Project: Patron #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Patrick Piazzalunga
Color Artist: Carlos Lopez
Letterer: Thomas Maurer
Cover Artist: David Talaski
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Steve Orlando has been amassing an impressive series of comics that aim at deconstructing the very notion of superheroes. One of his most recent ones, Commanders in Crisis, drops the classic DC Crisis mold into a world where each super-being is the alpha hero of their own universe, meaning they have to learn how to play well together to defend the multiverse despite them each being capable of doing so entirely on their own. It’s refreshingly colorful and energetic, rather than grim and gritty (as these events tend to be), and offers a lot to talk about on power dynamics.
Orlando’s newest, Project: Patron, along with Patrick Piazzalunga and Carlos Lopez on art and Thomas Maurer on letters, takes on a different staple of superhero narratives: death and resurrection. The result is a fascinating take on what death means in this type of scenario and what resurrection requires as payment. In a nutshell, Orlando’s latest is Pixar’s Inside Out meets The Death of Superman. You’ll see why.
The story follows a superhero called The Patron, the comic’s stand-in for the Superman figure. He’s the all-around über-hero that’s as powerful and inspirational as they come. Instead of dedicating an entire issue presenting the character, Orlando puts The Patron in a fight against a creature (the story’s stand-in for Doomsday) that forces the hero to sacrifice himself to save his city.
Piazzalunga’s art captures this short homage to The Death of Superman quite well and in all its iconic glory, making it nearly impossible not to connect the sequence to the classic comic. In fact, each panel that comprises this sequence hits with the same intensity as the story that’s inspired it, doing a great deal of character development and world-building in the process.
What comes after the death of Patron is where Orlando and Piazzalunga really start stretching their muscles. The return of Patron carries with it a clever twist on resurrections that comes attached with a group of trained Patron pilots, if you will, that are now part of the hero’s second coming.
The new Patron is actually an android replica of the real thing that’s remotely piloted by each member of the team depending on the task at hand. Individual members focus on a single aspect of the Patron persona, from fighting to public relations. This is where that Inside Out element comes out swinging, explaining why the comic’s called Project: Patron as well.
Orlando and Piazzalunga do an excellent job of setting up each pilot’s personality as representative of Patron’s individual character traits. This first issue of the series has a lot to set up, but it accomplishes it by allowing the twist to carry its character interactions and its plot development as the story moves forward.
In a sense, the Patron pilots turn out to be a kind of human Justice League that, much like the real Justice League, depend on their Superman to keep the balance. The power plays and all the possible personality clashes the comic promises on premise alone are enough to warrant continued reading. This also feeds into another aspect of superhero comics in general that Orlando and Piazzalunga might dive into: hero worship. The need to keep the illusion of Patron’s comeback and that he’s alive and well also opens a whole other world of storytelling possibilities I can’t wait to see.
Project: Patron is one of those comics you know carries something special at its core upon giving it a full read. It’s the kind of book you pick up based on how familiar it feels. Orlando and Piazzalunga know this, which is why their gut-punch of a twist hits so hard. In this case, though, I took the hit, acknowledged it, and am now asking for more.
Published by AfterShock Comics, Project: Patron #1 is available in stores and digitally now.