Malevolent aliens have secretly infiltrated Congress, the media, and even the Catholic church, and the only heroes who can stop them are a group of super-powered professional athletes, one each from football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and hockey. The set-up sounds worryingly like an issue of NFL SuperPro or an episode of ProStars, and if you’ll pardon the sports metaphor, ought to be strike one.
The Protectors is the brainchild of Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije, who is publishing the book himself through his new company Athleta Comics. For this lifelong fan of the Detroit Lions, that ought to be strike two.
Fortunately, Idonije has enlisted veteran writer Ron Marz (Green Lantern) and penciler Bart Sears (X-O Manowar) to bring his characters and concepts to the page. Their initial effort, while not quite a home run, is at least a ground rule double.
The Protectors #0 will debut this weekend at Chicago’s C2E2 convention. The book contains an exclusive 10-page prologue, a preview of issue #1, and Marvel Handbook-style character biographies revealing the principle heroes and villains. The prologue is as compelling and gorgeous as one would expect from such talents as Ron Marz and Bart Sears (with inks and colors provided by Mark Pennington and Neeraj Menon respectively), but material feels slight, never graduating to an actual story and not featuring any of the Protectors themselves. Only one of the Protectors appears in the book at all outside of the biography pages. Readers are introduced to Chicago Blaze defensive superstar-turned-superhero Isaac Chike in the preview for issue #1, which looks just as beautiful as the prologue. After his years away from comics, it’s great to have Bart Sears back.
The real star here, though, and the reason to buy the book at C2E2 in spite of its $10 price tag (a portion of which will be donated to libraries and to the Hero Initiative) is Israel Idonije. Idonije created these concepts, recruited top-flight talent (and brought Bart Sears back to comics after an extended absence), and is publishing the comics himself. In a marketplace that has seldom been kind to sports comics, The Protectors might be seen as something of an underdog, but we’ve all seen enough sports movies to know that sometimes passion alone is enough to win championships.