AMW Comics, $19.99
The Young Protectors: Engaging the Enemy has a gay theme to it – both the main protagonist Kyle or his superhero name Red Hot and his love interest-cum-nemesis Duncan Wells (The Annihilator when he’s in his villain hours) have a thing for one another. Indeed, this collection, which is meant to be the start of an ongoing series, revolves around poor Kyle’s emotional whiplash as he and his Young Protectors gang try to save the world… from a nefarious plot hatched by Duncan and his partner, the very ancient sorceress called Sircea, or the Platinum Priestess when she’s on duty as the villain.
One pleasant surprise about this one is that it is not an erotica, so there is a refreshing lack of overly large penises or dumb plots that exist solely to facilitate shagging. There is an actual plot here, and the characters do come off as somewhat real instead of just stereotypes to facilitate titillation. Mind you, the author pokes fun in a gentle way at girls who draw and write explicit fanfiction about superheroes here, so there is a level of self awareness that makes this one a pretty interesting read.
The plot itself can be interesting, and honestly, I am intrigued enough to want to find out more after having reached the cliffhanger ending of this collection, but I’m also bothered enough by certain things to have some reservations about it.
For a long time, I have this one pegged as a three-oogie read because the story feels like something I’ve read many times before, only with the gay angle, and sure, the art can be on the flat and drab side. The latter I can overlook as this is generally a fundraiser-driven project and sometimes, one has to make do with the funds raised through this endeavor. The age gap between the two guys makes me cringe (Kyle’s in his teens, Duncan is 58) but I look at Duncan, and really, despite the flat colors and lifeless lines, he has this bad boy DLIF vibe to him. So yes, if I were Kyle, I’d be on that like barnacle on a big hot submarine, so I can certainly relate to the poor lad in this instance. Plus, I’m a sucker for the whole shagging a hot bad sociopath trope, and this one does it somewhat well enough to have me intrigued by the two fellows’ relationship.
However, as I turn the pages, I begin to become increasingly bored by the whole thing. This is because nearly all the “conversations” here are nothing more than expositions. Even when Kyle is getting ready to have his cherry popped, those two are narrating what they are feeling and doing like I’m blind, Braille doesn’t exist, and someone has to narrate to me blow by blow what is happening on the page. Everyone talks like an overwrought psychology student trying very hard to write the best term paper ever, and during the rare moments when they are conversing like actual people, they go off the rails and end up sounding instead like try-hard Joss Whedon wannabes. I know, I may be describing pretty much every comic books released these days, but this one is especially disappointing because there is enough here to make it stand out, if the conversations hadn’t resemble hard blows between the eyes with a pickax.
Do I want to keep following The Young Protectors? A part of me wants to, while another part of me suspects that I’d just end up cringing again after a while if the execution remained as it is in this particular collection. I guess I’ll find out for sure if the second collection ever comes out. For now, consider this one a huge missed opportunity to be a great comic book series with a gay lead.