4 is brutal and short, against an uncaring landscape constantly threatening to smother upstart humanity. A compelling, urgent read.
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