In Protocol: Orphans, from writer Michael Alan Nelson (Supergirl) and new coming artist Mariano Navarro, a team of orphans, now young adults who have been raised by a covert organization since they were children, put their lifelong training to the test as they are put out in the field for the first time to find and stop a ticking time bomb. Lead by their supervisor Dad, who coaches them via radio relay while threatening to be “disappointed” in them should they fail their mission, and the more ominous Grandparents, the orphans have their work cut out for them.
As their first mission progresses, each of the six orphans utilize their specialized skill sets to get their assignments and tasks completed and work toward stopping the bomb. But when their location is discovered in the midst of deactivating the bomb, it is believed that one of the team members must have triggered an alarm. Now, all six team members must rally together or else let an entire stadium filled with spectators be blown to smithereens!
Protocol: Orphans wastes no time in getting straight to the action and drops the reader smack in the middle of the team attempting to disable the bomb they have been dispatched to stop. Instead of an expository introduction to the team, the first issue relies on the rapid fire dialogue between the orphans themselves and their supervisor referred to only as Dad to get a glimpse into their relationships and personalities. Several of the characters are also given quick flashback sequences to their childhood trainings that now payoff in the real world.
The series seems heavily influenced by superhero team titles and super spy teamwork akin to the Mission: Impossible movies. While this alone is fun and done well, it isn’t quite that original. However, what does give the series an interesting twist is the parent/child surrogate roles taken on by the orphans and their parental-themed handlers. In this first issue there is a consistent motif of looking for paternal approval by the young team members. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if the series quickly delves into teen rebellion and familial disapproval as the team learns what they’ve been truly groomed for.
Nelson’s writing here is fun, quick, and finds a blister-inducing action rhythm as the plot races from page to page, barely stopping for a moment to breathe some back story into the characters created by Peter Facinelli and Rob DeFranco. Newcomer Navarro provides an art style that matches the tone of the book very well with an animation flair to it that could easily transcribe into movie storyboards. His layouts are fairly standard, though he does experiment a bit during an action sequence that visually makes its one of the highlights of the book. Hopefully this will continue as the series progresses.
Protocol: Orphans finishes out with a stunning reveal and rather shocking cliffhanger that will surely turn the rest of the 4-issue mini-series on its head. It’s enough to give this somewhat by-the-numbers spy-action a continued read and to learn just who the real villain of the story is.