In recent years, we have seen the emergence of more minority (at least in comics) superhero groups; S.P.E.A.R (and the Ascendants) in Jonathan Hickman/Nick Spencer’s Avengers World, G Willow Wilson/Kelly Thompson’s A-Force, and most recently The Crew in Ta-nehisi Coates’s Black Panther series. The newest cultural superhero group introduced in this story is the Protectors, made up of Asian American heroes like Amadeus Cho [Hulk], Jimmy Woo [Head of ATLAS], Jake Oh [Agent of SHIELD], Cindy Moon [Silk], Shang-Chi, and Kamala Khan [Ms. Marvel]. So how does the Protectors first outing go? Check in below.
Totally Awesome Hulk #15-18: For The Kids
Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: Cory Petit
C. Artist: Stonehouse
Editors: Mark Paniccia & Chris Robinson
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Summary: Our story begins with Amadeus Cho fighting the leader of the Seknarf Seven, an exiled alien warlord named Phalkan. The ensuing fight makes him late for an important event, where he meets up with Jimmy Woo, Silk, Ms. Marvel, Shang-Chi, and Agent Jake Oh. The event turns out to be a superhero concert for recent Asian bone marrow donors and the children who will receive them. The heroes hang out afterwards, where they discuss the impact of being second/third generation Asian-American in their global world. The group bonds over shared experiences and the expectations placed on them from the world and their families. Jimmy Woo gives an inspiring speech on what the young heroes mean to the world which inspires Amadeus to want to form a superhero group. After dinner and karaoke, the group are ambushed by other members of the Seknarf Seven. Their fight spills out on to the street, where local law enforcement work with the superheroes against an alien race that wants to consume them. Cho attacks their mothership, endangering all the civilians around when he brings it down on Seknarfians. Amadeus wants to celebrate their defeat, but the rest of the team (sans Cindy) are reasonably pissed at him. While they are arguing, the Seknarf Seven manage to teleport themselves, the heroes, a chunk of New York City, and several civilians to one of the moons near Seknarf Seven. Phalkan announces that they are the newest food colony and if the heroes decide to fight back they will send all the civilians into the vacuum of space. The Seknarfians leave after notifying the heroes they will return in six hours to consume three humans.
The civilians begin to panic, but Shang-Chi helps calm them with meditation techniques. They discover that the dome keeping them alive in space is also disabling their weapons and Amadeus’ powers. Woo and Cho organize a civilian committee of doctors, mechanics, and engineers to help solve their problems. Ms. Marvel helps the engineers build bunkers to protect the civilians during the upcoming fight against the Seknarfians while Amadeus works with them to gain control over the dome. Agent Oh helps with medical support while Cindy helps to keep the children entertained and calm.
The Seknarfians return earlier than expected and a fight ensues. The Seknarfians begin to jettison civilians into space, but the heroes are able to save everyone. Jimmy, Jake, and Amadeus offer themselves up as the three sacrifices, but the civilian engineers are able to hack the energy dampeners and environment controls. The Seknarfians manage to kill one of the civilians, which pushes Cho into a Hulk Rage. The Seknarfians take out the other heroes and unite against Hulk, but Amadeus is able to best all of them with a gamma burst, save for Phalkan. Phalkan is about to cut Amadeus’ throat as he recharges when Jimmy unites the civilians to take him down. Jimmy is about to kill Phalkan, but Amadeus forcibly stops him. The two are in a standoff when Alpha Flight arrives to save the day. Amadeus gives Jimmy an impassioned speech on how they are protectors, not just of humanity but everyone. Woo disagrees and leaves with Alpha Flight and the civilians. The story ends with Cho, Cindy, and Kamala visiting a racially diverse hospital while Jimmy Woo watches on proudly.
Thoughts: Totally Awesome Hulk was not a book that had been on my radar, since Amadeus Cho has never been a character I much cared for (give me a Valeria Richards book over Amadeus or Moon Girl any day.) This storyline changed that, because by the time I had put it down, I felt inspired; I can not recall the last time a Marvel book affected me in such a way. There is a lot of reasons for this, so lets get into things.
First off, the character of Amadeus Cho. Mark Waid’s Champions is exploring the highs and lows of youthful idealism and this series seems just as interested in it. Amadeus is the sixth smartest human in the 616, but his arrogance is staggering (something I can relate to a little too well.) Amadeus always feels like he has the best play and is easily offended if others do not back it. And his best play in the early issues nearly got dozens of civilians killed if the other Protectors had not been there. When Cindy Moon alone is backing your play, maybe you should rethink it; Cindy is far from the most cautious hero in New York City. But the idealism driving Amadeus is admirable, which again makes him quite similar to Cindy Moon; I would ship it. In our increasingly global world, the old school thinking of “us vs. them” just does not work anymore and this issue pushes that concept even further when Amadeus stands up not just for humanity, but even for the aliens trying to make a dinner out of us. Amadeus is willing to fight his own allies to make sure that even the most heinous of criminals gets a fair trial.
Which brings us to the characters of Jimmy Woo and Jeffrey Gunderblank, who are the most complex characters in the story. They serve as both inspiration to Amadeus and as the secondary antagonists of the story. Amadeus butts heads with both, but also tries to make amends with them; in a classic youth vs. age scenario, they are shaped to be a little more jaded by the world and less willing to make amends. They are never outright villains though, as the series goes to great lengths to make them a strong counterpoint to Amadeus’ youthful exuberance. While Jeffrey is dead by story’s end, I hope to see Jimmy Woo return to the pages of this series again especially given the positive and negative pull he has on Amadeus.
The other members of the Protectors are not used quite as well, but everyone has a role to play. Shang-Chi is often the middle ground between the youth (Ms. Marvel, Cindy, Amadeus) and the adults (Jimmy and Jake Oh). Ms. Marvel is the character most able to pull Cho back from the edge, which makes sense given their teammate status. Cindy Moon is used in a minimal but fantastic way. She is easily the most awkward of the group, but she excels when put into situations with children. Jake Oh is probably the most useless of the character, but he does show the youthful heroes that it is okay to go against the wills of your parents. The team functions best as a unit, especially in the early issues where they are just hanging out with one another. They discuss their dreams, their fears, and their impact on the world; the series comes off far less preachy than this review. We get to see the similarities this heroes share with each other but also the differences that come from different cultures, religions, gender, and age. While the Protectors are the Asian-American hero group there are niches carved out for each of them under that larger banner, which comes from having Greg Pak, an Asian-American, write the story. Perhaps my favourite scene in the entire story is the physical battle between the four males over paying the check.
Even the civilians have a big role to play in this story. It is great to see leaders emerge both amongst the heroes (Cho/Woo) and the civilians. Amadeus may be the smartest person in the room, but he also knows how to rely on others for what he can not do. Having the civilians rally to save his life at the end was great, but they are an essential part of the story every step of the way.
The artistic team of Mahmud Asrar, Nolan Woodard, and Cory Petit deliver a lot of solid hits, with a few weaknesses. There is a stoicness to a lot of Asrar’s splashes that leave something to be desired, but he really nails the effect a Hulk would have on the world around him. This is enhanced by Petit’s amazing lettering which really sell the impact left by a Hulk. Other weaknesses include some rough sketchy lines and a removal of most features on characters in the background, but Asrar really sells the anger and tension of the story through body language and facial expressions. Woodard is the real MVP on the artistic team though. He uses lightning effects really well, as there always seems to be an natural reflection in the world. He fills the world with alien colors but saves the vibrant colors to make explosions and electricity crackle off the pages.
Conclusion: The impact of superheroes in our society can not be understated. They are bigger than ever and they represent ideals we should all strive for. They get the wins we do not always get in real life and the more diverse the superhero spectrum becomes, the better it will be. We all want to see ourselves in those doing extraordinary things and after this story, I hope we see the Protectors around a lot more often.
- Amadeus Cho
- Secondary Antagonists
- Supporting Cast (of heroes and civilians)
- Colors and Letters
- Weak Primary Antagonist
- Occasional Artistic Hiccup