Scribbler’s Saga #70 – Universe Protectors #1-2

Posted: July 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

In addition to finding time to work, joining certain creator/writer groups have been berry, berry good to me in terms of finding new things to read and splash around here on this blog. My friend, Jose Cardenas, has created the next bit of comics fun to distract from hey, Greg you going to read an actual novel before the next Ice Age? – Behold! Universe Protectors.

First off, it’s clear I’ve spent too much time figuring out the archetypal patterns of nearly everything I watch and read. So throwing Steve (possibly surnamed Baker), a mysterious figure dressed in green pseudo-Greek armor and a scarf/cape that quite frankly don’t take no shit off nobody, together with Caroline and Val should immediately spark the reader to Three’s Company with Super-powered Teenagers. Yes, Dear Reader, I just read a sitcom pitch just dying to hit TV somewhere, I’m guessing either Freeform or MTV.

The comparison of the potentially comic misadventures of Steve the Magic Killer Scarf-Man and Caroline and Val the Indeterminately Powerful Foster Sisters to the known comic adventures of Jack, Janet and Chrissy will hit the savvy readers in the head like certain tomato juice commercials from the era. A guy and two ladies clustered together in the same apartment or derelict hotel room, in this case, with the ever present danger of aliens out to kill them…it’s unavoidable. Steve is Jack. Caroline is Janet. Val is Chrissy, even down to the slightly naïve ditzy behavior.

Archetypes aside, the read goes for fun, a little bit violent (spandex characters, Ducky, can’t avoid a bit of bloodthirsty) and fully colored. It opens on two girls mugged in an alley by three ruffians and the gent soon to be revealed as Steve Baker leaps into the fisticuffs. We don’t quite see the green of the armor because dark alleys and muggings usually land on the page with blues and purples to convey lots of shadows. Three shots are fired and Steve’s scarf takes action independently of the armor and any other superpowers in this soup. The girls who have yet to reveal themselves appear to be gushing spandex groupies, for lack of a nicer word, and invite Steve home in part because he’s hungry and needs a bath.

Steve has a nightmare/memory in the bath about the alien that attacked his family when he was a young lad. Mom and Dad gave him his ring and died without telling him what it does. Steve leaves the girls’ apartment after quite a bit of back and forth about where the moral limits of the Hero Saves and Then Shags the Damsel trope (even weirder given the allusion to Three’s Company) are. He feels glad to have the bath and meal and then…

The monster that killed his parents attacks him on a roof. Said monster promptly wipes the asphalt roof with the poor lad. It’s curtains, curtains, I tell ya. Well, until the girls put on their rings and take their shots saving Steve’s bacon. Very quickly the three ring-holders decide that since the monster know about all of them and they should live together for protection, until they can figure out what the rings do and how to survive. Add in a bit of “we don’t actually know what they do, our parents never told us” exposition and we’re caught up through the second issue.

In general, the reading experience landed in the great amorphous area between a really great comic book and a mostly normal comic book. I loved the art, also the result of Mr. Cardenas’ multiple creative talents. Said art style pops off the page as Hey, I really like anime, the way I’m slowly beginning to grok, “Yeah, that sonata I’ve never heard before I’m guessing Mozart.” Anime/Manga style: round eyes, Val as the ditzy girl who’s tech proficient and so on…it’s just kind of odd to see this type of character design in a book where the reading style is the left to right of English books.

My favorite panels have to be the big fight that lets us in on the still slightly amorphous powers of Steve and his two new friends. The blues and purples of the alley mugging hit just right and Mr. Cardenas figured out how to have the last ditch beat down on the part of Steve’s scarf, of all things, be a major surprise in a world where few things actually seem new.

If I had to start looking for find fault, the writing independent of how Mr. Cardenas’s art sort of saves the whole read struck me as average but likely to improve with time. I enjoyed the setup, but my mind still read the dialogue with an eye towards trims and a bit of arrogant what I would do. In a similar vein, I was hoping for a little bit more differentiation between the three characters now sharing the same apartment. The plot device of power rings instead of mutations, cosmic radiation accidents, alien orphans sent to Earth to escape the destruction of the home world has a way of muddying up what this trio does as individuals.

I referred to Steve as a variation of Magic Scarf-Man (referencing the first fight that he wins), a cool power and stupid superhero name. But, other than that Caroline and Valerie can put a smoking hole in the average bad guy’s back, I have no idea how they differ from the Jack Tripper of this story. I’m so used to Green Lantern rings allowing the user to only be limited by the imagination that my lack of understanding of how these three characters differ and complement the team they just formed. And there are almost no closeups of the rings…

By contrast, I think of teams in these terms – Okay, let’s put the girl version of Iron Man together with the mute girl that does friction. Oh, let’s have a little fun with the porn star version of Power Girl. So I’m not sure what the team will be like because they all seem to have the same ring that could do the same things. Three people that do the same spandex schtick might be great for world threatening fights, but if you’re looking for complementary powers that make for an interesting mix and team dynamic…not so much.

A last note about the names in this comic book series, I’m glad that Mr. Cardenas went with Universe Protectors instead of trying to give these three superheroes cool names as the title of the series. The best I came up with was a facetious Magic Scarf-Man while having no idea how to name the girls because we don’t really see what their specialities are using their rings of power. Mister Cardenas has several more issues of fun comics with great fight choreography to answer these questions of whether we will be able to tell Jack, Janet and Chrissy apart.

All in all, the read hit me in a place where I can see the possibilities…if only. Right now the series feels like something that could get really good in future issues. And I will be watching for Issue Three.

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